Do I Need a Radio Broadcasting Licence?

Radio broadcasting licences are required if you plan on playing commercial music whilst broadcasting online.

Unlike terrestrial radio, broadcasting online doesn't require a licence as long as there is no copyrighted music used within your show.
However, if you're planning on running something other than talk radio, you’re going to need a licence.

Why Do I Need a Radio Broadcasting License?

Copyrighted music is owned by a third-party, whether it's the writer, performer, or publisher, it's your responsibility to cover the costs with a license.

Each of these parties earn royalties every time their songs are performed in a public place (whether that's physically in a restaurant or digitally online).
Private performances of CD’s and vinyls don't fall under these regulations, but if you plan on broadcasting commercial music you’ve purchased then you need a licence as this counts as a public performance.

Where can I find licences?

Regulatory bodies provide licences and act as intermediaries between copyright owners and you, collecting royalties to ensure the owners receive fair pay for use of their work.
There are individual organisations specific to each country who regulate these licences.

In the UK, there are two main regulatory bodies:

  • PPL: Phonographic Performance Limited; represent the interests of record labels and collect royalties from radio stations on their behalf.
  • PRS: Performing Rights Society; collects royalties on behalf of artists and composers and covers music that’s played on TV, Radio and Online.

Both licenses cover the use of music and collect royalties on behalf of the artists, however, each represents different rights holders and have separate licenses, terms, and conditions.

If you play music in a public place, like a cafe or bar, then you will need both PPL and PRS licenses.
PPL covers you for public broadcasts, whereas PRS covers you for the music you play.

If you intend to broadcast music over the internet via an online radio station you will need both PRS (Limited Online Music Licence (LOML)) and the PPL (Small Webcaster Licence). These are annual blanket licenses that cover your online broadcasts.
If you intend to broadcast copyright free music or just talk radio then you do not need a license.

If in doubt, contact the licensing body directly for either PRS or PPL.