As a responsible organisation, we should get the appropriate licences to perform and record any music which is in copyright. After all, it is only fair that living composers and arrangers get some reward for their work. This should not be an expensive process, but it does require us to keep records of what and where we play. This document explains what is needed.


The legal definition of copyright varies from time to time, but the current definition is that music remains in copyright until 70 years after the death of the composer or arranger. Even music apparently in the public domain is included if this rule applies to the editor of the version being played.


The Performing Rights Society requires payment for public performance of copyright music. The responsibility for making a return rests with the concert promoter, which in many cases is not us, since our ensembles are often engaged for a fee at events promoted by others. Even where we are the promoter, the venue may have a PRS licence (the cost of which should be included in the hiring fee), and they are responsible for making the return. In all cases, however, we must be able to produce a programme or list of the pieces to be played. Where possible this should include details of :

  • Title and composer
  • Arranger or editor
  • Publisher

Where we are the promoters of the event, we also need to know the number of people in the audience, including any complimentary tickets, since the fee is based on audience size. We are able to make a single return at the end of the year, thanks to an arrangement between the PRS and Making Music.


We have to apply for a licence to the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society to record copyright music, even if we do not subsequently intend to sell the recording. The information required is similar to PRS, except that we need the intended cover price and the number of copies to be produced.


The Treasurer (or other officer) of each ensemble should complete a Copyright Music Return and give this to the SLCM Treasurer as soon as possible after each event, or at least by the end of the calendar year.