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Advice for Organists in Places of Worship

New guidance from the Government means that organists can now practice in places of workship, as long as the right measures are in place.

Published: 09 July 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 20 October 2021 | 1:39 PM
Stands for music note standing in the church
Organists can now practice in churches provided the ‘appropriate social distancing measures’ are in place. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Further to the advice we posted in April, as things have begun to change and ease the Government have released new guidelines for places of worship.

We are pleased that with the right measures in place the Government have made the exception for organists who need to practice. This can now take place provided the ‘appropriate social distancing measures’ are in place.  See the Government’s full guidance.

Streaming rights for musicians in places of worship

In some cases, places of worship are beginning to opt for the use of streaming technology to broadcast services to their congregations. Naturally, this will include the use of either pre-recorded or live organ playing, however the consent of rights around this is not always automatically given within the existing contract.

Our National Organiser for Recording and Broadcasting Geoff Ellerby commented, saying:

“Musicians’ recorded performances are protected as property rights by statute. Consent is required to clear the specific rights, including the reproduction right, distribution right and making available right.

“Without such protection, any recording of a musician could be mis-used in a variety of ways, from advertising baked beans to being included in the latest Hollywood movie.  So, it is only right and proper church musicians are properly remunerated in lieu of granting these rights.”

The MU recognises that like so many institutions places of worship have suffered financially and has devised a reasonable set of affordable rates to allow the purchase the rights required. (Note: the fees below are to clear limited term rights and are in addition to regular organists fees).

Streaming rates

One-off or limit to 24 hours period streaming (no further ability to view) – £50 per musician

Up to 30 days streaming – £60 per musician

Up to 3 months streaming – £75 per musician

Up to 6 months streaming – £100 per musician

For the full explanation of how these rates can be applied see our Covid-19 special rates for streaming.

Note these rates are currently only valid until 31 August 2020, however that may be revised.

Endorsement from the Royal College of Organists

We are pleased that this principle has been endorsed by the Royal College of Organists. Their CEO Sir Andrew Parmley says:

“The Royal College of Organists was founded to foster the twin professions of organ playing and choir directing, activities which largely occur in places of worship. The RCO firmly believes that “the labourer is worthy of his hire” and that it is right that professional church musicians should be paid appropriately for the service they provide.

“Streaming services has been an increasingly vital part of our offering during the Covid-19 lockdown and I am grateful to the MU for taking a lead on this important issue.”

See further guidance for organists and other musicians who are restricted from performance and practice in places of worship during the coronavirus outbreak.

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