Introduction to clearing music at the BBC

This course will aim to take you through the basics of music copyright and how to clear music the BBC way. Simple. Want to use this track in your work? This course will show you how.


Understand what music copyright is and why it is important

What is music copyright?

Music copyright is the legal protection given to the creators of music. Copyright enables composers, recording artists, musicians and other creatives to be recognised and paid for their work.

If a piece of music is protected by copyright this means that you must not broadcast it without clearing it, reporting it and paying for it.

The money musicians and composers get paid when their work is used is usually referred to as royalties. There are two organisations who manage these payments. They are PRS for Music and PPL. PRS for Music look after song writers, composers and publishers. PPL look after the people who record the music – the labels and artists.

What is music copyright?

  • Legal protection given to creators of music
  • Allowing us to use music however we like

History of PPL

PPL was formed in May 1934 by the record companies EMI and Decca Records, following a ground-breaking court case against a coffee shop in Bristol.

PRS stands for


PPL stands for


Which of the below do you use to check composer, writer and music publisher rights?

How do we know what music is clearable?

How does it work at the BBC?

Production can use many commercial sound recordings at no cost to production under music agreements the BBC has with music rights owners.

This is done using the BBC's music clearance system : FASTCLEAR. The process you should follow is illustrated below.

This can be used when:

  1. the record label/composer is covered by the Music  Blankets 
  2. the artist or song is NOT on the exemption list
  3. the recording is used as background / incidental use only

This CANNOT be used with: public service use on global use on third party websites e.g. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat

  • extracts from ballet, opera, or musical (Grand Rights/Dramatico Musical Works)
  • arrangements or in vision performance of songs/music (e.g. to use a song, arrange a piece of    music, change lyrics or sing a song to a different tune)
  • use as a signature tune IF for 3 or more programmes
  • use of promotional music videos
  • use in trails/promotions IF music isn't used the programme being trailed OR trial doesn't mention/is not for the a programme in which the music is featured
  • Library music UNLESS the label appears on this MCPS then list CAN be used in content for BBC Public Service Rights and distribution by BBC Worldwide.

 In these cases Production should Submit New Request in FastClear

Complete the missing words in the clearance process below

  • Gather the details of the recording & proposed use- check  restrictions
  • Check what rights are required
  • Go to the BBC's clearance system:  & select auto clear for recordings
  • Complete  the auto clearance checks
  • Submit the request. Wait for confirmation email.
  • Ensure music 

You can use a FastClear request for background/ incidental music

  • True
  • False

I can use FastClear to clear for public service use on third party website such as YouTube

  • True
  • False

The only time you can do a Fast clearance for library music is if the label appears on the MCPS list

  • True
  • False

What is the blanket agreement and why is it relevant to my work?

The blanket agreement- what to know

Blanket agreements
Some larger independent production companies and broadcasters, including the BBC, pay a yearly fee to PRS for Music which allows them to use any PRS-managed music without obtaining an individual licence every time music is used. This is called a blanket licence agreement.

If your production company or broadcaster has a blanket licence agreement with PRS for Music, then you won't have to pay for the music directly from your production budget, but you must still fill in a music cue sheet to report what you are using.

Which of the below do you use to check composer rights?

Look at the statements below and answer whether they are True or False

  • The BBC has a Blanket agreement with all big artists and record labels. Therefore I can use anything I find on the BBC music system, Desktop Dukebox!
  • The BBC's Blanket agreement is drawn up in agreement with the large legal companies PPL and PRS who represent musicians, composers and artists.
  • There is an artist exemption list for the BBC which changes regularly.
  • I can use music if I have checked the process via PPL and PRS
  • I must clear music via the BBC's Fastclear system once I have checked I can use it via PPL and PRS.
  • The blanket agreement is a yearly paid license allowing the BBC to use PRS licensed music.
  • We still need to complete a music cue sheet to report music covered by the BBC blanket agreement?

What if the music I want isn't covered by the blanket agreement?

What do I do if my music isn't on the blanket agreement with the BBC?

If there is a track you would like to use and you find it is not covered by the blanket agreement you must submit a detailed request to the BBC Music Copyright Team.

Only consider doing this if it is editorially essential. There are thousands of other tracks that are already on the blanket deals.

How do we clear music the BBC way?

The process we should follow at the BBC is listed below.

You must use PRS Work Search to check if composers are MCPS members


1. Take the details of the track you want to use from desktop jukebox song search

2.   Use the MCPS Quick Search to search the title: 
Click on the title for the version you want in the results list.

3.      Scroll down to share view and click on the option for  “Show Final Shareholders” on the results page.

 Make a note of the chain of title (A,B,C) that usually (but not always) links a composer with a “final owner” publisher. In this case above, Lindsey Buckingham has "A,B" and this matches "B" with the final owner.

5.      Scroll down to Final Shareholders box and look at the final column on the right hand side headed “Mechanical Society” and the check any line that says FINAL OWNER

6.      DO NOT USE if any FINAL OWNER line says “NON SOCIETY” or “COPYRIGHT CONTROL in the Mechanical Society line. You can see below in this example, the final owner "Kobalt Music" is an MCPS member so we are ok to go to the next step in using this track. 

7.      If it says “FINAL OWNER- MCPS” or ”DIRECT MEMBER – MCPS”  now check the track using Fastclear (Autoclear) to check the recording using links below.

It is essential that you clear all music through Fastclear and check the Artists exclusions list BEFORE dubbing when you intend to use music in content.


Inhouse Fastclear:

Independent Producers for the BBC go to:    

Add the correct tool you should use for points 1-2 and 3-4

  • FastClear

That' the end of the introductory course to clearing music. The next course will take you through how use FastClear! Enjoy!