Do DJs Have to Pay Royalties to Play Music? [Updated 2020]

As a DJ, there are a lot of aspects you need to consider.

Although focusing on your mixing skills is a given, you also need to consider the legal issues regarding copyright laws when using other people’s music for producing remixes or playing live shows.

DJs play popular tracks for the crowd and create their own mixes, so it is essential to be careful not to violate any copyright infringement laws.

Do DJs Have To Pay Royalties?

Do DJs Have to Pay Royalties to Play Music - dj rules and regulations

It depends.

If you are a world-class DJ that makes a lot of money and plays venues with thousands of people every night, you should probably pay royalties to who owns the rights to the songs you play.

You should also pay royalties if you are sampling songs into your own music production that you plan to monetize.

However, if you are only playing small venues, you don’t really have to pay royalties or get digital licensing just yet.

Although you still have to pay for the music you are playing and make sure you don’t download music illegally.

If you are in the early stages of being a DJ, it is better to start using music that you purchased legally when building your song library.

You can avoid any copyright infringement violations later on, as some songs have specific licenses that allow you to play copyrighted music in front of crowds.

The laws are different depending on where you live.

In some countries, you will have to pay a fee for a digital license.

Countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, and Finland are specific about their copyright laws.

If you live in these countries, you will have to pay a fee to acquire the particular digital license you need.

Paying the fee will allow you to play, copy, and alter copyrighted tracks.

This law includes digital copies, CDs, vinyl, cassettes, and other types of media.

You will also be allowed to copy these to your hard drive, phone, or any kind of music layer that you own.

Club DJs in the United States

Club DJs in the United States - public performance license information

In the United States, DJs don’t really have to pay to get a digital license.

As long as you purchased the tracks legally, you are allowed to play them at venues such as clubs, halls, restaurants, house parties, and more.

Most of the time, the venue you play for will already have an agreement to play music for the crowd.

DJs in the United States are not required to have these digital licenses to perform, as the venue they work for is responsible for getting them.

Some venues might ask DJs for a membership fee so that they can play copyrighted music at their venue.

Although in most cases, you will not have to worry about a digital license when DJing in the States.

Mobile DJs in the United States

Mobile DJs in the United States - do they have to pay royalties to play music

Mobile DJs also don’t have to worry about any licensing fees, as they are the responsibility of the event organizers.

If you are self-employed as a mobile DJ, you might need a license to run as a business or independent contractor.

Still, you don’t need to worry about licensing and paying royalties as long as you purchased the music you are playing.

If you are playing outside of a licensed venue, make sure that the organizers took care of the royalties, as you would probably be responsible if you did not ask.

It might also risk getting a lawsuit from organizations such as BMI.


DJing is fun, and whether you DJ to make a living or as a hobby, it is always best to be cautious about violating any copyright laws.

You should never forget to download music legally, check if there are any DJ licensing requirements in your area, and make sure the royalties are taken care of if you DJ in the United States.

Have fun DJing!

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