Do I Need Permission from the Songwriters to Play Cover Songs in my Live Sets?

No, you don't have to acquire permission, but the venue does!

While you do not need to get permission from the songwriters directly to play their songs during your live shows, the venues that you are playing at, however, must obtain the proper licenses before you can perform someone else's copyrighted music there legally. This is because the owner or operator of an establishment or business where music is played are legally responsible for any performance that occurs on their premises and in turn, is thus also responsible for obtaining the required authorization(s). The specific license they would need in this case is a blanket license.


Did you know that in the United States, live shows are tracked much more loosely than in other territories? In the U.S., only the 200 highest-grossing venues are legally required to report setlists on behalf of the artists to the local Performance Rights Organization (PRO). For any show that takes place outside of these venues, it is the responsibility of the performing artist to report the setlist. So, if you cover someone's song in your own show, make sure that you include the covers on your setlist submission as well so that the songwriters of those songs are able to collect their hard-earned royalties! 

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