Resources for wading in the waters of music rights

Resources for wading in the waters of music rights

Dear Friends of Classical Music Rising:

We have a website! Visit for reports, studies, classical radio fact sheets, an interactive Google map of classical stations in the U.S., an archive for All Things Classical newsletters, and more… Download the music rights guides listed below, and read on…
Public radio is America’s dominant path to classical music, according to the Knight Foundation’s Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study. Since that landmark report was published over a decade ago our digital universe has exploded with listening options for music lovers. While radio is still by far the main point of public access to classical music, classical stations now have more opportunities than ever to deliver radio’s personal, hosted experience of music discovery to audiences wherever they are.
Edison Media’s 2017 Infinite Dial report reveals how quickly listening habits are shifting, and especially the surge in popularity for podcasting among the Millennial audiences we seek to engage. So far, however, public radio stations are producing very few classical music podcasts due to the sticky wicket of music rights. Unlike broadcast, each instance of music used in podcasts requires some type of permission or clearance.
“The licensing of music in the United States has always been complicated, exponentially more so with the widespread use of digital music,” says the Peabody Award-winning lawyer Spencer Weisbroth. Clearing music rights for digital use can be difficult, expensive, time consuming, frustrating, and just plain confusing. Some of our larger stations have the capacity and experience negotiating with labels, publishers and other rights holders, while other stations are seeking clarity on what is allowed.
At the Super Regional conference last fall I attended an incredibly informative Music Rights 101 presentation by Ashley Messenger, NPR’s Senior Associate General Counsel. Ashley has generously offered Classical Music Rising a webinar for classical stations on music rights this summer. Below is a chart from her book, A Practical Guide to Media Law. She’ll explain this and go into more detail during our webinar. Stay tuned here for the date and details.

I also have been studying a pair of incredibly useful guides to music rights prepared specifically for public media broadcasters – one by Spencer Weisbroth of Weisbroth Law, the other by John Crigler and Melodie Virtue of Garvey Schubert Barer. Both are valuable for outlining the current state of music rights, definitions and explanations. As one of those people who glaze over the moment the words “mechanical rights” are uttered, I’ve found these a godsend for explaining the general concepts, each in their own way.
Below is a quick overview of the guides, which are posted for station use on Classical Music Rising’s new website (under Resources – Music Rights) – and many thanks to Spencer, John and Melodie for sharing them with us.
There is so much classical station creativity to be unleashed in the podcast space! Study these resources to understand both options and boundaries. Ask questions, and explore legal workarounds, such as the guidelines for “fair use,” the incidental use of music (less than 30 seconds), the definition of a public performance, and archiving programs online for listening on demand.
And simply try asking for permission. A label publicist told me she regularly gets calls from stations asking to use tracks in music podcasts. As long as the music cannot be separated out of the podcast free and clear, she is usually able to give permission (gratis) as promotion of the label’s catalog and artists.
Many stations are using music in podcasts that they have recorded and cleared with the musicians, such as the material for KING FM’s Fantasy Concerts, WQXR’s Café Concerts, and Colorado Public Radio’s brand new CPR Classical podcast series, Centennial Sounds. In addition to podcasts of interviews with musicians, NPR’s Podcast Directory lists such classical podcasts as: The Beethoven 9@9, CPR Classical’s exploration of the Beethoven Symphonies; WGUC’s Classics for Kids; APM’s two-minute modules Composer’s Datebook; WFIU’s early music program Harmonia; VPR Classical’s Timeline tracing the steps of music through history; and WMHT’s Bach’s Lunch Podcast, which bills itself as the first classical podcast to use full-length classical music pieces (mainly licensed from Magnatune). During the Met Opera season, WQXR offers witty three-minute opera plot synopses to promo each Saturday’s broadcast.
Bottom line: there are myriad ways to use music legally and create great classical content “on demand” for listeners. It is an increasingly important way to meet our listeners where they are.
Someday there will be music rights clearances for public media broadcasters. The Station Resource Group is working with a coalition of leading Triple A stations to forge template agreements with the labels that will provide a framework for use of stations’ audio and video recordings in their studios and elsewhere. Classical will be next! This important work is being done step by step.
Wende Persons, Managing Director
Classical Music Rising | | cell: 917-691-1282


A Guide to Copyright Law for Noncommercial Radio Stations by John Crigler and Melodie Virtue, Garvey Schubert Barer – commissioned by Native Public Media and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and shared with their permission.

  • Clearly laid out questions and explanations. For example: What is Copyright? What is a Work? What is a Public Performance? What is Fair Use? What licenses does a station need to stream musical works and sound recordings? What is an archived program covered by the statutory license? What licenses does a station need to use music in a podcast? How are video rights different from audio rights? Can a station post any photograph it pulls from the Internet?

