Dancer's Permit? Licence to play music?


New member
Yesterday I was having a chat with a friend of mine whom I'm starting a troupe with when something she said struck me as unusual. She was telling me that back in her home state troupes that performed out in public needed something like a dancer's or performer's license, or they would risk getting fined. On top of that she was telling me that you couldn't perform publicly to music unless you owned the right to the song, or (if it was a song by an indie/unsigned artist) if you had the artist's direct permission

Needless to say as someone who'd never heard of this, this was my reaction :shok:

We're not going to delve into performing anytime soon, but I want to be as responsible as possible before we start performing seriously. I'm just kind of flaberghasted as I've never heard of such a thing and in the ATS troupe I'm in this was never discussed. With all these sort of restrictions (and if they apply where I live) how are people performing at the belly dance night at the local coffee shop? Or at non-belly dance and belly dance festivals?

Puzzled, and any insight is greatly appreciated!


New member
Good ol' Southern California :)

My friend who told me about this was referring to Maryland where she used to live.


New member
There are a lot of different rules and laws about the use of music and public performances. In general, a lot of performance music is covered by BMI/ASCAP. Most venues already have this licensing, but if you are dancing somewhere without a venue license, then you would generally need your own unless the music was not affiliated with any rights organization. There are also specific business licenses required for street performing/busking by some locales. In some areas, you also need a business license to receive pay to perform in public. There is an entirely different set of rights/licenses for music on dvds or used in theatrical productions.

Depending on which items you need and don't have, the penalties are generally fines or lawsuits rather than criminal proceedings.


Well-known member
A lot of people seem to think that if you buy the CD it gives you the "right" to perform in public to the song, or to play the song in public. That is not the case with most CDs. Public performance is covered by a set of pretty specific laws. When I have questions, I usually contact ASCAP directly. Even if the song isn't in their library, they can usually help me locate the copyright owner. (ASCAP usually just deals with the composer's rights, and BMI covers the performer's rights.)


New member
As a festival producer, it's my responsibility to secure music rights for the event. Individual dancers are not required to do so.


Wow! I didn't know you need a license to perform music in public. I thought you could just use whatever music you wanted. Maybe because people pay to see the show, the music used in the show needs to be licensed?