Licensing, Broadcaster, Performance Rights Organizations

ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange: What's the Difference?

Music? Check.
Microphone? Check.
Stream Licensing? … what’s that?

Stream licensing is a way to ensure your internet radio station is legally allowed to broadcast music. Without it, you could be breaking the law.

To legally broadcast most copyrighted material in the U.S., you’ll need to secure a statutory license. Statutory licenses cover non-interactive broadcasts, where playlists are curated by the station. There are four main music licensing agencies within the U.S.: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange. (For more information about legally broadcasting in Canada, click here.)

ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), and SESAC are three different U.S. public performance organizations (PROs) that collect and distribute royalties any time a musical composition is performed publicly in a business establishment (such as the mall or a restaurant) or broadcast (via TV, radio, or internet). These organizations then take those license fees and pay the appropriate songwriters and publishers. If you plan on playing copyrighted music on your station, you’ll need at least one of these PRO licenses.

SoundExchange is different, as it collects and distributes digital performance royalties any time a recording is digitally transmitted in a public place, like on an internet radio station. In addition to one (or more) of the PROs above, you’ll also need to secure a license with SoundExchange.

Managing agreements and reporting to all of those agencies can often be confusing, daunting, and take up valuable resources and time. Live365 can help! We have a working relationship in place with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange, so your station’s stream licensing needs are covered.

Interested in learning how Live365 can help with stream licensing for internet radio stations? Contact us at

Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended as legal advice. Please consult with qualified professionals if you have specific questions about copyrights and licensing.

Article image: Mark Solarski via Unsplash.

Author image

About Sarah Osborne

  • Pennsylvania