Everyone is freaking out over cheer music rule changes and nobody knows why. The reason is actually really dry and boring - copyright law. When a person decides they want to become involved with cheerleading, it doesn't exactly set off a bell that says "check music copyright law!". However, we all have an obligation when we use music for anything other than listening to it by ourselves for enjoyment.

So what does it mean to have "illegal cheer music"? In short, you were breaking the law by not having the appropriate licenses to commercially use or distribute your music. The cheer industry has been caught by the music industry, and we shall comply with copyright law by using licensed music.

"I don't feel like reading, just tell me what to do!" Ok, buy music from someone on the USA Cheer preferred vendor's list. Yes, we're on the list; use the buttons at the bottom of the page to select a product.

The gist of the rules is to prevent coaches/owners from unintentionally violating copyright law; they require each entity that uses the music (gym owners, coaches, music producers, event producers, etc) to have the license(s) required for their specific uses of the music.

If you buy music from someone on the vendor's list, then the music rule change is practically transparent.

Accomplishing this is super easy. Instead of getting your music from iTunes or Amazon or some other big commercial outlet, you'll want to get your music from somewhere that obtains the additional licenses that you need, and grants them to you. In other words, if you buy music from someone on the vendor's list, then the music rule change is practically transparent. The only thing you might hear is "we don't have that song, pick another from this list". This is because the music companies have to obtain licenses for the recordings as well as the music, but this is not always possible/practical.

To be clear,

  • When you play music for a cheer team, a license is required;
  • When you give copies of the music to the cheerleaders, several licenses are required;
  • When a competition records a video of the performance and sells it [with the music intact], several licenses are required.

That's not part of the "cheer rules", it's part of copyright law. It's the part the majority of the cheer industry has been ignoring for the past 25 years. Some of the rules say that you need a "Performance License" but this is a misleading phrase that can easily confused with "Public Performance License". When a cheer organization says you need a "Performance License", they are using their own term for a bundle of licenses. If you care, here are the most common music licenses used in cheerleading:

  • Public Performance - to play the music for your team or any audience
  • Master Rights - to copy/distribute the recording of the music
  • Mechanical Rights - to copy/distribute the composition of music (the lyrics & melodies; different from the recording)
  • Synchronization Rights - to create a video or imagery with the music playing at the same time (DVDs, streaming video, recorded video, etc.)

Music vendors who are familiar with the industry will be providing a "Proof of Purchase" or a "Proof of License" document that should be presented when entering sanctioned competitions. This document states they have all of the appropriate licenses for all of the content in the music and can furnish them upon request. Some companies also indemnify the coach/team/athletes of any licensing issues with the mix.

The only licenses the music vendors can't get for you are the Public Performance license, and a Synchronization license. The public performance license (obtained from ASCAP, BMI and/or SESAC) is the obligation and duty of the event organizer or the venue. Synchronization rights are the responsibility of whoever is incorporating the music into their video. So even if we wanted to be super helpful and get them for you, we couldn't.

So what's with the covers? The reason for the covers is because the larger record labels aren't willing to grant rights to create derivatives (remixes) of their recordings for anything less than the cost of a house. Therefore, we create our own recordings of the songs (and other music companies license recordings from labels like ours). Then, the only royalty owed is to the original writer and publisher of the song for each copy sold. This is much more cost-effective, which makes cheer music possible. We never really announced it, but we've been using covers for the past 3 years. After remixing, most teams don't noticed the difference. Check out the cover song list!

So check out that approved vendor list, or use a button below to get started on your mix!

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