Thursday, February 25, 2016

The nitty-gritty on a part 15 radio station broadcasting copyright music.

Back in the 90's I had an old 45 record jukebox in a little diner of mine for about 5 years..
5 plays for $1.00  It was a free loner from a man I used to work for. I bought the 45's from a store that sold old LP's in town to keep the music selection rotated.

I was well aware that the newer CD jukeboxes all the other businesses had exhibited BMI stickers with some kind of small print claimer explaining the mandatory requirements of it being displayed..

My old jukebox had such a sticker, but it was well expired, and I didn't give it a second thought. It sat there for 3 or 4 years taking in enough quarters per month to cover my electric bill (which at the time averaged about $500), but eventually a customer, who happened to be somehow associated with one of the amusement companies that supplied jukeboxes to the area, began giving me all kinds of grief about my jukebox not having a current license on it. - He was drunk and belligerent, and I pretty much brushed him off.

A week or two later, my landlord who also operated the bar in the back showed me some kind of threating letter he received in the mail, and told me to either get it licensed or get the box out.... I opted to get it licensed, which wasn't much,  less than $100 if I recall right.

The whole point is that for me to legally play that old music in a public 25x15 foot room, meant I had to get a license, because it was for public consumption.. You might be barely able to hear it if you were across the street.
But there is no denying that the legal requirements of public presentation of copyright music is there.

So then, If my part 15 station were to consist of copyrighted music programming, and it was not as a commercial venture. would I pay BMI?..
Honestly, I don't know, it would depend on my pocket, and if coming up with that $250 a year cost would hurt me or not (sometimes $250 can be a lot).

If it were a for-profit station, then definitely.

But what you all do is up to you, but if the emphasis and concern is that of legal broadcasting (as it should be), well then, it's just as relevant as the length of your antenna.

Or you can just kid yourself.

Here is what RadioPilot, a member at does, and had to say about the matter:

"..... I have recieved my licenses from BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC...
The BMI license is $200.00yr from the time they grant you the license...
The ASCAP license is $123.00 and it's for one year also... they say the LPFM license was the form to use.... the SESAC license is $85.00 and it's for one year... so I think these are reasonable fees...  The BMI license states that any station earning over $10,000yr in commercial fees must revert to a regular license.. which is $450.00yr +... depending on your earnings for the year... or how you decide to 'hide' the earnings.... I intend on making my station earn it's keep by having commercials so the advertisers must be protected from liability from using music on the air... the fines are pretty steep and I would consult an attorney before you attempt to air music outside the boundary of your yard... This is my take on this and I feel that having the licenses helps to protect you from the big boys calling your station in to BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.. which will get you into hot water.... Radiopilot"


  1. I must say I'm perplexed by the above. When I started my station back in 2013 I went out of my way to arrange music licensing. BMI was easy. They had a form on their website for Part 15 stations. I found no information for SESAC and Part 15, so I wrote to them inquiring about a license, they declared my station as "experimental" and "educational" told me no license was needed and sent me a waiver in the form of a letter granting me permission to play their music. ASCAP ignored my inquiries, both email and phone. I finally documented all attempts to contact them and just went ahead and played their music, my theory being I would be able to show that I did all I could, demonstrating "good faith" to obtain a license, should the need arise. After another year I went ahead and used the LPFM forms, sent them in with a check. The check was never cashed. By the next year I was determined to come to documented terms with ASCAP and I spent a full day on the phone with both ASCAP and the radio licensing group. After FINALLY getting someone to talk to me, who FINALLY went to the trouble to find out what to do and talk to "higher ups" he declared that Part 15 broadcasting did not need a license for use of ASCAP music. I insisted on having this in writing. I received such a letter, informing me that ASCAP does not license Part 15 stations and specifically stating that I was free to broadcast ASCAP music without a license. So, I'm perplexed that ASCAP and SESAC would accept money from you. I tried to basically force ASCAP to take my money and they wouldn't. And SESAC "waived" me off without me even having to make a fuss about it. So in my station files are written, signed letters from ASCAP and SESAC, and a licensing agreement with BMI.

    As one who has worked in commercial broadcasting since 1973, who also happens to own a small record company and a publishing company and is a member of ASCAP, I can tell you that YES, a BMI license is required. The others may fluctuate. I hate to encourage others to contact ASCAP and SESAC lest they get them to thinking that they can make a few more bucks. But ANYTIME copyrighted music is used for PUBLIC PERFORMANCE whether you are making money or not, you MUST be licensed. And I fully agree with the above -- not licensing your music gives someone who wants to stop you or shut you down some ammunition to make trouble for you.

  2. Well, to start with, I think you need to read my post again, because I never said any of that.
    No one accepted money from me, nor did I make inquirys.
    I don't play even music on my part 15 station, and what rare times I do it's CC.

    I only refer it necessary if the station is for public consumption as a business.

    But perhaps this topic, in light of your post, requires a re-visit.

    The part 15 rules are clear you can broadcast anything you want, for any purpose you want, providing the power and antenna limitations are observed. But that doesn't mean copywriter laws can be ignored.

    Regardless of the delivery, if you play licensed music for personal enjoyment, it's free.
    If you play licensed music in a business, the requirements are to pay.

    To me it's a little grey about broadcasting music for public consumption if it's a hobby. But broadcasting it as a business venture is clearly black and white, the royalties are to be paid.
    I thought I made that clear on my post.

    I recall reading about your above story in the forums some time ago.

    Would you perhaps be willing to provide a copy of the actual letter from SESCAC with the waiver granting permission to play their music?
    As well as the letter from ASCAP?
    I would like to post it here.

    Another look at this subject would be good.
    Tangible evidence would be beneficial.


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