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Copyright Resources: Music

Overview: Use of Music

The topic of music and copyright is a complicated one and has many differing applications in higher education. A musical work could have multiple copyrights for the composition, lyrics, publishing, and recording by an artist. Different uses of music on campus, outside of fair use exceptions, require different types of licensing.

In 2003, the National Association for Music Education (NAFME) updated their music copyright guide entitled “United States Copyright Law: A Guide for Music Educators”. In 2013, the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUB) and the American Council on Education (ACE), partnered to create a “Use of Copyrighted Music on College and University Campuses” report. The report in part, explains fair use exceptions available for educational use of music, expands upon the NAFME guidelines, and details the types of music licenses available.

Continue reading for more detailed information at Policy Section VIII. Use of Music.

Best Practices

Posting performances online

Licensing Organizations

Public Performance Rights

Public performance rights for nondramatic uses of musical compositions for uses such as uses include concerts, dances, exercise classes, athletic events, and student club parties, may be obtained from one of three major performing rights organizations:

ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers),

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), and


They control performance rights to approximately 97 percent of music in the United States.  Institutions of higher education tend to have blanket licenses from these organizations that allow the University to pay an annual fee to cover performances of music, either live or recorded, on its campus.  

Mechanical Rights

Mechanical rights to make a new recording of a musical work and distribute sound recordings of the work must be obtained.

The Harry Fox Agency  provides compulsory licenses for sound recordings.

Sound Exchange  handles royalties for broadcast by streaming radio.

Grand Rights

Rights for dramatic works containing music can be negotiated with the copyright owner.  The following agencies can also provide licenses for grand rights.

Musical Theater International

Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization

Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc.

Samuel French, Inc.

Synchronization Rights

Rights for music to be used in video recordings can be obtained by contacting the publishers and copyright holders.  The following agencies also provided licensed music for purchase for use in advertisement or films.

The Music Bed

Getty Images Royalty Free Music

BMI Music License for Colleges and Universities

"The BMI Music License for Colleges and Universities covers, but is not limited to, live or recorded performances by or at the college or university’s:

  • Internet or Intranet sites or services including webcasts of campus radio station broadcasts

  • Regular campus radio broadcasts

  • Cable TV Systems

  • Sporting events

  • Student unions

  • Fraternities/sororities

  • Musical attractions (promoted solely by the college)

  • Classrooms

  • Fairs

  • Festivals

  • Fitness centers

  • Athletic facilities

  • Socials

  • College bands

  • College theater groups

  • College orchestras

  • Music-on-hold

  • Special events such as orientation and graduation

This license does not include:

  • Performances of music via any form of televised transmission, whether over-the-air broadcast, cable, satellite or otherwise;
  • Dramatic rights (as defined in paragraph 2 of the agreement);

  • Performances of music by a coin-operated phonorecord player (jukebox);

  • Musical attractions on campus promoted by outside promoters;

  • Musical attractions occurring outside of the premises, except as part of community outreach and educations activities;

  • Performances by commercial radio stations"



Music to Use

This is mostly a streaming site, but there are also free mp3 downloads available.

Amazon has a lot of free mp3 downloads they use as album samplers. There are actually a lot of well-known artists.

CC Mixter
This site provides free, creative commons music and remixes.

Classic Cat
This is a database where you can find and download free recordings of classical music by hundreds of composers.

This site provides free music downloads from bootleg friendly artists (artists who allow their fans to share their music for free). It is mostly live recordings.

Free Music Archive
This is just what the name claims: an archive of free music.

Indie Rock Cafe
This site offers free mp3s of independent or unsigned bands.

Jamendo offers direct downloads and torrents of hundreds of songs, including foreign artists.

This is a database that provides free music resources, including scores, textbooks, and recordings.

Over Clocked Remix
This site provides free downloads and bit torrents of video game music.

This is mostly a streaming website, but they also offer a lot of free downloads.

Unsigned Band Web
As the name implies, this is a site where unsigned bands put their music for free download in order to be noticed. Discover a lot of new bands of all different genres here.

Library Music Databases

Trible Library provides links to other websites to aid in research and is not responsible for the content or privacy policy of those sites.