TarifF information // 8 September 2023

Clarification regarding GEMA fees for Christmas markets

In the last few weeks, the press covered stories about an increase in GEMA invoices for the licensing of music at Christmas markets. Contrary to the many incorrect reports, there was no increase in licence fees for Christmas markets. Instead, changed framework conditions or incorrect information provided for the event area can be the reason for the increase in the invoices. On this page, we collated the answers to frequently asked questions.

At a glance

Facts on the debate on GEMA licence fees for Christmas markets

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No increase in licence fees

GEMA has not changed the assessment criteria for the tariff for town festivals (U-ST), according to which Christmas markets license their music. Since 2011, the overall total area is authoritative as the basis for calculation.

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Incorrect details

Particularly the large, commercially oriented Christmas markets provided information that was partially incorrect when submitting music usage notifications. The actual area calculated for the Christmas markets led to higher costs for the music use.

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Costs are adequate

Each Christmas market visitor generates an average 18 euros in turnover (source). Compared to that there are single-digit cents which are due per visitor for the GEMA licence (such as the 2.5 cent at the Striezelmarkt in Dresden, see calculation example).

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GEMA offers solutions in individual cases

GEMA managed to find individual solutions in cooperation with nearly all customers who had submitted a claim for correction regarding their invoice for music at Christmas markets in 2022, which also apply for 2023.

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Communication via umbrella organisations

Some members of the Bundesvereinigung der Musikveranstalter (Federal Association of Music Event Organisers, BVMV) and the Deutsche Städtetag (Federation of German cities) simply ignored the information of their associations regarding the application of the GEMA tariff.

30 November 2023

Statement by Georg Oeller, member of the GEMA Managing Committee

“I do not understand the media hype. We know that individual Christmas markets provided false information. Some larger, commercially strong markets declared areas which were clearly too small. It is in the interest of a fair remuneration for music creators that we want to see the tariff applied correctly. No Christmas market must renounce on music just because the music is licensed by GEMA.”

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This is how the licensing of Christmas markets works

Copyright-protected works are publicly performed at outdoor events with music. GEMA ensures that the creators are paid adequately for that. This is done by applying tariff U-ST (in German) which GEMA negotiated with the Federal Association of Music Event Organisers (BVMV) and stipulates in writing in its current version each year.

The decisive factor is the total area of the festivity

The basis for the calculation pursuant to tariff U-ST is the total event area, something the Federal Court of Justice clarified in 2011, in other words, not just the area with loudspeakers. GEMA carries out spot checks whether the area information submitted was correct.

In some cases, other tariffs may apply for Christmas markets. You can find more information in our FAQs.

Weihnachtsmarkt am Abend mit eingeschalteter Beleuchtung.
Calculation example

GEMA fees for a Christmas market in proportion to the total number of visitors

GEMA licence fees shown based on the example of the Striezelmarket 2022 in Dresden:

  • Event area: approx. 10,000 sqm (square metres)
  • Attendance figures across 32 days of opening: approx. 2 million (based on media reports)
  • Licence fees GEMA: EUR 1,584 (net) per day, i.e. a total of EUR 50,688.

GEMA licence fees amount to about 2.5 cent per visitor.

Compared to this, there are about 18 euros turnover per visitor (source: Deutscher Schaustellerbund (German Showmens’ Federation), 2018).

Calculating the licence fees to be expected for your event is simple and quick in our Online Portal. Click on the link below to use our price calculator. Select the correct option for you (e.g. “Fest” or “Märkte im Freien”) and enter the information for your event. After that, an estimated price will be shown and you can submit the notification for the event directly and online.

Contact form for questions regarding the price calculation

GEMA managed to find individual solutions in cooperation with nearly all customers who had submitted a claim for correction of their licence invoices for music uses at Christmas markets in the year 2022. 

For the forthcoming Christmas season 2023 the following shall apply: GEMA extends the individual solutions granted in 2022 also to music use at Christmas markets in 2023. Prerequisite: The framework conditions of the relevant market have not changed compared to 2022 (e.g. expansion of the event area). 

Do you have questions regarding how the price was calculated for your Christmas market in the years 2023 or 2024? Just provide us with your callback request in the following contact form. We will get back to you shortly to discuss the matter with you personally.

Frequently asked questions about the licensing of Christmas markets

Please send press enquiries to: kommunikation@gema.de.

When music is played at town and village festivals or at Christmas markets, whether live, from a sound carrier or a digital medium, this is a public performance of copyright-protected musical works. The German copyright law regulates that the people who composed and wrote the music must receive appropriate remuneration for it. GEMA represents this right for its more than 90,000 members (composers, lyricists, music publishers) in Germany and for more than two million rights holders worldwide.

This has many advantages for event organisers, as they can acquire the rights to almost all musical works worldwide with one licence (“world repertoire“). GEMA takes care of the processing, such as rights clearance and distribution of royalties.

City festivals, street festivals, village fairs or Christmas markets are outdoor events where music is an essential component. There is a tariff for these, as well as for all other public uses of music. The tariff for town festivals (U-ST) applies to the aforementioned outdoor events (without admission fee). 

