About SESACSESAC Writers PublishersSESAC LicensingRepertory SearchSESAC NewsContact SESAC
home » SESAC Licensing » FAQs Broadcast Licensing

FAQs: Music Licensing | Broadcast Licensing | Digital | Mechanical, Synchronization & Other


Frequently Asked Questions: Broadcast Licensing

Click the questions below to view the answer.

Q: Who is SESAC?

A: SESAC was founded in 1930 as the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers. Since that time SESAC has significantly expanded the number of songwriters and publishers represented and its repertory now includes all music genres. As a reflection of this change S.E.S.A.C. became SESAC LLC.

SESAC is the second oldest of the three Performing Rights Organizations (PRO) in the United States. The Copyright Law of the United States defines a PRO as "an association, corporation, or other entity that licenses the public performance of non-dramatic musical works on behalf of copyright owners of such works...

SESAC is a member the international Performance Rights Organization CISAC and has reciprocal agreements with many foreign PRO's

Q: What service does SESAC provide?

A: SESAC represents songwriter's and music publishers copyrighted works and their right under the Copyright Law to publicly perform those works. SESAC acts as a clearinghouse between the copyright owners and those who wish to publicly perform music.

The Copyright Law of the United States defines a Public Performance as:

"(1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

(2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times."

Essentially anytime music is performed, played, broadcasted or otherwise communicated to the public a license is required.

SESAC offers a blanket license agreement that is recognized as the most convenient and cost effective method to obtain the required authorization to publicly perform all of the copyrighted music in the SESAC repertory.

Q: Why Should I Have a SESAC Performance License?

A: Musical compositions, like other intellectual property, belong to their creators. The United States Copyright Law grants certain exclusive rights to copyright owners, including the right to publicly perform and the right to authorize others to publicly perform the work.

Generally, in the United States, and in other countries of the world, permission is obtained through a licensing arrangement with the respective performing rights organization. On behalf of many thousands of songwriters and music publishers, SESAC offers blanket license agreements that authorize the performance of all the compositions in the SESAC repertory. The SESAC Performance License is recognized in the industry as the most convenient and cost effective method for music users to obtain the permission that is required by law.

If you are using someone's property (song) there is a moral and legal obligation to obtain the owner’s permission. Under the Copyright Law of the United States, anyone who publicly performs copyrighted music is required to obtain advanced permission from the copyright owner, or their representative. If you publicly perform any copyrighted song without proper authorization you are breaking the law and can be held liable for damages from a minimum of $750 up to a maximum of $150,000 per song played!

The Better Business Bureau provides additional information concerning the Copyright Law and a music user's responsibilities.

For more information, or to request a license, please email SESAC at licensing@sesac.com or contact one of our licensing representatives at 1-800-826-9996.

Q: If I have licenses with ASCAP and/or BMI, why do I need a license with SESAC?

A: SESAC, ASCAP, and BMI are three separate and distinct Performing Rights Organizations (PRO). Each organization represents different copyright holders (songwriters, composers, publishers) and licenses only the copyrighted works of its own respective copyright holders. Licenses with ASCAP and BMI DO NOT grant you authorization to use the copyrighted music of SESAC represented songwriters, composers and publishers.

Since a license with ASCAP and/or BMI does not grant authorization to publicly perform songs in the SESAC repertory, most businesses obtain licenses with all three to obtain proper copyright clearance for virtually all of the copyrighted music in the world.

Q: What kinds of music does SESAC represent?

A: All kinds! SESAC has grown over the decades and currently represents a significant amount of music in every musical genre. SESAC has been serving music users throughout the U.S. for over 80 years with a diversified repertory including Top40, Pop, Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, Country, Spanish (Pop, Regional Mexican, Tropical, Rhythmic), Blues, Jazz, Big Band, Folk, Contemporary Christian, Gospel, and many others, as well as music in movies, TV and advertising.

SESAC represented songs have been awarded Grammy, Clio, Dove, MTV, VH1, CMA, Emmy, and ACM awards, as well as scores of Gold and Platinum records. Artists and performers from all genres of music have performed SESAC represented works. Search our repertory.

Q: What is the best method of determining which songs are represented by SESAC?

A: Our Repertory Search is the best method. You can easily search by song title, writer, publisher or the name of the recording artist.

Do not rely on the Performing Rights Organization information printed with a CD, record, tape or sheet music. This information may be outdated, incomplete or inaccurate. The SESAC repertory search is the most accurate method available.

Q: If I do not know if the music being programmed on my station is copyrighted, can I still be held responsible for copyright infringement?

A: Yes. It is the responsibility of the music users to make sure that they have obtained ALL of the required copyright clearance for ALL copyrighted works prior to broadcast.

Q:What is a blanket license?

