Navigating the Airwaves: Understanding Internet Radio Licensing

In today’s era, traditional radio has expanded its reach beyond the FM/AM frequencies. Internet radio platforms have given us access to a range of music and content with a simple click. However, like any industry, internet radio also faces regulations, including licensing requirements.

In this post, we will delve into the world of Internet radio licensing and provide insights on how you can navigate this landscape.

Understanding the Basics

To grasp the concept of internet radio hosting with licensing, it’s important to comprehend the two types of licenses: performance rights and mechanical rights.

Performance Rights License

A performance rights license is necessary for broadcasting copyrighted music to an audience. This license ensures that artists and composers receive royalties when their music is played on internet radio stations. Performance rights organizations (PROs) handle these licenses and collect royalties on behalf of musicians.

Mechanical Rights License

A mechanical rights license grants permission to digitally or physically reproduce copyrighted music through mediums like CDs or downloads. Typically, these licenses are obtained through Mechanical Licensing Companies (MLCs) or from publishers.

Individuals and Organizations Contributing to the Seamless Licensing Operation

Now that we’ve discussed the licenses involved in streaming internet radio, let’s explore the individuals and organizations that contribute to the smooth operation of this dynamic industry:

Performance Rights Organizations (PROs);

PROs play a role in granting licenses for performance rights to broadcasters. They ensure that songwriters and publishers receive compensation. Broadcasters need to acquire licenses from PROs based on their usage requirements.

Sound Exchange

SoundExchange specializes in collecting and distributing performance royalties on behalf of featured artists, non-featured artists (background performers), and copyright owners of sound recordings like record labels and producers. They also manage payments for interactive streaming services, such as internet radio.

Mechanical Licensing Companies (MLCs)

MLCs such as The Harry Fox Agency act as intermediaries between music publishers and digital service providers (DSPs). They facilitate the licensing process for rights while ensuring compensation.

Navigating the Maze of Licensing

Obtaining a radio license can be a daunting task, but with careful planning and guidance, it can be managed effectively. The following steps will help you navigate through this licensing process:

Determine your Target Audience 

To accurately assess your licensing needs, you should first determine the size and reach of your audience. Are you targeting a global base? This information will play a role in determining the type of licenses you require.

Understand Licensing Options

Next, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the different licensing options available. Take the time to understand what blanket licenses, individual licenses, direct licenses, statutory licenses, and compulsory licenses entail. Each type comes with its terms and benefits, so choose the one that aligns best with your streaming goals.

Research PROs 

Researching Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) is another step. Visit PRO websites to find out which organization suits your needs based on the genres of music they offer and their specific terms. Get in touch with each PRO to gather details about pricing.

Assess Potential Costs 

When estimating streaming costs alongside licensing fees, keep your budget in mind. It’s important to consider all expenses.

Read and Compare Contracts 

Thoroughly reading and comparing contracts from PROs or MLCs is crucial. Make sure you understand their obligations, royalty rates, reporting requirements, contract duration, and termination clauses, if applicable.

Seek Legal Advice if Needed 

If navigating internet radio licensing seems overwhelming or if you have legal concerns, seeking guidance from an entertainment attorney who specializes in this area might be a wise move.

Ensuring Compliance

When it comes to internet radio streaming, maintaining compliance is crucial for a smooth broadcasting experience. Here’s what you need to do:

Report Regularly and Make Payments

It’s important to fulfill your reporting obligations by submitting playlists or reports on a regular basis. Additionally, make sure to pay the agreed-upon royalties as per the terms.

Stay Informed About Regulations

Keeping yourself updated with the changing licensing regulations for internet radio is vital to avoid any complications.


Navigating the realm of internet radio licensing can be tricky, but it is essential for a broadcaster. By grasping the fundamentals, working closely with organizations, and ensuring compliance, you can effectively create an internet radio station while supporting artists and composers—a win-win situation for everyone involved.

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