Today’s guest post is the first of a six-part series from Christian Copyright Solutions Founder and President Susan Fontaine Godwin, an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with 28 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management.
Some churches are more musical than others in their worship. For some, Sunday morning is like a free visit to the symphony, with impressive choral renderings and a full orchestra. Some do a lot with a five-part praise band. Some love a simple piano accompaniment, and some sing a cappella. Whether you keep it simple or have to offer earplugs at the door, the religious service exemption to U.S. copyright law covers your musical performance in worship.
Churches vary in their use of music outside of worship as well. At the church I grew up in, music was part of practically every gathering. Our youth group regularly had talent shows, sing-alongs, and concerts. The annual craft bazaar wouldn’t have been complete without Christmas music playing in the background, and my fellow voice students and I had our recitals in the sanctuary. Contrast that with my current church, at which lively conversation and the shrieks of children provide soundtrack enough for any gathering. But even at this comparatively less-musical church, we have wedding receptions in the fellowship hall and a day care that often plays music for the children.
It’s a common mistake for church leaders to assume that any music they might be using is covered by the religious service exemption. When they learn that the exemption only applies to music performed in worship services, often their immediate response is, “We don’t play any music outside of services.”
You might not play much, but you probably do more than you think.
Do you use on-hold music for your phone system? Host choir concerts? Play background music during your fall festival? Have an annual talent show? Offer exercise or dance classes? Take retreats and sing around the campfire? Hold weddings or funerals in your sanctuary?
Chances are, you are using music outside of worship services, and if so, you need a performance license to keep it legal and musically-enhance your events and activities with integrity.
Want to know more about copyright myths that put your church at risk? Watch this helpful video from Christian Copyright Solutions and download their free downloadable resource to worship ministers – 6 Myths About Copyrights That Put Your Church at Risk. 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.