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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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“.
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:
- 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.
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.