Licensed to Play March 2013

Dear SAMRO Music Users

It’s a question we at SAMRO get asked often: where does one draw the line between using music for business and for leisure? When does the personal use of music cross that line and become the public use of music – therefore requiring a SAMRO licence?

In this issue, we explore this complex topic and, by way of illustration, delve into the re-emerging phenomenon of house concerts. Furthermore, we speak to several SAMRO members who frequently perform at house gigs or soirees, and profile classical pianist Benjamin Fourie, who also finds immense value in these intimate home-based musical showcases.

Plus, speaking of music for pleasure, we launch our annual Wawela Music Awards – rewarding music creators whose music has scaled stratospheric heights internationally, thanks to the dedication of music users such as you.

And our hearty congratulations go out to the team behind the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man – a perfect example of the need to comply with copyright legislation to ensure that talented singer-songwriters get their just dues.


Yours in music,

Tiyani Maluleke

General Manager: Marketing – SAMRO


There can be a fine line between the personal and public use of music and as a result, the SAMRO Licensing team would like to explain the difference between listening for business or pleasure.

Music is all around us. It’s in the air we breathe, and fills the places we go. With so many people enjoying music in countless venues, beaches, bars, parks, planes, trains and automobiles, it can get a little confusing knowing who should be paying licence fees for the public use of music.

As the leading music rights society in Africa, no one cares more about music than SAMRO. And SAMRO does not want to prevent anyone from enjoying the music that adds so much value to life. Yet, as a champion of music rights, SAMRO has a duty to its members to ensure they receive compensation when their music is used publicly.

SAMRO also wants to help music users avoid having to pay backdated licence fees, so, it’s important to keep everyone informed – on what constitutes the public and personal use of music, and when and where licence fees are payable.

Essentially, it comes down to the intention behind playing the music. For example, if you want to enjoy music in a casual setting in your home, or with a small group of friends, it can be deemed as personal use. Therefore, no licence is required. However, if the intention is to attract the public to a venue or space by playing music, this does not qualify as personal use. For example, if a person repeatedly goes down to the park and opens their car doors to play music and attracts passersby as a result, SAMRO could view that as a mobile disco.

Although it is easy to understand that a licence is required when music is used for commercial or revenue-generation purposes, the same also applies to a non-profit making public venue such as a church. In other words, the individual does not necessarily need to be profiting from the music directly for it to be deemed commercial use.

Perhaps he or she is selling clothes from the car at the same time, or making and selling food?  Whatever the case, the music is adding value – which means the musicians behind the sounds should be paid for their hard work.

So it makes sense to create a licence fee structure for this type of use – and that’s exactly what the South African Copyright Act makes provision for.

Awareness of licensing regulations is even more important for retailers and entertainment venues – in fact, all businesses that operate from a permanent location and use music on an ongoing basis. For them, it is better to become licensed right from the start than to go months or years and accumulate unpaid licence fees.

Music fills the air and fills our hearts wherever we go. With your help, we can reward the musicians who create these sounds and ensure that they will be here to stay. Remember, if in doubt, phone the SAMRO Licensing Department. The team will be more than happy to assist you.

Email the Licensing Department at


House concerts are on the increase in South Africa, in a live-music landscape where festivals dominate and there are few small venues available for performing artists to ply their trade.

The increasing popularity of these events shows that even in tough times, the public is hungry – and willing to pay – for live performances.

In 2012, Glynn Berridge started hosting live music events at his home in Observatory, Johannesburg. These intimate acoustic performances highlight musical excellence, and for a modest fee that includes “a meal, coffee, cake and a boogie”, a maximum of 60 people can enjoy the show.

Having featured top-class acts, this monthly event has become a resounding success. Besides these gigs nurturing and supporting the growth of South African music, Berridge believes they are also crucial in building a music-loving community, and describes how “music can be a means of attracting like-mindedness”.

