What About Music for My Church’s Videos?

Churches Dig Techno(logy)

As far back as the printing press, Churches have been using technology to help reach their communities.  I’ve been in the controll room of some mid-sized churches with enough knobs, switches, VU meters, and LCD lights to rival any broadcast station!  While these facilities have just as much equipment as our broadcast friends, they often have a fraction of the staff.  Church work forces are largely made up of volunteers, or part time employees who give as much of their time as they can because they have an interest in music, sound, or other media.

“Fusion Intro Video” from Victory World Church

Often a topic like music licensing may go overlooked, simply because the church, while well meaning, simply doesn’t have the means to hire someone full time who has time to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s.  Over the summer, , wrote a really great series on Broadcast Best Practices for Churches, and the third in the series was all about Licensing.  Kirk’s great advice inspired us to try to help the conversation and provide an honest and inclusive look what music licensing will be needed for a Church (or any non-profit for that matter).

What’s a music license?

A while back I wrote a post which went over the basics of music licensing.  It was aimed at musicians looking to get there music on TV, but at the bottom there is a nice section which outlines the different kinds of music licenses required to use music in audio/visual media.  I would recommend reading it, but for the sake of brevity I will say that a company like ours with lots of music libraries exists to make the licensing part easy.  If you work directly with a production music company, you won’t have to worry about chasing down licenses elsewhere.

What do I have to know to get the right license?

When you come to us in need of music, we will likely ask you all of these questions so that we can quote you a fair rate to use our music. So if you want to do your homework you can have all of these answers ready to go, and you will more than likely make our jaws drop :)  These aren’t in any particular order, but as you can imagine, the more rights you need, the higher the licensing fees will be.

  1. How much video production work are you doing? If you are only doing three or four videos per year, you would probably be better off using our music on a needledrop basis.  This means you pay as you go, and purchase a license each time you use the music.  If you are doing videos monthly, or weekly, it is likely going to be more cost effective to purchase an annual blanket license, which will give you a limited library, with certain rights (see my next few points), for a flat fee–no matter how many videos you produce.
  2. Will anything that uses the music be broadcast on TV or Radio? If so, is it on free TV? Cable? Satellite?  Is it local/regional/national/worldwide?
  3. Will you be distributing DVD or CD copies with the music? If so, are they sold or given away?  How many copies on average, and how many times per year do you do this?
  4. Will any of the videos end up on the web? Do you like to get your youtube on?

What a music library does, and does not do.

To be clear, a company like ours only covers one piece of the “music in churches” pie.  That piece is any music that is synchronized to any kind of media.  This could be a video shown during the service, or put on your website, background music in an Audio CD or video DVD that is given or sold to the congregation, it could even be music for a Christmas light show (how about if we offer a gratis license for any Christmas song from our 5A library if a church will do alight show like that one?!?).  Often I’ve heard popular songs from Contemperary Christian Artists in a video showing in church, and I can’t help but wonder if they knew to license it or not.   So now that you know what we do, here are some other places you can turn for what we don’t do (hat tip to Kirk again who already said most of this):

Q: I want to use a Chris Tomlin song in my video.  Where do I go?

A: While we do offer music clearance services for, our expertise is really in TV and Film.  You would likely be better off going with somewhere like MusicServices.org (if they represent the song you want), or Church Copyright Administrators, since this is more their specialty.

Q: How do I get licenses to use sheet music and post lyrics of worship songs?

A: This is the specialty of CCLI. They offer a pretty comprehensive licensing blanket representing many of the major catalogs for churches (I believe fees vary by church size), for duplication of lyrics, sheet music, and even recording versions of these songs with your own worship team. They do not (to my understanding–any clarification is welcome) offer synch/master rights to use music in a video, broadcast show, or for commercial sale

Q: I want to record my choir singing Handel’s “Hallelieujah Chorus,” and sell or give away the CD.

A: Guess what?  You’re cool!  Yep, no license is required here because the song is public domain (no publishing license needed) and you are recording the song yourself (no master license needed).  Public domain is a little bit tricky.  But here is a rule of thumb(s): If the composer(s) died more than 70 years ago, 90% chance that song is PD.  If they died more than 100 years ago, there is a 99.9% chance its public domain.  Also, if your choir isn’t up to par, we have a few versions of the Hallelujah Chorus ourselves :)

In conclusion, while music licensing can seem scary, there are plenty of companies who specialize in making the process easy and painless, and while a church may not have it in the budget to have a full time music supervisor, they can outsource a lot of these needs to companies who would be glad to have their business.  Those of you who work in churches, we would love to hear from you on what you have found useful, please share with us in the comments!

If you found this articel useful, feel free to repost all or some of it on your own site, we just ask that you be kind and link back to us if you do :)