Is your school putting on a musical or staging a drama production that uses music? You’ll need to know what kinds of productions are covered by the Schools Music Licence and when to go directly to rightsholders for the rights to perform a show.
In Australia there are two types of dramatic use of music in theatrical performances - ‘Dramatic Context’ and ‘Grand Rights’.
Dramatic Context performances use pre-existing songs to tell a dramatic story (i.e. songs that weren’t written specifically for the show in which they are being performed). Dramatic context is defined as the use of musical works: a) in conjunction with a presentation on the live stage that has: (i) a storyline; and (ii) one or more narrators or characters; or b) as a Ballet.
An example would be a show where the storyline and script have been written by a teacher or student, and a variety of pop songs are played or performed throughout the show.
Under the Schools Music Licence, schools are generally covered to put on Dramatic Context performances. However, if you are a secondary school and you are both charging for admission and advertising/promoting the show outside of the school community, you require written approval from APRA AMCOS and some restrictions may apply.
Grand Rights apply to “dramatico-musical works” - dramatic works that include music intentionally written for them (for example, operas, operettas or Broadway musicals such as Cats or Wicked). Staging Grand Rights productions in their full context (with any costumes, characters, staging or choreography that reference the original production), or performing all of the musical works together in the one concert, always requires licensing directly from the rightsholders who control the rights in Australia.
Performing songs from shows
It’s common for schools to want to perform songs from popular musicals and shows, without necessarily staging the performance in its theatrical context. This is covered by the Schools Music Licence.