Licensed to Play December 2011


We often hear the refrain: “Why should I pay SAMRO a licence fee for hosting live music if I’m already paying the artists?” It’s a valid question, as it can be tricky to grasp the complex chain of music rights administration – from the creation of a musical work to paying for using music to artists receiving royalties for the fruits of their spirit.

For that reason, we’ll be briefly unpacking the live performance licensing process in this edition of Licensed to Play. We also chat to the proprietors of SWAD restaurant and find out from composer/musician Paul Hanmer why it’s so important to value and reward individual creativity.

We invite you to contact us with any comments, questions or input, and do drop us a line should you wish to have your business profiled in an upcoming newsletter.

Yours in music

Kgomotso Mosenogi
Marketing and Communications Manager: SAMRO


If you created or invented something and others made use of it, wouldn’t you want to benefit financially? So do composers and lyricists, who have the right to be compensated for the use of their intellectual property. That’s why users of music are required to pay for the incredible value that music brings to different business spaces.

If your venue is hosting a live gig, you are deriving a financial benefit from the music. “But I’m already paying the band a performance fee,” you argue. “Why must I pay a licence fee as well?”

Supporting our local musicians is all very well and good, but over and above that you still have to pay a licence fee to SAMRO, giving your venue the right to use SAMRO’s extensive worldwide repertoire of copyrighted musical works.

Why is this the case? Well, for one, the artists that perform in your pub or nightclub might not be singing their own material – it may be cover versions. The artists who originally wrote those tracks need to benefit, through earning Performing Rights royalties collected and distributed by a society such as SAMRO. And if the band is playing its own, self-penned material, then its members will be lucky enough to be financially rewarded twice: through their gig fee and their royalties.

Remember that the proprietor of the venue (or the event organiser) has to send SAMRO detailed “usage returns” or playlists of all musical works performed in the establishment. Do not rely on the performers to fulfill this obligation!

This data enables SAMRO to fairly calculate and distribute the royalties it has collected from licence fees, to the rights holders of the works that were used – i.e. those who wrote the music and lyrics, and the record company that published the work.

Even though you legally have to have your establishment licensed to play live or broadcast music, the most important reason is a moral one: so that those maestros who give us so much pleasure through their music are not only financially rewarded, but are encouraged to keep creating more life-changing sounds that form the soundtrack to all our lives.


Venues and businesses that use music in public can apply for a licence through the General Licensing section of SAMRO’s Sales Department.

Whether you are a small, intimate jazz club or a massive concert venue, host regular gigs or one-off events, SAMRO will tailor a music usage licence specifically for your needs.

In essence, any business that plays live or recorded music (including mobile DJs) on its premises must obtain the correct licence from SAMRO. This also applies to the organisers or promoters of live music events such as concerts and festivals.

SAMRO will calculate different tariffs and rates based on the nature and size of the venue and event, as well as the category of music user you fall under. Remember that paying a licence fee to use music in public is a legal requirement, and failure to comply constitutes an infringement of copyright. In fact, the lawsuits and punitive costs of avoiding paying licence fees could be far higher than the costs of obtaining a SAMRO licence.

So, do the right thing and get your venue licensed today! Call the SAMRO 24/7 Communication Hub on 0800 247 247 or e-mail them on 24/ (See full list of 24/7 contact details below)

In any restaurant, music sets the tone and helps create an environment conducive to customers’ needs. It’s for that very reason that SWAD restaurant in Johannesburg acknowledges the importance of having a SAMRO music licence.

SWAD, which opened its doors in July 2010, was designed as a destination that brings to South Africa the unique flavours, tastes and experiences of India. Voted as the best Indian cuisine restaurant in The Star Readers’ Choice Awards 2011, it has achieved this pinnacle by offering diners service excellence, a regal atmosphere and a wonderful culinary journey. This experience, though, would not be complete without creating the right ambience.

This, explains SWAD Events and Promotions Manager Suchitra Nagarajan, is achieved by “play[ing] the requisite background music, as it helps set the tone for the restaurant”.

