Theatre royalties

There are two forms of right associated with dramatic presentations: grand rights and small rights. We don't license grand rights but we do license small rights. A dramatic presentation is a production on the live stage that has a story and character.

Grand rights explained

This term refers to 'dramatico-musical' works and ballet where we don't control the live public performance right. A dramatico-musical work is an opera, musical play or show, revue or pantomime for which the music has been specially written. Licensing is undertaken by the appropriate rights holder.

Cinematic musicals such as Mary Poppins are classed as dramatico-musical works when adapted for the stage. Narrative concept albums such as The Who's Tommy or Pink Floyd's The Wall are viewed in the same way.

Individual works specially written for plays and other dramatic presentations that are not themselves dramatico-musical works (i.e. a straight play) are not controlled by PRS for Music when performed in conjunction with the work for which they were written.

Ballet is defined as a choreographic work having a story, plot or abstract idea devised or used for the purpose of interpretation by dancing and/or miming. Unlike dramatico-musical works, ballet music is considered to have a grand right whether or not the music was written specially.

Small rights

This refers to music not specially written for a dramatic presentation. We control small rights where we recognise two categories of use: interpolated music and incidental music

Interpolated music

Interpolated music is music which exists within the dramatic world of the presentation, i.e. it is either performed by or intended to be perceived by the audience as audible to a character in the drama; the music is a part of the drama.

Music that is either performed by, or audible to, a character in a drama is the kind of music which is not authorised by PRS licences held by venues. A specific licence application must be made in advance of performances, even if TheMusicLicence is already held by the venue.

To apply for this use of music, please fill out our webform request and attach the dramatic rights application form. You can find the webform here.

Incidental music

Music which is not audible to a character in a drama, such as music used for transitions and scene-changes, etc. Incidental music is automatically covered by venues' TheMusicLicence, as is music used pre-show, during any interval and post-show.

Simulcasts and 'encores'

We control the public performance given at the point of reception of simulcasts (where a live event is broadcast live to other venues) and 'encores' (the screening of recordings of live events). Please note that grand rights do not apply to public screenings of dramatico-musical works and ballet, whether simulcasts or 'encores'.

Songs from shows

We license the non-dramatic use of up to 25 minutes duration of material from any one show in the same programme as long as the use does not constitute a condensed version, nor covers an entire act, of the parent show. For a performance to be considered non-dramatic in this context, it must not be visually suggestive of the parent show, for example through the use of costume, characterisation, choreography, props, scenic effect, etc; singularly or in combination.

Dramatic use/condensed version/entire act uses are licensable by the appropriate rightsholder as a grand right use.

Grand right performances that we control

There are three instances where PRS for Music will license the performance of a work that is subject to grand rights:

  • Film performances All film performances of dramatic presentations are always controlled by us, whether the performance takes place in public at a cinema, by video projection or on television, and whether small or grand rights apply.
  • Television performances of ballet We license presentations of ballet on television for up to five minutes in duration
  • Documentary programmes Members may ask us to license dramatic excerpts from a ballet or dramatic work broadcast in a documentary that have a total duration of 20 minutes or less, as long as the excerpts are all from the same work.

It is possible to have a small rights performance of a work from a grand right presentation, for example a song from a musical may be performed on the radio or in a live concert with no visual reference to the original show. This would be a small rights performance and therefore would be controlled by us.

Non-dramatic presentations

We license the following if the presentation is in concert fashion with no visual reference to the parent musical work/show:

  • Public performances of all non-dramatic excerpts of grand rights works that are not longer than 25 minutes, and are not complete acts from, or potted versions of, the show.
  • TV broadcasts of all non-dramatic excerpts of grand rights works that are not longer than 20 minutes, and are not complete acts from or potted versions of the show
  • Radio broadcasts of all non-dramatic excerpts of grand rights works that are not longer than 25 minutes or 25% of the total duration of the work and are not complete acts from, or potted versions of, the show
  • All ballet music where there is no dancing

Licensing traditional pantomimes

Although pantomime contains a dramatic story, it is an exception to the general rule. Pantomime is automatically licensed by PPL PRS and is not eligible for the 7(f) procedure.

If you need more specific information regarding dramatic presentations, please contact us.

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