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Licensing Guide

Copyright music for dance: why and how?

The creation of a new dance work using the music of our own time can be a rewarding experience. Fresh sounds are stimulating for choreographers, dancers and audiences alike. If you are considering choreographing a 20th century score (one that is in copyright), this page is for you.

The Boosey & Hawkes catalogue ranges from classic ballet scores by Stravinsky, Prokofieff and Copland to music by highly popular living compsers such as Reich, Adams, Torke and Górecki. Our composers have attracted many of the leading figures from the world of dance, including Diaghilev, Fokine, Balanchine, Martha Graham, Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, as well as major living choreographers such as Pina Bausch, Mats Ek, Jiri Kylian, Peter Martins, Mark Morris, Siobhan Davies, Christopher Bruce, Michael Clark and John Neumeier.

For a public performance of a dance work that uses copyright music, you will need to get a licence from the publisher. The process begins with a telephone call to the publisher, and results in a contract to use the music. The cost of using music by a leading composer can be quite modest, and you are encouraged to investigate the possibilities. A music publisher is a valuable source of information on composers and repertoire.

How do I find interesting music for dance?

Finding the right music for your choreography is essential, and Boosey & Hawkes is eager to help you in your search. Our catalogue covers a wide range of musical styles, from the traditional to the cutting-edge. An unrivalled variety of music is waiting to be discovered in the Boosey & Hawkes catalogue.

For personal help in selecting music or for information on commissioning one of our composers, please complete our request form that will be automatically sent to the Boosey & Hawkes Promotion Department, or telephone +44 (0) 020 7054 7258. A Music for Dance listing and free sampler CDs are available upon request, and our listening rooms in London, New York and Sydney, which contain thousands of recordings, are available for use by appointment.

How do I find out if the music is in copyright?

Begin by assuming that a work composed or arranged in the 20th century is in copyright, and that you will need to obtain a licence to use it. As a general rule within Europe, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the composer. If you are in doubt about whether a work is in copyright, ask the publisher.

If you do not know who publishes the work in question, your local library may be able to help; the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians often contains this information. For further assistance, telephone your local rights society

Note: Copyright laws differ among countries. Music that is not in copyright in one country may be in copyright elsewhere.

When should I notify the publisher about my choice of music?

Once you have ascertained who is the publisher of your chosen music, you need to approach them in order to obtain a licence to use it. We urge you to let the publisher know as soon as you choose the music. This is because you will need to find out:

  • If the music is available for choreography. For example, some compositions are limited to concert performances.
  • Whether there are restrictions on the manner in which the music may be used. For example, use in a medley or use of an excerpt from a larger work may not be permitted in some cases, or there may be a stipulated scenario.
  • What the fee will be for the licence. Licensing fees vary from publisher to publisher, and you may find that the fee is lower than you expect.
  • How to obtain performance materials (scores or parts for the players) if you are using live musicians.
  • Whether separate licences are required for touring to other countries. Be sure to let the publisher know of touring details at the planning stage.

Do I need to obtain rights to use a recording?

The publisher's licence does not cover the use of a recording. If you are dancing to a recording, you need to take the following steps, as well as contacting the publisher:

  • If using a commercially released tape or CD, approach your local phonographic licensing society, who will license the use of the recording for performance and cover the necessary permission from the recording company.
  • If you are making your own performance tape built from commercial recordings, then you need to approach the publisher for a licence to make the tape, and the recording company directly for permission to use it for performance. You will also need a licence from your local phonographic licensing society.

Some theatres have an agreement with the local Musicians' Union limiting the use of recorded music. Check this with the theatre at which you will be performing.

Obtaining a licence from Boosey & Hawkes

Please click here to use our online Licensing Service. Please try to provide us with as much of the following information as possible:

  • The title and composer of the music
  • Whether the dance work is a new or existing choreography
  • The name of the choreographer
  • Total length of your choreography (or dance/ballet piece)
  • Are you using the complete music of B&H work, if only an extract please give details and duration
  • If other music is used in your dance/ballet please give details
  • Duration of the evening's programme (excluding intervals)
  • Whether you are using live or recorded music
  • The number and location of performances
  • Theatre capacity and ticket prices

Why is there a fee for the licence?

Music, like choreography, is intellectual property and, as such, is protected for a term of years. Composers and publishers are entitled to compensation for the use of their music. Fees vary to fit the circumstances, and in most cases the publisher will be eager to assist you. Please note that the use of copyright music in public performances of dance and other types of staged works constitutes a "grand right" for which a licence directly from the publisher is required. The theatre in which you may wish to perform may hold a licence for other musical performances, but ballet performances (as well as certain other staged performances) are specifically excluded from general blanket licences. Your licence must be negotiated individually with the publisher.

A Final Word

We encourage you to use 20th century music in your next dance work, and hope that the above information has helped to demystify the process of securing rights. Following these guidelines will help you avoid the most common problems and will expedite the procedure.

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