Before the planned event takes place, the organisers must register the use of music with GEMA. This use is then licensed by GEMA. GEMA customers can also simply purchase the licence online.

It is true that there have been isolated complaints in recent weeks due to significantly increased licence costs for Christmas markets with large event areas that were licensed according to the U-ST tariff.  

In the past, we have licenced on the basis of the usage areas reported by customers. We relied on the correct information and did not carry out any checks. After the COVID-19 pandemic, during which town festivals and Christmas markets could not take place due to official closures, we started to measure the areas using tools such as “Planimeter“ and “Google Maps“. We found clear discrepancies. In order to treat all customers equally, we have taken this discrepancy into account when calculating the licence amount. As a result, there have been increases in licence costs in individual cases. We should have communicated this comprehensively. This was not done to the usual extent and we regret this. 

GEMA very quickly entered into talks with the affected customers in order to find an appropriate interim solution or to implement a solution that has already been found.

In the past, we have licenced on the basis of the usage areas reported by customers. We relied on the correct information provided by the event organisers. In recent years, however, we have noticed significant discrepancies between the reported space and the actual event space.

Due to the equal treatment of all customers, we have taken this discrepancy into account when calculating the licence amount. This has led to such increases in licence costs in individual cases.

The rules for calculating the licence fees for Christmas markets have not changed since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The basis for calculation is set out in the tariff for town festivals (U-ST). This tariff was last negotiated in 2018 with the Bundesvereinigung der Musikveranstalter (Federal Association of Music Event Organisers, BVMV). The Deutsche Städtetag (Federation of German cities) is a member of BVMV. As a result, additional smaller scales were integrated into the total usable areas: up to 100m², up to 200m² and up to 300m². From 300m², the licence fee is calculated linearly in 500m² increments.

Prices are adjusted every year. They range from 2% to 6% and follow the general inflation rate. These adjustments are also discussed with the BVMV and the appropriateness is confirmed in writing by both sides (GEMA and BVMV). The adjustment of tariffs is a normal process and becomes necessary if, for example, music usage habits change, new market conditions apply or effects such as inflation take effect.

The U-ST tariff for city festivals has been recognised as appropriate by industry associations and customers for years and has been successfully implemented in practice. There were no renegotiations with the BVMV in 2022.

The complaints are individual cases. GEMA sent out around 3,350 invoices for Christmas markets licensed under the U-ST tariff for 2022. Of these, around 135 customers complained due to significant price increases. Only around 35 of these cases involved increases in the five-digit range.

GEMA very quickly entered into discussions with the few customers affected. In almost all cases, we already found good solutions and implemented them successfully.

This was determined by the German Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, BGH) in 2011. The judges argued: visitors move around the entire event area. This means that the same people are not always standing where music is being played, for example in front of the stage. As a result, more people listen to the music than can fit in the sound area.

The full decision text of 27 October 2011, in which the BGH defines the basis for calculating the tariff, can be found here: I ZR 175/10 (BGH, in German)

The U-ST tariff for town festivals applies to admission-free outdoor events at which music is played in public – whether live music, DJs or recorded music. This includes town festivals, street festivals and public festivals, markets (such as medieval markets), parish and community festivals and Christmas markets. It is important that no admission is charged and that music is played in public. 

The U-ST rate for city festivals therefore does not apply, for example, to events with an entrance fee, live concerts, events in tents (e.g. beer tents) or traditional costume and marching bands. In these cases, the licence fee is calculated on the basis of other tariffs. Further information can be found on the pages on the tariff for events (U-V), the concert tariff (U-K) and in our tariff overview.

In individual cases, licensing is possible according to the following two tariffs:

Licensing according to the remuneration rates M-U II.5 for loudspeakers per number and day, if the following criteria are fulfilled:

  • Outdoor event without admission fee
  • Sound carrier playback exclusively as background music
  • Christmas market is covered by (several) loudspeakers
  • there is no fixed (music) programme
  • the music is not specially advertised
  • No live music or other music events

Licensing according to remuneration rates M-U II.6 if the following criteria are fulfilled:

  • outdoor event without admission fee
  • Sound system (sound carrier playback) exclusively in the individual booths
  • no other loudspeakers distributed throughout the market
  • no stage or similar available
  • no live music or other musical events
Further information: Tariff M-U for background music with sound carriers

Yes, whenever music is used publicly, it must be licensed as described above. It is also possible to use so-called GEMA free works, as is the case with some traditional Christmas carols. Some of these – played in the original version – are already licence-free, that means GEMA free. This is because the authors of the songs died more than 70 years ago.

Here you will find a list of GEMA free Christmas songs.

Please note: events with GEMA free music must also be registered with us. This is the only way we can check the tracks played and see whether GEMA free music or music subject to licence has been used.

You can calculate the expected licence fee for your event quickly and easily in the GEMA Online Portal. In the price calculator, select the option that applies to you (e.g. “Fest” or “Märkte im Freien”) and enter the information about your event. You will then receive an estimated price and can register the event directly online. Please make sure you enter the correct area: The basis for the licence is the entire event area (from the first stand to the last stand, from house wall to house wall) – even if only part of the area is covered by sound.

Go to the Price calculator