Are You Licensed?

Music licensing. What a fun topic! Would you believe this is the topic we get asked about the most? Sorry to break it to you, but questions about how we get the drums sounding so good are NOT the most queried topic. I know, it does sting a bit.

I’ll bet most of us know a bit about licensing music, art, and movie clips for use in our church services. But from the people we talk to and the churches we encounter, what most people actually know about it is, well, just enough to be dangerous. And I think we could all agree that licensing becomes even more confusing when it comes to using music on a live web stream.

Some may have heard horror stories about those who’ve found themselves in unfortunate scenarios with the FCC. Something about using a clip from Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy on a live stream and now they owe thousands of dollars…no bueno.

Though the above example might sound a bit extreme, the truth is that most churches today struggle to understand how to stay compliant with the laws that govern the usage of creative content across mediums like the internet. Without someone beating down your door forcing you to understand and remain compliant to the law, it can often give the illusion that these laws don’t actually exist. Or, at least that no one actually cares about enforcing them.

It’s important to Church on the Move that we stay on top of these issues. Here’s a recent scenario that proved to be a bit of a hurdle as it pertained to licensing music for our live stream.

We wanted to improve our online service experience online as well as brand our campuses with the same pre and post service music. But, we encountered some real licensing issues when trying to make it happen.

To make everything cohesive in the live room and on the stream, we would have to procure a license for all of our pre and post service music. Gee, sounds like a lot of fun. Would you find it interesting though that a license like this literally doesn’t exist with CCLI or other general worship house coverage? They just don’t license artists’ music for use on a live stream.

As a result, we would be required to go to the publishing and master holder for EACH song that we play pre and post service and negotiate an individual license with all of them directly. Umm, how about no? I’m sure all of us have better things to do.

As we continued this quest, we decided to check out some stock music licensing companies who are usually able to offer streaming licenses without any trouble. Our hope was that we could just license some of these tracks and be rocking.

Well, no, actually. Here’s the problem: These stock licensing companies see each weekend’s live stream as a separate “creative project.” Perfect. You would have to license the pre and post service music for EACH and EVERY weekend. I’m not sure about you, but we don’t have that kind of budget.

As a result of coming up with nothing, we elected to leave our live stream silent until we kicked into actual live stage content. This wasn’t great for several reasons:

  • As some may have noticed if you’ve watched our stream, it’s not real inviting to hear zippo during the lead-up to a service. In fact, that’s not the presentation we’re going for at all.

  • It’s a manual process to get the audio up on the stream at the exact right moment. Putting non-sustainable practices into place is not our mojo either.

Here’s what we DID find though: Music from the Lab. Turns out these guys saw this need and decided to do something about it. In the most sincere nature of Seeds and Church on the Move, we felt it appropriate to pass this find along. It sits well with us that these guys understood our particular dilemma and had a passion to serve the church in this way.

In addition to finding a source of rocking tracks, we finally had an option for a streaming license that covered us for “continued use” on our live stream.

We’ve been using this music across all our environments now since this past Easter. They put together a bundle of tracks for us to use that sound great and create the right environment for our lobbies and online audiences at a price we could handle. 

Being a church with services that revolve heavily around artistry, music, and creative content, we strongly believe this gray area requires clarity. As churches, we should be setting an example for others with this. Avoiding flagrant disregard for the laws of our land is a good place to start.

We’ve included a short video with John Mitchell, the founder of Music from the Lab, to lend some further clarity and information on this topic. We genuinely hope this might provide a creative solution to your situation as it did for ours.

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Andrew Stone
Production Manager
Andrew Stone is the Production Manager and Audio Director at Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK. His 27 years of touring experience have brought a unique, and sometimes unorthodox, perspective to his approach towards production in the church. He has been a key part of changing the culture behind COTM's live events and he loves sharing his knowledge with other churches. He's been married for 20 years, rarely wears anything but black, and genuinely loves to rock. You can find him on Twitter (@stone_rocks), Instagram (, and is a blog contributor on Seeds, COTM's free resource site.