Transactions Costs and Administered Markets: License Contracts for Music Performance Rights

14 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2008 Last revised: 5 Mar 2014


Performance rights organizations (PROs) provide transactional efficiency for music users and copyright owners by negotiating contracts, collecting revenue, and paying royalties for the rights to publicly perform musical compositions, thereby replacing their need to deal individually with one another in bilateral licensing. Historically, performance rights for catalogued works have been made available to users through blanket licenses, which convey the rights to perform, or have performed on licensed premises, all registered works in the corresponding catalog of registered works. While blanket licenses may enhance transactional efficiency, the same licenses are sometimes recognized as anticompetitive restrictions that compel each user to make an all or nothing choice that may force acceptance of a full license contract in place of a less inclusive alternative that may actually be preferred. Competitive concerns at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Justice Department regarding blanket licensing at ASCAP and BMI led to a separate series of Consent Decrees for each of the two major PROs in the U.S.

To explore the disparate claims of economic efficiency, the paper finds that concepts from public utility regulation may be particularly helpful. Three characteristics are considered: where prices are subsidy-free, whether license provision is a natural monopoly, and whether any competitive submarkets can be structurally separated from the regulated core.

Keywords: Transaction Costs, License Contracts, Music

Suggested Citation

Einhorn, Michael A., Transactions Costs and Administered Markets: License Contracts for Music Performance Rights. Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 61-74, 2006, Available at SSRN:

Michael A. Einhorn (Contact Author)

Media, Technology, and Copyright ( email )

North Caldwell, NJ 07006
United States
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973-618-9904 (Fax)


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