Stage Production Licensing

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At this time, ACA does not have any type of agreement with Music Theatre International (MTI), and the ASCAP license rarely applies to these stage productions and/or their music.

Under no circumstances may a group present a licensable musical without having obtained a performance license and permission to do so. A production without a license is a serious matter, a violation of federal copyright laws punishable by up to $10,000 per infringing performance. It would be, in effect, considered stealing someone else’s intellectual property. Even if done unintentionally or without malice, such behavior has no defense and leads to direct liability for heavy fines, not to mention attorney’s fees and court costs.

Many of the people that have contacted MTI, stating that they work with ACA, seem to be confused about the fact that the ACA-accredited camps agreement with ASCAP only covers individual song rights for use in a concert setting, and that it does not grant permission for them to present any kind of stage production using music from the shows that MTI or other licensing houses represent. It is MTI’s desire to help ACA-accredited camps avoid any problems and to be well informed about what is and is not permissible. The rules for using songs from Broadway shows are below. If any ACA-accredited camps wish to present a musical the MTI represents, please contact MTI. MTI can assist camps in licensing the productions and legally obtaining permission to present a stage production.

MTI controls (exclusively) the “grand rights” for the titles in its catalog. This means they control the stage rights for the full production and cannot grant permission for groups to perform only scenes or songs from the show. Individual song rights or “small rights” can be obtained through SESAC, ASCAP, or BMI. However, SESAC, ASCAP, and/or BMI can grant permission only for the individual songs to be performed in a concert setting without any costumes, sets, or choreography. The songs may not be performed in any way that would evoke the stage production that the songs are from. The only way to get permission to present scenes and or songs as they would be done in the actual stage production would be by contacting the authors directly and asking for written approval to include their intellectual property in a creation of your own. Revues (of your own creation) fall outside of these companies’ jurisdictions into the category known as “small rights.” In order to comply with “small rights,” the guidelines below must be followed. Exceeding or disregarding the guidelines would result in your production falling into a company’s jurisdiction and enforcement via Title 17 of the US Federal Copyright Law.

Revues:

  • Sheet music must be purchased from a third-party retailer
  • Sheet music may not be photocopied
  • No more than three songs may be used from any one title
  • The revue must be the work of more than one composer
  • The venue must have a blanket license from SESAC/ASCAP/BMI (small rights)
  • No dialog may be used
  • No choreography may be used
  • No orchestrations may be used
  • The title of the show that the song(s) are from cannot be used in advertising

If the songs you seek are not published, you may not perform them. MTI materials (grand rights) cannot be used in this sort of venture (small rights).

In most instances, “vocal selections” will not suffice as a sheet music purchase. Vocal selections are usually not published for performance, but for personal use. Therefore, you must investigate the purchase of sheet music of individual songs arranged for individuals/choral groups from a source such as The Hal Leonard Corporation: www.halleonard.com.

The “concert” portion of the MTI catalog generally refers to materials provided for symphonies and orchestras; not usually for choral/voice.

Therefore, if you are seeking individual songs with orchestration for performance, please consult the “concert” section of the MTI Catalog. Unfortunately, if the songs you seek have not been extracted for performance (as listed in the catalog) they are (often) not available or require additional fees. Otherwise, these songs are licensed on a per song basis/fee by MTI’s Concert Department.

For more information regarding this license, contact:
Jesse Johnson
Amateur Licensing Representative | Music Theatre International
421 West 54th Street | Second Floor | New York, New York 10019
212.541.4684 phone | 212.397.4684 facsimile
JesseJ@MTIShows.com | www.MTIShows.com

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