A: A SESAC blanket license authorizes you to publicly perform any and all of the songs in the vast SESAC repertory as often as you like, without having to worry about obtaining permission for each individual song performed.

The blanket license has long been recognized as the most efficient and convenient way of clearing copyrights in the United State. It would be time consuming and expensive for you to locate, contact and negotiate with all copyright holders prior to the performance of each song you plan to play.

The U.S. Supreme Court summarized the virtues of the blanket license in CBS v. Broadcast Music, Inc., 441 U.S. 1 (1979) as follows:

"... the blanket license developed ... out of the practical situation in the marketplace: thousands of users, thousands of copyright owners and millions of compositions. Most users want unplanned, rapid and indemnified access to any and all of the repertory of compositions and the owners want a reliable method of collecting for the use of their copyrights...

"A middleman with a blanket license was an obvious necessity if the thousands of individual negotiations, a virtual impossibility were to be avoided. Also, ...(individual licenses would pose) a difficult and expensive reporting problem for the user and policing task for the copyright owner. Historically, the market for public performance rights organized itself largely around the single-fee blanket license, which gave unlimited access to the repertory and reliable protection against infringement." Id. at 20-22.

Q: Do I have any other option to obtain the required authorization to perform copyrighted music?

A: Yes. While SESAC offers the convenience of a blanket license authorizing the performance of all of the songs in the SESAC repertory, as an alternative to a blanket license you can negotiate a separate license agreement directly with each copyright owner of each song you will publically perform.

Q:What happens if I refuse to obtain a SESAC license?

A: Music users who have declined to obtain authorization to perform copyrighted music or who have refused to obtain a SESAC Performance License may be determined by the courts to be guilty of infringement of copyright with damages ranging up to $150,000 for each song performed without proper authorization.

Q: What does the SESAC Blanket License provide?

A: Immediate and unlimited access to SESAC’s vast repertory including music in commercials and jingles.

Q: How are SESAC license fees determined?

A: Generally, the scope of the public to which the SESAC repertory is being performed is the main factor in SESAC license fees.

Q: What is the cost of a SESAC license for commercial radio stations?

A: SESAC commercial radio station license fees are based on a station's market population and high one-minute spot rate.

Q:What if our programming consists primarily of News/Talk or Sports/Talk format?

A: SESAC offers an “All-Talk” amendment. Stations featuring programs consisting primarily of news, narration, sports, or dialogue, devoid of feature musical presentation may qualify for the SESAC all-talk amendment resulting in a reduction in fees. For more information, or to see if you qualify, you can email SESAC at licensing@sesac.com or contact one of out licensing representative at 1-800-826-9996.

Q: What are the reporting requirements for radio stations?

A: For the sake of convenience to our customers, very little reporting is required. On an annual basis, SESAC only requires that a station report its current high one-minute spot rate and any possible change to its market.

Q: What if I have one or more stations that are simulcasting?

A: All individual broadcast entities require authorization, therefore, each separate station requires a separate license.

Q:What if my station(s) is being operated under an LMA or JSA?

A: SESAC will typically license the owner or FCC license holder of a station, but license fees may be paid by the LMA or JSA for payment.

Q: Do I need a separate license to stream a radio station on the internet or broadcast in HD?

A: Yes. For commercial radio stations, SESAC offers an addendum to the radio station license specifically for stations streaming on the internet or broadcasting their signal in HD.

Q:What is the cost of SESAC licensing for a non-commercial radio station?

A: Non-commercial radio station fees are governed by the Copyright office and can be found at here.

Q. Do I need a separate license to stream a non-commercial or Low-Power FM radio station on the internet?

A. Yes. All non-commercial and Low-Power FM radio stations should use the SESAC Internet Performance License available here.


Other Broadcast Licensing Information


SESAC, the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio have entered into an agreement that grants to NPR, PBS and CPB network and affiliated stations authorization to publicly perform compositions represented by SESAC for the period January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2012. Each January SESAC is supplied with a current listing of the PBS/NPR/CPB affiliates to be authorized under the license. The SESAC agreement with PBS also grants, on an experimental basis, the right to publicly perform the musical compositions in SESAC’s repertory by PBS/NPR/CPB non-commercial Internet, websites or home pages.


On behalf of cable operators that are members of NCTA and CATA, the NCTA and SESAC entered into an interim agreement that authorizes the public performance of SESAC music in locally originated cable television programming (leased access and PEG channels).


SESAC has licenses in effect with the major premium and basic cable networks. License fees are generally based on the network subscriber base, net advertising and subscriber revenue, Nielsen ratings and the type of programming provided by the network. For more information, or to request a license, please email SESAC at licensing@sesac.com or contact one of our licensing representatives at 1-800-826-9996.


FAQs: Music Licensing | Broadcast Licensing | Digital | Mechanical, Synchronization & Other

SESAC Privacy Policy
| Refund Policy