performance FAQ

last updated: august 16, 2002
added on: august 16, 2002

a common question people ask is about info. about how to put together a revue, or how to obtain performance rights to sondheim plays, etc. here's some info. taken verbatim from the sondheim.com messageboard thread #1 and thread #2 along with some info. from my own experience. hopefully this information is fairly accurate, although feel free to contact me.

if you want to:

- put on your own sondheim show, you must obtain performance rights. go to the music theatre international web site and read their FAQ (esp. note their paragraph about changing details about the play), unless you're interested in the frogs, in which case, go to dramatic publishing.
- put on your own sondheim revue, read this.
- use a recording of a sondheim song in your own original show, read this
- perform a sondheim song in your own original show, read this
- want to change a lyric in your performance of a show or song, read this

if you want to put on your own sondheim revue:
(this is info. direct from MTI:)

Here's our standard form-letter response to your question:

Music Theatre International controls (exclusively) the "grand rights" for the titles in our catalog.  Revues (of your own creation) fall outside of our jurisdiction into the category known as "small rights." In order to comply with "small rights," you must follow the Guidelines, below. Exceeding or disregarding the Guidelines would result in your production falling into our jurisdiction and enforcement via Title 17 of the US Federal Copyright Law.

Revues:
- sheet music must be purchased from a third party retailer
- sheet music may not be photocopied
- no more than three songs may be used from any one title
- the revue must be the work of more than one composer
- the venue must have a blanket license from ASCAP/BMI (small rights)
- no dialog may be used
- no orchestrations may be used

If the songs you seek are not published, you may not perform them.  MTI materials (grand rights) can not be used in this sort of venture (small rights).

In most instances, "vocal selections" will not suffice as a sheet music purchase.  Vocal selections are usually not published for performance, but for personal use.  Therefore, you must investigate the purchase of sheet music of individual songs arranged for individuals/choral groups from a source such as The Hal Leonard Corporation. 
www.halleonard.com

The "concert" portion of the MTI catalog generally refers to materials provided for symphonies and orchestras; not usually for choral/voice.

Therefore, if you are seeking individual songs WITH ORCHESTRATIONS for performance, please consult the "concert" section of The Millennium Catalog.  Unfortunately, if the songs you seek have not been extracted for performance (as listed in the Catalog) they are not available.  Otherwise, these songs are licensed on a per song basis/fee by our Concert Department.

use a recording of a sondheim song in your own original show:
this is fairly dependent on the scope of the production. if it's just a local production for a few performances, even though you should technically check with the composer's representation it's prob. not a big deal, i.e. they're not going to track you down and sue you. they may just grant you permission at no charge with the explicit clause of "permission granted for this production at this location on these dates." also, if you're using a legitimately released recording vs. actually performing the song, you just have to deal w/ BMI and in most cases the venue has a BMI/ASCAP license already which will cover the use of the a recorded version of the song in your production. however, if you're doing a production that you foresee playing many times in many cities, then you definitely need to clear it with s's representation and negotiate a contract saying how much you'll pay to use the song (usu. a flat fee per week or a percentage of the royalties) ... see dana singer's great book stage writers handbook, pg. 97-100 for even more detailed info, but that's the summary.

if you want to perform a sondheim song in your own original show:
again, if this is for a local production for a few performances, even though you should technically check with the composer's representation it's prob. not a big deal, i.e. they're not going to track you down and sue you. if you do ask, they may just grant you permission at no charge with the explicit clause of "permission granted for this production at this location on these dates."

if you want to change a lyric in your performance of a show or song:
(another quote from an MTI representative:)

Changing a lyric?
The grand rights holder [i.e. MTI in this case] should have a close enough relationship with the author/author's rep to answer the question (having answered the same questions over & over). Usually, we can answer those questions w/o bugging the author, especially for a lower profile production. We would consult more closely with the author for a higher profile production.

[note: you can contact sondheim's representative in cases where you wish to bypass MTI, but i would agree that MTI would prob. know the answer and you'd prob. get a quicker response, which in most cases i think would prob. be "no".]


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