You’ve found that perfect song to be your “walk on” music for your signature or keynote talk. Or you want to play a snippet of music later in your program. What do you need to consider before you use that music clip?

Is it Copyrighted?

Any time you use a work that is copyrighted-a book, music, video, photograph, drawing, cartoon, etc, you must have permission from the owner of the copyright. We all know that about using photos and other graphics in our presentations, but few presenters think about the music they use.

Creators of music and other audio works protect their material by registering it with the Library of Congress. They also register their works with a Performing Rights Society, which monitors the way these works are used and collects and distributes royalties.

The three biggest in North America are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated), and SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. You can check these sites to see what the licensing requirements are.

You might be wondering if you really have to license the songs you use. Here’s the answer from ASCAP’s website in their FAQs.

“Do I need permission to perform music as part of a presentation in class or at a training seminar?

If the performance is part of face to face teaching activity at a non-profit educational institution, permission is not required. Permission is required when music is used as part of training seminars, conventions, or other commercial or business presentations.”

For most of us, that’s a “yes.”

One other thing to consider is that often the venue… the conference, the convention, the hotel, or the event facility has purchased a license. If that’s the case (as it generally is for my own presentations), then you don’t have to worry about it… it’s taken care of.

What are My Other Options?

There is royalty-free music you can purchase from various websites where you make a one-time payment to own and be able to use a piece of music. Some of it’s even free. You can check out sites like The Music Bakery , Shock wave-Sound  –or just Google “royalty free music.”

Music clips can be a great enhancement to your talks. It can set a mood, send a message, and keep your audience engaged.

Just make sure you’re using them with integrity.

Note: I’m not an attorney. This is not a legal opinion. It’s just some guidance to point you in the right direction.