Although the phenomenon of house concerts may appear to blur the line between using music for business and pleasure, organisers of such events – be it a one-off gig or a regular occurrence – are required to comply with copyright legislation and obtain a SAMRO licence. This is because even though house gigs may take place in a private home, they are generally events (usually with an entrance fee charged) that are open to the public (see the story below for more details).

For musician, composer and multi-instrumentalist Concord Nkabinde, house gigs benefit both the musician and the audience, because “people are looking for something more honest, less overly produced”. He goes on to say how “… these days, a lot of musicians think the only way to perform is at a big show … but these [house concerts] cost less to put together and offer a more intimate exchange.”

Acclaimed flautist Wouter Kellerman says these smaller shows are actually his preferred way of performing. He describes how “musicians have all kinds of subtleties”, and at big events the quality of music is often compromised by considerations such as sound equipment and acoustics.

Pops Mohamed, another internationally renowned musician, finds house concerts valuable, explaining that although the rewards are seldom financial, they foster “a meaningful exchange between artist and audience”.

This more personal and direct interaction inspires people and appeals to music enthusiasts – and contributes to a more robust and vibrant music industry that benefits music creators and users alike.


Enterprising individuals and businesses may be considering filling a gap in the market by hosting intimate house concerts, but there are a few things you should know before you open your doors – such as the licensing requirements.

House concerts were popular in the days when people had few places they could perform in front of an audience. Now, some are returning to this practice to make extra cash without the risk of high overheads and venue fees – and are successfully hosting paid performances in residential homes.

However, it’s important to be informed about the licensing requirements of this type of event – whether you are a business entity or simply an individual who wishes to perform your own music to an audience in your own home.

So, do you need to obtain a SAMRO music usage licence every time you plan to play music in your home and have a few friends around? Not always. Everyone is entitled to make personal use of music within his or her home. However, if you’re regularly hosting performances and charging some sort of entrance fee, it clearly qualifies as the commercial use of rights-protected music. In such a case, you would need a licence.

The good news is that it is easy to apply and pay for your music usage licence through SAMRO’s Licensing Department. There’s a standard licence structure in place for this type of usage. You simply need to fill in a licensing form and let SAMRO know how many people are expected to attend the performance and provide a detailed playlist of the music you intend to use. From there, SAMRO will work out the appropriate licence fee.

At this point you may be thinking: why should musicians have to pay to play their own music? First of all, each musical work may have multiple rights holders in addition to the primary composer. This could include authors of lyrics, music publishers and others in the value chain. They should also receive royalties whenever their copyright-protected music is used publicly.

Extracting more value from music is extremely important in the current economy. SAMRO welcomes every new idea that assists in generating income for members and music users alike. Doing so in the correct way will ensure a strong music industry.

Planning a house concert? Email the Licensing Department at


The piano music of Benjamin Fourie is filled with grace, delicate sensitivity and powerfully simple beauty. As one of the most respected concert pianists in South Africa, Fourie has been performing for over two decades, receiving applause and acclaim both

In 1984, as a promising young pianist, Fourie was awarded a SAMRO Overseas Scholarship in the Western Art Music category and has gone on to enjoy a long and storied career.

He is passionate about contemporary piano music by South African composers and also enjoys performing works from 20th-century European composers – in particular, the likes of Frank Martin, Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux. His craft has seen him perform in South Africa and Namibia, as well as in European countries such as Germany, France and the Czech Republic.

Two of his three critically acclaimed CD recordings of South African piano music have earned nominations in the solo instrumental category of the SA Music Awards. Fourie has also enjoyed remarkable international recognition, including the honour of being named outstanding man of the 20th century by the American Biographical Institute in 2000.

Now working as a freelance concert pianist, Fourie lives in Bethulie in the Free State, where he often performs house concerts in addition to his regular performances at events and festivals. This is a practice that was popular in the days before concert venues. People pay what they can afford and he says this is his way of taking culture to the community. It’s a progressive idea that other SAMRO members could consider to generate extra revenue.