Digital Music Licensing Guide for Public Radio Broadcasters and Independent Producers by Spencer W. Weisbroth, Esq, Weisbroth Law

  • Provides public radio broadcasters and independent audio producers with a general overview of the music licensing landscape in the United States.
  • Section one discusses the source of copyright law in the U.S.;
  • Section two the “dual” copyright in recorded music, an essential concept for understanding music licensing;
  • Section three provides an overview of the most typical types of licenses needed for music in a digital environment;
  • Section four focuses on ways in which public broadcasters and independent audio professionals distribute their work digitally (such as noninteractive streaming, interactive streaming, digital downloads and podcasting), the licenses needed, and the sources of the license;
  • Section five briefly looks at the concept of “Fair Use”;
  • Plus a handy Public Broadcasting Digital Music Rights Cheat Sheet


New chief for New York’s WQXR
New York Public Radio has named Shannon Connolly, a digital media strategist, as the new Senior VP and GM for WQXR, filling the post vacated last summer by Graham Parker. Connolly most recently ran a Brooklyn-based start up that provides recommendations and personalized playlists, and has also been a GM at Viacom, and Senior VP of music strategy at MTV/VH1. She told Musical America, “Classical music has been around for centuries, but new technologies present the possibility of making it relevant and accessible in exciting new ways.”
Louisville gets grant for classical music podcast for kids
Last month Louisville Public Media received a $100,000 grant from PNC for classical programming on WUOL Classical Louisville and a new podcast called “The Music Box,” aimed at pre-K and elementary children and their families. The funds will allow for expanded education outreach to foster and develop active participation in the arts through classical music. Read more
APM announces record audience numbers
In late March American Public Media announced record listenership during Fall 2016 of more than 20 million listeners via 1,000 radio stations nationwide each week, based on data from Nielsen Audio. This was APM’s second consecutive record-breaking survey period for weekly audience. Classical programs produced by APM include Performance Today, Symphony Cast and Pipedreams. APM provides popular lifestyle classical music streams through


Mellon Foundation awards $2.532 million to fund instrumental classical music education in Philadelphia

Classical Music Rising’s Workforce working group has been researching diversity in the classical radio workforce. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CMR’s chief benefactor, is taking steps to build the talent pipeline – over time – with a major grant to boost the diversity of participation and training among young musicians at ten Philadelphia-based organizations. Read more


Chief Development Officer – KUSC, Los Angeles
The USC Radio Group is embarking on a six-year $130 million comprehensive campaign with an $80 million goal for KUSC serving the Los Angeles market and a $50 million goal for KDFC based in San Francisco. Reporting to the KUSC President, the Chief Development Officer will provide strategic leadership, direction, and planning for the $80 million campaign for KUSC and the organization’s major and principal giving program.  Learn more/apply
Program Director – KING FM, Seattle
Classical KING FM is seeking a dynamic individual to head its Programming Department. The successful candidate will have a thorough knowledge of classical music, a firm grasp of today’s media landscape, a record of leadership, and the ability to manage all aspects of the station’s programming. Now reaching over 300,000 listeners per week, KING FM has always been at the forefront of technology, programming, and community service in classical music. Learn more/apply
Director of Content – WRTI, Philadelphia
The Director of Content for Classical/Jazz WRTI manages the programming, production, and digital departments, and oversees a staff of 10 full-time, 6 part-time, and 3 volunteer positions. Interested applicants should apply online at the Temple University Human Resources Department. Learn more/apply
Announcer/Producer – Colorado Public Radio
Colorado Public Radio is seeking Announcer/Producer candidates who have a passion for classical music and extraordinary storytelling ability to join the CPR Classical team in its goal to deeply engage its audience and satisfy its cultural curiosity. Are the Rocky Mountains calling you? Learn more/apply
Program Host – KUSC, Los Angeles
America’s #1 Classical station is looking for America’s next great classical announcer. Can you connect with a broad audience of music lovers of all kinds? USC Radio Group’s Los Angeles division, KUSC, is seeking a Program Host with a passion for and basic knowledge of classical music, someone that has an engaging personality that can weave topical elements into a show effortlessly beyond classical music. Come to sunny Southern California! Learn more/apply
Chief Engineer – WFMT, Chicago
WFMT in Chicago seeks a Chief Engineer to maintain and improve broadcast and production facilities and processes for WFMT, the WFMT Radio Network and related digital initiatives. The Chief Engineer will set long-term strategic plans and will oversee the Operations Manager, Production Assistants and other staff. Learn more/apply


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About Classical Music Rising

Classical Music Rising is a collaborative project managed by the Station Resource Group of leading classical stations to shape the future of classical music radio as the field confronts evolution in delivery across multiple broadcast and digital platforms, demographic and cultural change, and significant disruption throughout the music industry. The initiative centers on strategy, innovative tactics, and collective action – all informed by ongoing research and analysis. Read the full project description.