The Basics

Check out Theatre Alberta's article, The Ins and Outs of Rights and Royalties, to get a run down of the basics of licencing plays and music.

Music and Musicals

How does acquiring rights to perform a musical differ from acquiring rights to perform a play?

The process of acquiring rights for a musical is very similar to that of a play. The major difference is that with most musicals they follow the rules for grand rights, meaning the rights to perform the accompanying music are included in the performance rights of the script. The other major difference is that the rights to perform a musical are usually more expensive than that of a play without music. This is directly related to the fact that you are not only buying rights to perform the script but are also buying rights to perform the musical compositions. This also means that, so long as you are not playing music outside of the performance of the musical, you would not need to get a SOCAN license for your production.

What happens if the music isn’t included in the performance rights for the script? There are a couple different situations where this may happen with a couple different options for sorting out the musical rights. Sometimes, in rare cases, the music rights will have to be sought separately from the script rights. Usually, in this case, the individual or organization to contact regarding the rights to perform the music should be listed on the script in the same location where you would find the contact for the script rights. A more likely scenario however is that the musical is in fact a musical revue, likely unpublished, or self-published, that incorporates music from other musicals or from popular music. In this case, you can seek a license to perform the music from SOCAN, as you would to perform a single song within a non-musical play. SOCAN will require a set list, including all the songs included in the production, and finding and disseminating the royalties to the artists who wrote the original songs will be taken care of by them.

What do I do if I can’t find the copyright owner for a play or musical I want to produce?

Finding the copyright holder of a production is not always as smooth as we might like. Some plays or musicals, if they are out of print or were self-published by the author might have missing or out of date contact information. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to secure rights for that production. It just means it might be a little more complicated to get a license figured out. The Copyright Board of Canada had a procedure for granting a license to use copyrighted works where the copyright holder cannot be located.

Information on how to go about getting one of these special licenses can be found here, on the government website.