“[Performing at] house concerts is how we started out, and in those days we passed a hat around and made a living,” he recalls.

To find out more, visit


SAMRO has announced the inaugural Wawela Music Awards, an initiative celebrating South African music that has enjoyed international success. The organisation maintains strong relationships and reciprocal agreements with international music rights bodies t

South African music is on a mission and the world is starting to listen. Acts such as Watershed, Freshlyground, Prime Circle, Locnville, Goldfish, Die Antwoord, Lira, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Clegg and many more continue to achieve astonishing international acclaim and sales success.

Set to take place on 28 June 2013, the Wawela Music Awards have been launched by SAMRO to recognise the achievements of South Africa’s international breakout musicians. Wawela is an isiZulu word that means “go be-yond” and through this celebration, the organisation hopes to promote the music industry and showcase the musi-cians who are enjoying success on the global stage.

Yet SAMRO has long played a role in the success of South African musicians abroad. As an organisation that is affiliated to international music rights bodies, SAMRO is responsible for administering the use of members’ music in territories around the world, as well as in South Africa. The SAMRO Foundation also offers one of South Africa’s most lucrative and sought-after music education awards through the annual SAMRO Overseas Scholarship compe-tition, which enables budding singers, composers and instrumentalists to study towards a postgraduate music qualification at an international tertiary education institution of their choice.

SAMRO maintains reciprocal agreements with a number of sister societies to ensure that our music creators are rewarded with the necessary royalties when their creative works are used abroad. Likewise, when international music is used on our soil or played on our airwaves, SAMRO collects licence fees from music users and distributes royalties to foreign musicians via their respective collecting societies. It’s like one big global ecosystem supporting a thriving music industry.

The Wawela Music Awards are not only a celebration of South African talent – they are an advertisement for the incredible impact our music is having in countries beyond our borders. After all, music success – like sporting tri-umph – has always been a way for countries to raise their international profile.

Says Tiyani Maluleke, SAMRO’s General Manager: Marketing: “The Wawela Music Awards are part of SAMRO’s drive to promote South African music and recognise those who have achieved remarkable success on the African continent and around the world. Through these awards, the organisation hopes to celebrate South Africa’s breakout acts and make SAMRO members aware that there is a global appetite for SA music.”

The message to SA musicians is to get out there and create music that makes waves on the international stage. For music users, the Wawela Music Awards represent the fruits of their unstinting support of South African music. Thanks to your licence fees, South African musicians can continue to create music that shapes the global percep-tion of our country, and SAMRO can keep ensuring that SA music is protected wherever it is played.

•Visit for more information.


SAMRO would like to congratulate the makers of the exceptional documentary Searching for Sugar Man on winning an Oscar, a Bafta and more than 20 other industry accolades.

The film, an engrossing account of how two persistent South African music lovers tracked down the enigmatic folk singer Sixto Rodriguez and resuscitated his career in the late 1990s, has captured the imagination of audiences and film critics around the world, and in particular here at home.

Many fans of the cult singer, whose memorable songs such as I Wonder and Sugar Man formed the soundtrack for a generation of disaffected and disillusioned young South Africans during apartheid, had thought him dead – he had vanished without a trace after recording two albums in the early 1970s.

The multi award-winning documentary, written and directed by Malik Bendielloul, follows the remarkable quest to track down a humble folk poet turned construction worker from Detroit – a man whose talent has been compared to that of Bob Dylan, but who was totally unaware that he was massively famous in a far-off land.

But for SAMRO, arguably the most important lesson that the film imparts is the need for music creators to take the time and effort to ensure that their intellectual property is properly looked after, and for music users to ensure they are properly licensed to prevent a repeat of this state of affairs that has seen so many talented musicians not being paid their royalty dues.

Heightened awareness of the legal ins and outs of the music industry could help avoid situations such as that of Rodriguez, whose music was freely bootlegged and exploited for years without him earning a cent from it, oblivious to its popularity.

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