Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?

Reinforce your knowledge of the essentials of online broadcasting, and answer the question: “Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?”.

James Mulvany
Do I Need A License For Internet Radio

Disclaimer: We recommend always consulting with qualified professionals or the relevant authorities for your country regarding copyright and licensing. The following advice in "Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?" isn't to be taken as legal advice.


One of the first questions you may ask yourself when entering the world of online broadcasting is: "Do I need a license for internet radio?". Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question, as it depends on what you plan to broadcast and where in the world you’ll be broadcasting to.

Discover what licenses are available to you and how they affect your station’s ability to operate and broadcast music.

Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?

Unlike terrestrial radio, you don’t need to own a license in order to broadcast your stream online.

However, if your station is going to be playing commercial music, you will need to obtain a license in order to fully protect yourself and ensure you are not infringing on anyone else’s copyright. In most cases, copyright for a song is held by the recording artist or record label, who then receive royalties when the music is broadcast in a public space, which includes play on online radio stations.

Alternatively, if you plan on broadcasting royalty free music or talk radio, you’re free to stream it from your station without any form of license. But if you want to play the latest hits, like the Top 40, then you will need to get a license.

Blanket License

Most internet-only radio station’s cover themselves by paying for what’s known as a "blanket license" or "umbrella license". These cover their stations and allow them to play any type of copyrighted music.

Most licenses like this are paid for on a yearly basis and can vary in price depending on the country you are broadcasting from and the countries you plan on broadcasting to.

In some instances, if licenses covering particular countries aren’t in your price range then you can block access from listeners by using "geo-protection".

Geo-Protection - AKA Blocking Listeners

The Radio.co Geo-Protection feature allows you to easily block or allow listeners from any country, which is handy depending on the license your radio station has.

Geo Protection

Radio.co gives you the ability to allow certain countries exclusive access to your station, which blocks all other countries by default. This will protect you from any legal issues you could come across if your license doesn’t cover specific areas.

Licensing Bodies

There are a variety of organisations and bodies ready to answer the question "Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?". It's their job to look after music copyright and royalties depending on your country.

Here are the UK's licensing bodies:

  • PRS: The “Performing Rights Society” collects royalties on behalf of artists, composers, and cover music that’s played on TV, radio, and online.
  • PPL: The PPL represents the interests of record labels and collects royalties from radio stations on their behalf.

Choosing a license solely rests on where you intend to broadcast audio, for instance, if your audience is in the USA then you can use SoundExchange. Here are a few internet radio licensing bodies by country:

United States of America

United Kingdom

Germany

France

Netherlands

Australia

Working out what type of license you need and which body to speak to can seem like navigating through a minefield. PPL in the UK, for instance, only allows small or standard broadcasters to stream to a certain amount of countries. These countries can be found here.

Cross Roads - Photo credit: pat00139 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/pat00139/5773953057/

Check out our article Do I Need a Radio Broadcasting Licence? for a more extensive list of licensing bodies around the world.

There are lots of companies set up to make broadcasting online easier by providing you with a blanket license. These companies cover online radio broadcasters under what's known as a "statutory license".

Statutory License

Radio broadcasts online are defined as "non-interactive", meaning they fall under the statutory license, which covers pre-programmed shows where listeners cannot skip songs or select their own music.

Statutory licenses apply to the USA and other broadcasting countries, but not the UK, so it’s recommended you research the right solution when finding a statutory license.

Statutory license fees differ; SoundExchange charge $500 per year and BMI charge $352, but costs can go up or down depending on royalty rates and other factors across the world and are liable to change over time.

You can get more cost-effective licenses if you plan on broadcasting only to a particular country like the USA or UK, in which case we recommend shopping around and finding the right license to fit your needs.

Alternatively, if you’re planning on running a station that streams royalty free music or just talk content with no music at all then you don’t necessarily require a license.

Royalty Free Music

A common misconception about royalty free music is that you can broadcast tracks free of charge. This is incorrect. Instead you need to pay for a music license and then you can use the music for as long as you want and play it however many times as you want without yearly fees. These licenses require a one-off payment, and you won’t be charged again.

A royalty-free license is usually a lot cheaper than a statutory license because you are not buying tracks for a set amount of time; you’re purchasing the rights to use to use tracks forever.

Royalty Free Music Sites

There are many great services online that represent artists’ royalty free music, here are a few of the best:

  • Jamendo Music: Independent music community to discover and download trending tracks.
  • AudioJungle: Thousands of royalty free audio files from just $1.
  • AudioBlocks: Unlimited royalty free audio that offers music, sound effects, and jingles.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for royalty free jingles, original music or voice overs for your radio station then try Fiverr or VoiceBunny.

Broadcast Radio Today

At Radio.co we’re always happy to lend a helping hand and offer advice on anything you might be unsure about, whether that’s what license you might need or tips on getting started.

You get access to a 7-day FREE trial when joining Radio.co, that’s a full week to check out the system and see if it’s a right fit for your needs.