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Play music in training . . . legally

Many trainers love to play music during training events — to create a welcoming environment, relieve stress, energize participants and more.

The big question always seems to be “What’s the best music to use?”

However, the more important question, which is not being asked, is this:  Can I LEGALLY play my favorite songs in the classroom?

I made a few calls to get to the bottom of it and find out the answer.

  1. For all music, copyright laws require that you must obtain permission; in other words,  you must purchase a license from ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC (these are THE three companies that manage most all of the music licenses), or you must pay a royalty directly to the performers.
  2. Some select music CDs are created and sold along with explicit public performance rights. While this is not the norm, Trainers Warehouse and a few other educational product merchants have created CDs with this permission explicitly granted. For these, you do not need to contact ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.  You can also look at

So, what does it take to do it right?


Corporate Training Events:  If you’re conducting training at a large company, most likely they will have gotten blanket permission to play music in their lunch rooms, break rooms, fitness center, telephone hold lines, at events, etc.. Ask if they have a music license, and if so, you’re all set to play the music you want for that company.

Training at a hotel, restaurant, or conference center: Venues such as these are generally responsible for getting permission to play music, too. Ask if they have a music license, and if so, you’re set to play music at that location.

Public schools: All public schools are exempt from licensing requirements (according to my contact at BMI).

Universities and Colleges: Like companies and venues, most universities have obtained blanket licenses based on their student and faculty populations.

Smaller businesses without a music license: If the company you’re training does not have a music license, you are responsible for obtaining permission to play music publicly. See “Permission and Pricing” below.

Permission and Pricing

To obtain permission to play music for smaller companies that don’t already have a blanket license, the 3 performing rights organizations mentioned above, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, can help.  They represent songwriters and publishers and their right to be compensated for having their music performed in public. The licensing options you can discuss with them include:

  • Permission to play just a handful of songs:  If you have a short list of songs, they can tell you the publisher/copyright owner of each. You would simply email your list of songs, along with the name of the recording artist and/or studio.
  • Blanket music in business license: This allows you to play any song you want in any location.  Pricing is based on number of employees.  To give you an idea of the how much money we’re talking about, ASCAP’s minimum is $234/year for up to 498 employees.  To be covered, however, you would need to get this license from each of the three organizations.
  • Training and development license: If you’re conducting training for larger organizations, but your classes tend to be smaller, you might want to purchase this license, whereby you pay approximately $.50/attendee, or an annual minimum of $398/year (according to ASCAP).
  • Trade show, meeting, and conference license: This could run $180/yr or $.06 /attendee (according to BMI).

Contact information

ASCAP – The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers

I spoke to Jane Wingo, who was very nice, had lots of answers, and gave me permission to share her contact information online.   You can contact Jane by phone:888 -720-1137 or by email: [email protected]

BMI – Broadcast Music, Inc.

Anyone in the licensing department should be able to help you. You can contact them by email or phone . . .

email: [email protected]

phone: 888-689-5264

SESAC – Society of European Stage Authors and Composers.

Don’t be deceived by the name. SESAC represents many US musicians, as well as European artists whose music is played in the United States. They have a ton of licensing contacts who you can reach by email or phone.

Phone: 800-826-9996

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