Musicians need to eat too…

I’ve noticed a troubling trend as I travel from city to city to teach and perform. Performance producers are selling DVDs of the gala show to general public, usually to audience members who have attended that night’s performance. I completely understand the desire to have a keepsake to take home so that one can watch a performance again and again.

However…. While this seems harmless, it is doing the musicians whose music appears in these performances a huge disservice. These event producers aren’t licensing the music to which the dancers are performing. I’m not going to mince words here; it is illegal to sell a recording with music on it without having licensed the songs from either the record label or the artist him/herself. I have had to tell several event producers that when they sell a performance DVD to the audience members of their show that they are breaking the law. Most of the time, the producers are shocked. They honestly have no idea that what they are doing is illegal. Plus, the musicians whose music appears on these DVDs aren’t receiving any sort of compensation for their own art.

I’m surprised and frankly upset that event producers do not seem to know this simple fact.

Every time a belly dance DVD is made, whether it by the Bellydance Superstars or WorldDanceNewYork or the independent producer in her home studio, the music tracks that appear on those recordings are licensed to the tune of over $200 a song.

Please, if you are an event producer, do not sell DVDs of the performance to the general public without having licensed the music to which the performers are dancing. If you plan to sell a recording of the gala show, let the performers in the show know ahead of time not only that the show will be recorded but also that the general public will be able to purchase it so that we can inquire about licensing tracks so that the music can appear legally on the recording. If you plan to sell your show DVD to the public and you have all the performers’ explicit written permission to do so, plan to spend at least $200 a song to license each performer’s music. (Another pet peeve of mine is discovering the day of the show that my performance is being sold to the general public, even though in my contract it clearly states that producers must have explicit written permission from me to record my performance, let alone have it be available for any random person to purchase.)

This issue doesn’t just have to do with intellectual property laws; it’s a matter of respect. My art (or anyone else’s for that matter) is not public domain. Neither is the music to which I dance. It does nothing to elevate our dance form if we can’t even respect the other artists who inspire us.

Also, at the end of the day, we can say that money is just material, but applause and praise don’t pay the rent or buy the groceries. It is only just that every artist whose creations appear in a production get the payment and credit they are due.


Comments: 4

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Amen and thanks for making your opinion public.

I’m constantly surprised at this myself, surprised and disappointed frankly… I hope that by talking about it and raising these issues (which I try to as well, to anyone who will listen anyway) that eventually this stops.




Absolutely correct. Performing rights organizations (PROs) like BMI & ASCAP are setup to ensure musicians, composers, etc., are getting their music licensed legally and correctly and are being compensated for it. Club owners who play music over a PA system are required to pay performance fees for that music, and anyone selling live recordings or performances should pay that fee also — the music may not necessarily be copyrighted but the *performance* is.




Yep. In fact (to clarify Brett’s comment) even before you get to the re-recording issue, it also violates copyright laws to even *play* copyrighted music as part of a public performance (that is basically *any* performance that is not solely to family and friends) without obtaining “performance rights”. Generally this is considered the responsibility of the venue (or event producer)… and might be dealt with through a “site license” that the venue has with some rights organization… but theoretically an individual performer could be held liable. In practice I suspect that almost no one in the bellydance community is aware of this responsibility.




Additionally, the choreographies of each of the dancers is copyright protected to him or her. I find it not only illegal, but incredibly tacky, to ask the performer to pay to receive an illegal copy of her own work.



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