Do I need a license to DJ in the UK?
Do I need a license to DJ in the UK?
If you're a new DJ in the UK you might be wondering 'Do I need a license to DJ in the UK' or 'Do DJs need a license to DJ?.' All of these questions are very important for new DJs trying to launch their DJ careers.
If you're wondering whether or not you need a license to actually DJ this comprehensive guide on the relevant DJ licenses, permits and insurances will provide the answers. You'll learn what different types of licenses a DJ may require and how to get them!
What is DJ licensing?
Licensing, or DJ licensing, refers to the various permits, certifications and industry registrations that DJs may wish to undertake in order to establish themselves as professional DJs. As a self-employed artist you'll want to know what licenses you might need and where to get them.
Being licensed in some capacity will give you more authority in the market place and help you build confidence with your clients, ultimately leading to more and better paid DJ work. Here are some of the many organisations that offer licenses that UK-based DJs may with to obtain.
Performing Rights Society (PRS) License
The Performing Rights Society (PRS) is a UK-based organisation that collects and distributes royalties on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers. PRS essentially collect money for musicians and pays them every time their track is played. They provide one of the main sources of revenue for musicians, singers, songwriters, producers, rappers and of course DJs who produce their own music.
Every organisation, venue or event planner that intends on playing music in public will need to pay a license fee to PRS. PRS will then collect this money and distribute it all the artists on their database. A PRS license grants you the right to play music that is protected by copyright law and ensures that royalties are paid to all the artists making the music.
For example, a bar or club will need to pay PRS a yearly sum. Even shops, hair salons and gyms will need to pay PRS a license fee if they want to play music to the general public. This is overall good for the music industry and helps musicians and music producers get paid for their creativity.
Do DJs need a PRS license?
In most cases no, but there are some exceptions. If you are purely DJing in licensed venues that already have a valid PRS license you do don't need a license yourself. You only need a PRS license to DJ if you want to perform in a venue that doesn't hold a PRS license. For example, let's say you're booked to play at a wedding and the venue is a marquee in a park somewhere. This wedding couple probably don't have a license so in this case you will need to obtain one.
To get a PRS license, you can visit the PRS website by clicking here. The license fee depends on a few factors including which type of venue you will be performing at and how frequently you DJ.
If you don't get a license and get caught it can result in expensive legal action and back-dated license fees. This is also bad for the music industry, so it's best to make sure you have a valid PRS license if you want to DJ in a venue that doesn't already have one.
Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) License
Confusingly, other than PRS, there is also another music license called PPL that is for anyone who wants to play a recording in public. For example, a vinyl record, CD or MP3 and other digital formats. This license is separate from the PRS license and covers the rights to use recorded music.
Much like PRS, many venues already pay for this license fee so DJs often don't have to worry about having a separate license for themselves, unless of course they are DJing at a venue that doesn't have this license in place.
At the time of writing this blog the annual fee for a mobile DJ (The type of DJ that plays at weddings, discos and parties) is £217. Make sure you check this page for up-to-date license fees.
Many venues where you expect to see a DJ perform, including bars, clubs and music festivals, also intend to sell alcohol. Venues that sell alcohol have to have a premises license and also a licensee. Having these two licenses will will give them the legal right to sell alcohol within the parameters of the license agreement. These licenses are normally issued by the local council and approved by the local police.
It's not easy to get a premises license, and it requires lots of training and health and safety knowledge. There are many laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol intended to protect the general public from harm and disorder. Applications for premises licenses can take months or even years and there is no guarantee a venue will be granted a license.
Many districts have special enforcement zones and actively try and reduce the number of alcohol licenses. Licensing authorities can be very hard to work with.
In addition to regulating the sale and consumption of alcohol, premises licenses also control if a venue can play amplified music and at what times they are allowed to do so. In some cases a license can even dictate if dancing is allowed or not.
If you're a DJ and you're planning on performing at a venue that already has a premises license and a licensee, which many permanent venues have, then you don't need to get one yourself. If you're perhaps running your own warehouse event, music festival or party in a marquee you will need to apply for a premises license and a become a licensee. You'll need to plan far ahead to make this possible.
DJs will need to comply with the conditions of any license at any venue they work with. Such as the times at which you can play music and the noise levels that are permitted. Failure to comply can lead to the venue or licensee (or both) losing their license which often means the business has to shut down. It's serious business!
Public Liability Insurance
While not strictly a license, public liability insurance for DJs protects you in the event of accidents or injuries that occur to anyone during your DJ performances or at any event you are running. This means, if a member of the public is injured or property is damaged as a result of your DJing you can claim for any loses against your insurance policy.
Every DJ should have public liability insurance to protect them against any damages of claims made by a member of the public or any other company you work with. For example, let's say you are DJing and someone trips up on a power cable you laid. They might hurt themselves and sue you for damages. Having the correct insurance might protect you from the financial ramifications of that.
However, it would be far better to prevent this kind of accident in the first place! Make sure you follow appropriate health and safety measures to preemptively avoid anything that could cause harm to you or anyone else. Insurance is a plan B, good health and safety planning is plan A!
Insurers that sell PLI also often bundle it with equipment cover which is essential for any professional DJ who has DJ equipment of their own. You'll want to make sure your DJ equipment is insured in case of damage or theft while on the road or at your home studio. If you don't have this cover you might lose out on work because your equipment is either stolen or out of action.
Since the pandemic, it's also been popular for DJs to take out insurance that covers loss of earnings for sickness and also future pandemic events or lockdowns. This is certainly worth considering!
DJs don't need to have a qualification to start DJing but may wish to consider getting one to help establish their level of competence and reassure their clients. Our DJ courses are certified by London Sound Academy and are recognised as the leading qualification for DJs in the UK. LSA and DJ Gym are both authorised Pioneer DJ education partners and offer the most in-depth Pioneer DJ curriculum in the UK.
Consider taking a professional DJ course and gaining a qualification if you want to give your clients that extra peace of mind. It's also becoming increasingly common for DJ agencies to ask for a relevant qualification or proof of your skill level.
In many cases DJs don't need any licenses to start performing in established music venues. However, mobile DJs will need to have PRS and PPL licenses alongside DJ insurance. It's good practice for all DJs to have insurance and for DJs to understand what these types of licenses, qualifications and permits are. We hope you enjoyed this guide about DJ licensing! Please check out our other DJ blogs here.