Tips on licensing rights to a show

(Last Updated On: July 18, 2014)

Steven Roberts, House Manager at The Village Players of Birmingham, has some valuable tips about the changing nature – and costs – of licensing rights to a show:

     Applying for the rights to a show used to be a somewhat simple thing, mainly for plays or non-musicals. It used to be that you contacted the licensing house and found out what the flat rate per performance was and you were all set.

     And for the most part that is still true, but not always!

     There are some licensing houses that are now using the formula that most of them use to license musicals. In other words, they will want to know the dates of your performances, how many seats your theater has, the price range of your tickets, approximately what percentage of the house do you expect to sell, and how many total performances – including any benefit or “other” types of performances – you will have. Some will also want to know if you pay your actors, and how much.

     Schools are another animal completely and even more information is needed. From all the information you supply they will then quote you a rate specifically for your theater or organization.

     Most licensing houses are willing to let you put this information in as a “dummy” license so you can see in advance what the possible costs of licensing a specific show is in advance so you can plan for budgeting that show. Any application you put in generally lasts for six months so if you choose not to apply for that show at that time or need to change information you can just ignore it, but it’s always best to contact your licensing house contact to let them you know you aren’t applying at that time.

     When you do receive your license, make sure you read all of the fine print! There are some authors who now have specific clauses in their contract and you would be surprised at some of the items they have in there. Some may or may not even apply to your organization, but it’s always best to know in advance so your group can stay on good terms with the licensing house. So make sure you have all of this information when applying for licensing rights. It will help you in the long run.


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