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 on “Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?” isn’t to be taken as legal advice.


A common question that gets asked from newcomers to online broadcasting is: “Do I need a license for internet radio?” – The short answer is it depends on what you plan to broadcast, but we’ll go into more detail later on.

The point is you should know what you can do to protect yourself and the licenses available to you.

Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?


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Unlike terrestrial radio, you do not need to actually own a license in order to broadcast your stream online.

However, if your station is going to be playing commercial music, as opposed to a talk radio station, you may 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, the copyright is normally held by the recording artist or record label which we’ll discuss further down.

Alternatively, if you plan on broadcasting royalty free music or talk radio then you’re free to stream it from your station, but if you want to play the latest hits, like Top 40, then you will need to consider 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“, it covers their station and allows them to play any type of music.

Most licensee’s like this are paid on a yearly basis and can vary in price depending on the country you are broadcasting from and the countries you will be 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 “geofencing“.

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 countries access to your station, blocking all others from entry which you don’t want tuning in.

Licensing Bodies

There are a variety of organisations and bodies who are ready to answer the “Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?” question, it’s their job to look after music copyright and royalties depending on your country, for example 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 licensing 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 may seem like navigating through a minefield. PPL in the UK, for instance, covers small or standard broadcasters streaming to a number of different countries which you can check out here.

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

There are lots of different 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 that listeners cannot skip or select their own music.

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

Statutory license fees differ, for example SoundExchange charge $500 per year and BMI charge charge $352, but costs can go up or down with time depending on royalty rates and other factors across the world.

You can get a 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 that fit your needs.

Alternatively, if you’re just after running a broadcast radio station that streams talk or royalty free music 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, however this simply isn’t true – Instead you only need to pay for a music license once 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.

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, essentially you’re purchasing the rights to use to use tracks forever.

3 Royalty Free Music Sites

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

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

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


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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.

 

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Comments

comments

17 Comments Do I Need a License for Internet Radio?

    1. Jamie Ashbrook

      Yes, you can use royalty free music as an alternative under the Creative Commons license, however it’s recommended you consult with qualified professionals in your country so you know how to protect yourself and the licenses available to you.

      Reply
  1. don

    i use to have a online radio station but had to shut it down a few years ago due to pc problems. i ahd lost all my music. i wanted to start station back up but now i tunes wont let me use the the music i bought to stream .so how do i get mp3s to stream in my broadcaster is there any sites to get legal music that will allow you to stream?

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ashbrook

      Royalty free music should be fine, however it’s recommended that you research licensing options or talk with a qualified professional for your country if you’re using music commercially.

      Reply
    1. Jamie Ashbrook

      Looks like you need a SCM license from ANATEL to broadcast in Brazil, however it is not clear if online radio falls under this license. It is best to consult with a qualified professional going forward.

      Reply
  2. Adam

    Hi James, to have Royalty free music I use Google play music app and simple mp3 downloader. I think I don’t that license is required.. right?

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ashbrook

      It depends on your country of residence’s broadcasting laws, for example in the UK there’s PRS and PPL that cover music and royalties on behalf of artists. It’s best to contact your country of residence’s licensing bodies for more information so you’re fully protected.

      Reply
  3. james

    Intend to run an online radio in Nigerian , i intend to run a talk shows , do competition on my radio station and play music , i have google search and found nothing related to licensing in my country . please do i need a license ???

    Reply
      1. james

        i have been contacting them for days but i have not gotten a response . generally is it illegal to run an online radio station without a license , pls jamie help me find out
        thanks.

        Reply

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