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When it comes to being a DJ, the most important thing is your use of music and the songs you play.
Nowadays, copyright laws have become stricter than ever, and copyrighted tracks can be easily detected by all of the major social media online platforms. This means that if you post a track with copyrighted content that you don’t have permission for, it gets instantly taken down and you might get into serious trouble.
But…do DJs need permission in order to play songs? Often, their sets are full of popular songs, mixed in with one another, so how do they get around that copyright?
As a DJ, you really need to know your stuff, especially the legal stuff, or else your career will be very short-lived.
Most of the time, DJs don’t actually have to get permission to play songs, as the licenses for that sort of thing are the responsibility of the venue. And in private events, like weddings and such, licenses aren’t needed at all.
But you still need to be familiar with the important basics and should double-check with the venue, just to be on the safe side.
Before I get into all the info, however, I just want to point out that I’m not a legal expert. This is to the best of my knowledge and experience, but you should always double-check with legal experts if you want to be serious about DJing!
Okay, so, permission. As I said, DJs don’t usually need to get permission to play a certain song, that is, as long as they follow the main following rules:
Only Download Songs Legally
It is free to download music through torrent, but it is not legal, and therefore you shouldn’t do it. As a DJ, it is very important that you download all of the songs you use in a legal way.
Mainly, for two important reasons: you will be covered and protected by the law in the case of any disputes or problems, and you can claim a tax write-off on your music downloads.
A PRO is a Performance Rights Organization, and as a DJ, it is important that either you are registered with one of them, or the venue you are playing at is.
These organizations essentially represent different artists, and they make sure that the artist gets the right royalties when their music is played in a public space.
(So every time you perform these songs in a public space, you have to make sure there is a registration, by you or the venue, to the right PRO. But in private events, there is no need for this.)
To register with a PRO, you pay a subscription fee, and this gives you access to play all of the songs of all of the artists they have in their database. In the USA, there are three main different PROs:
- ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)
- BMI (Broadcast Music Inc)
- SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers)
Between all three PROs, almost all songs are covered. You need to check which PRO you need, depending on the songs that you use, and then you either get the registration yourself or check with the venue.
Check What Licenses The Venue Has
You should always check with the venue to see what licenses and registrations they have, music-wise, so that you know if you’re allowed to play your full set there without infringing on any copyright laws.
As a general rule, most music venues will be registered with all of the main PROs, meaning you won’t need any additional permissions or licenses yourself.
However, if the venue isn’t registered with the right PRO, then you either can’t perform that song there, or you pay for the registration yourself!
How Do DJs Get Around Copyright?
If you want to DJ a remix of a certain song or couple of songs, and they are copyrighted, then the only way to get around this is through legal methods.
This is what a DJ can do to get around copyrighted content:
- Play only in venues that hold their own licenses and registrations for copyrighted content
- Pay the subscription fee to become a member of the right PRO, so that you are able to play the copyrighted songs in their database
- Get direct permission from the owner of the copyright, and keep a record of that granted permission
If you don’t have the right permissions, then you won’t be able to upload your music to online platforms, as they will be taken down.
However, you can play your sets in private events, without having to worry about copyright in the slightest, as permissions are not required in private events and venues!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Need Copyright Permissions To DJ At A Wedding?
No, you don’t! Any private events or venues are completely free of any need for copyright permissions and licenses, so you don’t have to worry about infringing copyright.
Weddings, birthday parties, and essentially any private event that is not open to the general public!
Can You Upload Your Mixes Without Having Copyright Issues?
Most online platforms will have very strict copyright infringement rules, which means that most of your DJ mixes will be flagged and taken down, and you could even get into legal trouble.
However, there are DJ-friendly platforms in which you can upload your mixes without having any copyright issues. The main ones to use are Mixcloud, Beatport Mixes, Official FM, Mixcrate, and Youtube as long as you aren’t monetizing the videos.
With most other platforms, if your track isn’t 100% original, the likelihood is that it will be taken down for copyright.
Can You Play The Music From Another DJ In Your Set?
As long as you download the other DJs track in a legal way, then you can absolutely use it within your own set! However, it is always a good idea to double-check, just in case specific permission is required.