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Guide to music in a Dramatic Context

This page is a guide only, for songwriters, composers and music publishers. You should also refer to the Dramatic Context Agency Appointment (DCAA).

If you are a producer looking for a Dramatic Context licence for your production, view our information about Dramatic Context licences.

APRA AMCOS normally licenses concerts and other non-dramatic performances of musical works. In the theatrical context music can be used in a number of different ways; some performances can be licensed by APRA AMCOS, while others cannot.

APRA AMCOS can assist Copyright Owners in theatrical licensing when a production satisfies the definition of Dramatic Context (DC) and where that Copyright Owner has provided APRA AMCOS with a non-exclusive agency appointment (that means you can still license any DC production directly yourself).

Dramatic Context means the performance of musical works:

(a) in conjunction with a presentation on the live stage that has:

(i) a storyline; and

(ii) one or more narrators or characters; or

(b) as a Ballet.

Ballet means a choreographic work having a story, plot or abstract idea devised or used for the purpose of interpretation by dancing and/or miming. Ballet does not include country or folk dancing, tap dancing or precision dancing sequences.

You may limit what APRA can license under the agency appointment according to the work/composer or stipulating that APRA AMCOS cannot license a DC production, if the show:

  • takes place in a venue where the capacity is more than 500 persons
  • takes place at a named Fringe or Cabaret Festival
  • is a Biographical Production
  • contains Controversial Themes and;
  • contains two or more works written by the same composer.

Under the DCAA you retain the right to approve licensable repertoire by maintaining two lists: Restricted: works placed on this list are unavailable for use in Dramatic Context; and Go Direct: for works on this list the client will be directed to the Copyright Owner to license works directly from them.

You may provide us with different lists if you also approve us to license your music into productions that take place in venues where the capacity is more than 500 persons, or at a named Fringe and Cabaret Festival.

In all other cases (for example if you have said APRA AMCOS cannot license a particular work of yours, or cannot license works into a named cabaret festival) APRA AMCOS will refer the client to you to license works directly for use in the production.

Please note that there are conditions where the Restricted and Go Direct lists do not apply. Please see the table below for more details.

Example 1.

If a group is playing the songs of a band they admire, including dressing in the style of the original band members, and introducing the songs with improvised dialogue in between those songs, this would not be considered Dramatic Context.

However, if a scripted storyline and a narrator/ character were included in the performance, the show would be classified as Dramatic Context.

Example 2.

Productions which include a storyline and narrators qualify as Dramatic Context. For example, a production titled Sisterly Love, which details the true story of the Jones sisters growing up in a regional town attempting to make it in Nashville, is told in third person (narrator) by well-known singers and in chronological order. The songs, written by the Jones sisters themselves, are interspersed throughout, occasionally appearing out of the order in which they were written and produced.

Example 3.

If a production includes a character, but does not have a storyline, it is is not Dramatic Context, and can be licensed by APRA as a non-dramatic performance of musical works.

Mia Fever is a show by Jo Walker which recreates the talents of an Australian song writing maestro, including 90 minutes of uplifting dance and ad-libbed dialogue between the performances of songs, however, does not follow a scripted narrative.