Music Arranging, Copyright and Licensing

How do we handle copyright issues at Arranger for Hire?

We are a bespoke exclusive custom arranging service.

We observe copyright law.

We are not “publishers” – we do not resell any arrangement we write for a client, and we respect a client’s desire for exclusive use of an arrangement we create; we don’t have a “catalog.” Also, we don’t put copyrighted material on our website without license or specific permission. (We’re happy to provide our arranging “reel” on request, via email.)

Getting The Proper License For Your Commissioned Arrangement

We can assist our customers in obtaining “Permission to Arrange”. We pass the fee through to our customers along with a $50 administration fee for the service. Permission Fees range from $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on variables such as the nature of intended performance, who the licensee is (“educational” is cheaper), our arranging fee, and other factors.

When Do You Need to License an Arrangement?

  • If you wrote the song, you don’t need a license!
  • If somebody else wrote it, no specific permission is required to write an arrangement, nor to record it.
  • Releasing the recording requires a “Mechanical License,” obtainable through Harry Fox, Inc.
  • Playing any copyrighted material in a commercial venue requires a “Performance License,” paid by the venue, covered by their licenses with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or the local publishing rights organization (“PRO”), varying by country.

“Permission to Arrange” License

Performing from a new sheet music arrangement in public requires a specific license in the form of “Permission to Arrange.”  The permission language needs to appear in the footer of the title page of every sheet music part that’s on a stand in a public place for performance.

Hal Leonard LogoPermissions to Arrange can be obtained from Hal Leonard, Inc and take up to six weeks to obtain. Prices vary, ranging from $50 up, depending on the purpose, size of ensemble, arranging fee, and other factors.

Enforcement is more likely to occur in certain environments, but rare in the general case. Copyright holders or their agents have to catch you in the act of violation with unlicensed sheet music on the stands.

It can be financially ruinous if they get you.

If your performance is in a private venue (such as a wedding), enforcement is unlikely. If your performance is in a public venue but your intended use of the title has not been publicized in advance, enforcement is unlikely.

If you’re performing at a festival or competition, or have publicized your intended use of the title, or list your repertoire on a website, enforcement is likely.

Permission to Arrange License Enforcement Scenarios

Representatives from Tresóna Inc (a loose partner of Hal Leonard, Inc, the giant print publishers) attend events like marching band or show choir competitions (where there are likely to be a lot of custom arrangements performed by ensembles representing institutions). They might also be at college jazz festivals or other major public events. They look at the music on the stands to check for licensing language in the footer of the parts. If there is none, they sue, for many thousands of dollars, naming the ensemble, school administration, or anybody else connected who is likely to have money and vulnerable assets. They may also be doing title searches on the internet for possible enforcement candidates.

Tresóna also sells licenses in the form of “Permission to Arrange” – but they are more expensive than those sold by Hal Leonard.

Mechanical License vs Permission to Arrange

It you plan to post videos of your wedding on YouTube, you’re at slight risk for copyright enforcement of your required Mechanical License. YouTube tries to get copyright holders paid for performance by sharing ad revenue with them – if the video is monetized. Otherwise, the video is subject to a takedown notice. We are not aware of any arrangement copyright enforcement triggered by YouTube use; under copyright law, a Mechanical License would be required (get a “streaming license” through Harry Fox Inc. for maximum legal protection).

Here’s an excellent article on Legal Zoom by Jennifer Mueller that explains details of musical copyright, clearly and authoritatively.

If you want to be on the safe side, please just go ahead and obtain your Permission to Arrange – or have us do it for you.

About Jon Burr

Jon Burr is a composer, arranger, producer, recording engineer, bandleader, bassist, and educator from Yonkers, NY.. and a Finale user since 1996. As owner/operator of Arranger for Hire, he serves music arranging and production customers from around the world. A veteran touring bassist, his performance credits include Tony Bennett, Buddy Rich, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Eartha Kitt, Rita Moreno, The Hot Swing Trio, Stephane Grappelli and many others. Arranging customers have included the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Chilean Astronomy Society, The Milpitas Community Concert Band, The Honey Taps, The Montclair Kimberly Academy’s annual musical, and many others. He writes for and leads his own ensembles, including the Jon Burr Quintet. His arrangements for Swedish YouTube artist Kim Andersson have received over 5 million views on Facebook and YouTube.

Share your thoughts!