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Most shows recently published require a rights payment to the author to be performed. The following sites might be useful when trying to find who manages a show's rights.


[] - often if you call them they will tell you who does own the rights if they don't.


[] - Lists many musicals and who their rights holders are. (Note - rights holders are listed in the index, but not in all shows' individual entries)

Music rights

If you wish to use commercial music in your show (apart from complete performances of musicals and operas, which are covered by 'grand rights' through the organisations above), it is necessary to pay a fee to the rights holder(s). In the UK, there are two bodies which collect 'mechanical royalties' which they then pass on to their rights holders: PPL, for people who perform music and PRS for people who write music (composers, arrangers, lyricists etc). Most tracks require a licence from both.

Note that a licence from PRS is required even for performances out-of-copyright works as the performers have copyright over their interpretation of the piece. Also, while PPL and PRS represent the vast majority of music rights holders in the UK, there are some tracks they cannot license, in which case one would have to negotiate with the rights holder(s) directly in order to use the tracks legally. If in doubt, PPL has a searchable database at []

Use of music in theatrical productions broadly falls into two categories for licencing: incidental and interpolated. For incidental music (that played in the background), the ADC pays a yearly fee to PRS, of fixed proportion of which is passes on to shows which use incidental music. A form must be filled in after the show has finished its run detailing the songs used, which the ADC passes on to PRS for its records.

Interpolated music is defined as music which the characters in the show are aware of, and is charged per minute per show. Permission must be obtained in advance, which can be done through management at the ADC. Details of the intended use must be given, and permission could theoretically be refused although this is unlikely. Details of the cost structure for interpolated music can be found at []

Note that the laws of copyright are complex and the above advice is only a guideline - obtain advice if you're ever unsure.

Last edited Sat 13th Aug 2011 by Peter Hoyes

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