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How Are Music Rights Handled?

For our science feature and family shows, the performance rights for the music we use are covered in the contracts we have with our commercial music library companies and with our recording studios.

However, to play popular music (which is not licensed through a commercial music library source) with entertainment-based visuals, you must secure music performance licenses from the appropriate license holding organizations, such as ASCAP and BMI (if you live in the U.S.) The Clark Planetarium does not have the rights to copy and distribute popular music with our entertainment content. It is the responsibility of the performing institution itself to acquire the music as well as the necessary performance licenses.

For example, both ASCAP and BMI offer a wide variety of license types, including one specifically for museums. According to the schedule called "Mechanical Music and Show" (as ASCAP calls it), you will be charged a specified rate per performance.

A "show performance license in a museum" is not the same thing as "music synchronization rights for distribution." Playback music in your dome along with visuals in a performance-style setting is covered by ASCAP and BMI (provided the music you want to play is in their repertoire). It is a process that has worked legally since the beginnings of "laser shows" in the 1970's. Of course, any music that is completely private requires the artist's permission for public use.

An example of “synchronization” would be to synchronize the music and visuals in the same playback mechanism, and then distribute it for sale on DVD or on the web. When we sell entertainment related visual content that can be projected on the dome, we're not selling music to go with it. We only supply a visual library. The user is responsible to acquire the music and secure the appropriate music performance licenses to play it.

For more information, check out the AAM’s information fact sheet called "Music Licensing for Museums"