Industry sector: Leisure

Mobile DJ: Licences

As a DJ there are certain licensing requirements that you should be aware of. These are centred around making sure that the creators of the music you use in your business receive fair payment for their efforts.

Music performance licensing - PRS for Music and PPL

When music is played by a business or organisation as a 'public performance', permission is normally needed from the copyright holder. Getting music licences from the appropriate royalty collecting organisations enables music users to make sure that they're legally permitted to use the music they play.

PRS for Music and PPL are two of the best known music licensing organisations in the UK. PRS for Music covers a huge range of music tracks and collects copyright licensing fees due to songwriters, composers and music publishers from people who use their music commercially. PPL is a separate organisation which collects royalties that are due to performers and record companies.

Both PRS for Music and PPL have special licensing tariffs for mobile DJs and other mobile businesses. However, in many cases mobile DJs don't need to obtain these licences themselves, as their performances are covered by licences held by the venues they play at. And you won't need a licence for domestic or family functions, such as wedding receptions, christening parties or domestic birthday parties, provided:

  • guests are personally invited
  • the function is held in a privately-booked room that's not open to the general public
  • there's no admission charge
  • the organiser of the function makes no financial gain

There are some situations when you might need to obtain your own licences though. These could include single events like fetes and office parties at venues which don't already hold the appropriate music licences, or an event that you promote yourself. If you're in any doubt whether or not you need a music licence contact PRS for Music and PPL for advice, explaining exactly what you'll be doing and where you'll be doing it. There's also some information on the PRS for Music and PPL websites.

Copying copyright music - ProDub licence

As well as ensuring that your music performances are licensed where necessary - either under your own licences or those held by the venues you play at - you will need to obtain permission if you transfer copyright music from one format to another. This is covered by the special ProDub licence, a single licence covering copyright in the music work and in the sound recording. A ProDub licence permits you to copy, burn or transfer music from vinyl, CD, MP3 or CD+G to a digital format like an MP3 player, flash drive or laptop for use in your professional (or semi-professional) work.

ProDub licence holders get a certificate, and it's wise to keep this with you at all times when you're working in case you're challenged. Some potential clients may want confirmation that you hold a ProDub licence before they book you.

There's more information about the ProDub licence on the PRS for Music website.

PPL licenses certain 'DJ mix' suppliers to provide DJs with recorded music on CD, DVD or as a download. These suppliers are authorised to copy recorded music that's controlled by PPL so that they can provide their services to DJs. You can find out more and see a list of licensed DJ mix suppliers on the PPL website.

Entertainment licensing

Under licensing legislation, certain types of public performance may require the venue to have an entertainment licence or a temporary event notice. This includes some DJ performances. It is normally the venue rather than the DJ who is responsible for checking the licensing situation and where necessary obtaining a licence. However, if you're putting on and promoting your own event then the responsibility may be yours, particularly if the venue isn't already licensed for regulated public entertainment. It's worth noting though that this aspect of the licensing system was relaxed in 2015, meaning that no licence is normally required for DJ performances to no more than 500 people on alcohol-licensed premises so long as the set ends no later than 11pm.

Background checking

If you regularly work with children - for example kids' parties and school discos - then it's a good idea to get an up to date background disclosure check. This can help to reassure potential clients. You can get a basic check done on yourself through Disclosure Scotland, but if you need a 'standard' or an 'enhanced' check then you may need to get it through a registered umbrella body. There's more information about background checks on the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) section of the website.

PAT testing

You'll be using a lot of electrical equipment in a public place, so it's important to be sure that it's all safe. Regular portable appliance testing (PAT) - for example once a year - is the benchmark for ensuring electrical safety. Items of equipment which have been tested can be labelled to show this, including the date of the last test.

Public liability insurance

It's not a licensing requirement as such, but many venues and other people who book you will want to check that you have suitable public liability insurance. You may lose the booking if you can't show them a certificate demonstrating an adequate level of cover.