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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

NACUBO and ACE to Negotiate Rates for Use of Music on Campus

April 14, 2017

NACUBO and the American Council on Education (ACE) are currently in negotiations with a new performance rights organization (PRO) to set terms for model licenses for the use of music on campus.

For more than 30 years, three PROs—controlling the performance rights to about 97 percent of the music in the United States—have offered blanket licenses for use by institutions of higher education. Those PROs are the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and SESAC (originally the Society of European State Authors & Composers).

Global Music Rights, a PRO founded in 2013, is now approaching colleges and universities to negotiate contracts for the use of music in its library. While GMR's library is relatively small compared to established PROs, the organization touts its exclusivity and the popularity of its member artists. Rather than having schools negotiate one-on-one with GMR, leading to terms that could be different from institution to institution, NACUBO is encouraging member institutions to wait until a model license can be negotiated for the entire higher education community. While this is a general recommendation, institutions should consult with counsel to determine if this is the best course of action for them. 

Why Institutions Need These Licenses

Purchasing music does not necessarily convey the right to publicly perform or display it. Composers and publishers who own copyrighted musical works have broad and exclusive "rights of public performance." This means that unless some exception applies, whenever a college or university publicly performs a musical work it must do so pursuant to a license.

These model licenses allow a college or university to pay an annual fee to cover public performances of music on its campus, as well as at certain types of off-campus functions and ones organized by affiliated groups. Performances, either live or recorded, at the following types of functions are covered by the existing licenses:

  • Concerts
  • Dances or mixers
  • Coffee houses, pubs, and student unions
  • Recorded music played in bookstores or dining halls
  • Music-on-hold telephone systems
  • Fitness classes
  • Parties at fraternities, sororities, or other student clubs
  • Athletic events

NACUBO and ACE are convening a task force to assist in the negotiations with GMR. Once the deliberations conclude, the model license language will be shared with member institutions.


Music Copyrights


Bryan Dickson
Senior Policy Analyst