Common FAQs About Music at Spring Church Events – Graduation, Receptions & More

While Summer is right around the corner, many churches are in the final stretch of special Spring programs. Church facilities are ideal for hosting many festive events like graduation celebrations, dances, concerts, fundraisers and wedding receptions. But what about the legalities of playing and performing music?

We compiled a list of a few common FAQs about featuring music at special programs. As always, if you have any questions please call us at 877-394-5566 or log on to chat live with one of our copyright experts.

Q: If we play or perform music at a church or ministry graduation event, do we need licensing?

A: The US Copyright Law Religious Service Exemption only applies to music played or performed during a religious service, so even if you have your graduation event in the church building or facilities, you will need to obtain performance licensing for the music you play or perform.  

Q: What licensing is required to legally play or perform music at a wedding ceremony and reception?

A: Here’s a two-part answer.

1) The wedding ceremony held in a church would probably be considered a religious service, and therefore would not require licensing or permission to play or perform the music because of the RSE (reproducing or copying music is not exempt and does require permission or a license).

2) Playing or performing music outside a religious service requires performance rights licenses. This includes live performance of music by singers and musicians, as well as playing recorded music, including a DJ’s plays, IF it is considered a public event.

Q: If we’re hosting a fundraising dinner in the church as for our summer youth mission trip and feature music, do we need licensing?

A: Inviting church members and friends to a fun evening of good food, entertainment and music is a great way to raise funds to support youth activities and mission trips. Because it is outside your church worship service, it would be considered a public performance and require licensing from the song owners or their agents.

These are just a few of the spring activities where churches often feature music. CCS’s PERFORMmusic Facilities License provides easy, immediate and affordable performance blanket coverage for over 20 million songs (Christian and secular) from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Annual fees are based on the congregational size of your church, starting as low as $229. Once you have the PERFORMmusic License in place, you’re free to follow your creativity and be compliant while legally playing or performing music throughout your facilities and satellite campuses.

Susan Fontaine Godwin is CCS’s founder/CVO, an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 32 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.