Adds Sunil Menon, SWAD Co-owner: “One minute you could be having a productive business lunch; change the music and the room turns into a romantic candlelit dinner for two. Yet another change of music and it’s a celebratory party with friends and family. The choice of music changes the dimension of the room without having to make any physical changes. The SWAD experience would be incomplete without music!”

Furthermore, says Nagarajan, “As a responsible business entity, SWAD feels that by paying licence fees, somehow, in a small way, we are keeping the arts alive and indirectly encouraging artists to create more music.”

Menon believes that the role of SWAD and similar businesses is to use their establishments as an avenue to promote new composers and artists, while simultaneously keeping the classics alive. “Most establishments understand the role they play, individually, in the process but may not necessarily understand the bigger picture,” he says. “More information exchange between SAMRO and end-users might be helpful in this regard.”

SAMRO hopes that music – combined with fresh ingredients like coconut, tamarind, wholesome ground masalas, basmati rice, coriander, ginger, garlic and chilli to tempt your palate – will enable SWAD to continue serving up a rich feast for all the senses.


Accomplished musician Paul Hanmer, who has been a SAMRO member since 1988, believes strongly that the value of individual creativity should be safeguarded in a world dominated by “the digital commons”.

Pianist and composer Hanmer, is best known for South African Music Award-winning jazz albums such as Trains to Taung and his collaborations with the likes of McCoy Mrubata and Tananas, but is also a dab hand at classical music, having been chosen as composer-in-residence for the 2012 Johannesburg International Mozart Festival.

He has assigned his Performing and Needletime Rights to SAMRO, which is also the copyright repository of his music, and has also been commissioned by SAMRO to write music for occasions such as its Overseas Scholarships Competition.

He says that “the income from SAMRO over the years has certainly made a big and long-lasting difference [to my career]. It has also helped me in terms of widening the ‘sea of possibility’ for me as a freelance musician: moving from being ‘just’ a player of keyboards in cover bands to becoming known also as an arranger, songwriter, collaborator, session keyboardist, composer, producer and so on.”

As a SAMRO member, his earnings as a composer whose works are performed live and via broadcast, as well as the occasional licensing deal, have all contributed to helping him earn a livelihood out of a broad range of possible sources.

Hanmer has a colourful analogy for the music licensing process: “It is important for people to recognise that they have to pay for the right to do something. As not many people would assume they could get petrol for their vehicles for free, or expect to watch a movie at the movie-house without purchasing a ticket – so they should not expect to get, or use, or listen to music for free.”

However, what concerns him about the current music landscape is that “the traditional ways of earning royalty-based income – from various sources, and not just from Performing Rights societies such as SAMRO – are no longer as guaranteed as they might once have been. But also, the need to express what is absolutely individual about each of us has been overrun and clouded, I believe, by the conforming nature of a world that values the computer-generated font above the handwriting of the individual. This creates a common view that we should all be digital clones and drones.”

Food for thought, indeed!


SAMRO members, licensees and members of the public are finding it easier to interact with the organisation since the launch of SAMRO 24/7, a recent Facebook survey has found.

SAMRO 24/7 is SAMRO’s recently introduced 24-hour communication hub, offering assistance via telephone, email, SMS, fax and social media. It helps us attend to queries and provide feedback in a jiffy, in a bid to enhance the SAMRO user experience.

Overall, more than 70% of the people surveyed rated the service they had received from the SAMRO 24/7 communication hub extremely positively. The majority of those questioned in the sample had interacted with SAMRO via Facebook, email and telephone.

SAMRO would like to encourage its licensees to make use of the SAMRO 24/7 service to enable us to keep in touch with you and attend to your needs.

Exciting news is that we will soon be launching a SAMRO 24/7 Facebook application, whereby you will be able to log on to Facebook and fill in an online form detailing your concerns or queries – and a consultant will get back to you within 24 hours.

Check out all the SAMRO 24/7 contact details below.

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