Music for Dance - Copyright and Licensing FAQs


  • Why do dance companies need to license recorded or live music for performance?

    The use of copyright protected music for public performances of dance works and other types of staged works constitutes a "grand right" for which a license directly from the publisher is required. It is important that your license be signed prior to any performances taking place. If you are considering choreography for any copyrighted music (recorded or live) from our catalogue, you will need to obtain a license for the public performance from the publisher.

  • Isn't the license covered by ASCAP?

    No. Many performing organizations that present standard concerts are familiar with the public performance licenses issued by ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, sometimes referred to as "small rights" but those organizations are only authorized to grant permission for nondramatic performances, where audiences simply hear the music. When dance is added, the performance is considered a "dramatic" performance of a musical work for which a grand rights license is needed.

    For example, a ballet score performed by a symphony orchestra during a regular concert might be licensed by ASCAP as a standard nondramatic small right performance, but the same work presented by a ballet company, onstage as part of a balletic story with costumes in a theater, would be licensed directly from the publisher as a dramatic grand right performance.

  • How do I obtain a license?

    The process to obtain a grand rights license is quite simple - click on the "Licensing" option at the top of this page. The cost of using music by one of our composers can be quite modest and is based on factors that include the size of the organization, the duration of the music, the cost of tickets, the capacity of the performance space, and the number of performances. Once the availability of the musical work is confirmed, all licenses are negotiated quickly on a case-by-case basis taking each customer's unique performance details into consideration.

  • When should Wise Music Classical be notified about a choreographer's use of copyright protected music?

    It is important that you notify the music publisher early in your planning process, and negotiate your grand rights license well in advance of finalizing your plans in order to ensure your performance can proceed smoothly. Contacting us early in the planning process can help you plan your budget, and help you avoid potential copyright infringement arising from an unlicensed public performance.

    Please let us know as soon as you choose the music because you will need to find out:

    • If you can choreograph to the music. Some compositions are restricted for dance, typically because the composer intended them for concert performances only.
    • How to obtain performance materials (scores or parts for the players) if you are using live musicians.
    • Whether separate licenses are required for touring to other countries.
  • How do I know if a work is in copyright?

    A general rule that applies to music published in the United States is that if it was published between 1923 and 1978, it is protected by copyright for 95 years from the year of publication. For works published in 1978 and later in the U.S.A. and in European countries, copyright generally endures for the life of the composer plus 70 years.

  • How do I find out who publishes the work?

    If you do not know who publishes the work in question or how to contact them, the websites for the performing rights societies (ASCAP, BMI), the Music Publishers Association, and the Library of Congress are all good references for publisher information. Just look up the work, and click on "Publisher" information.

  • Is there a separate license to use a recording?

    Yes, you will need to inquire with the owner of the recording (usually the record company) directly. As the copyright owners of the recording, they will be able to advise whether or not you need a license for your planned performances. Publishing houses generally do not grant permission for the rights to use audio recordings in performance, only the underlying rights to use the music contained on the recordings.

  • But you're in luckā€¦One Stop Licensing at Wise Music Classical

    Wise Music Classical has agreements with some record companies allowing us to offer the licensing of both Grand Rights and Master recordings, saving you time and legwork. You can browse these recordings by selecting an option from the "One Stop Licensing" tab on the Music for Dance page.