Should I Purchase, Hire or Photocopy Choir Sheet Music?

Choir members singling from sheet music

How do choirs get sheet music for all their members? Are you an amateur choir director, manager, or member wondering about the best way to get sheet music? There are different options available, but it can be challenging to determine the most suitable (and cost-effective) approach.

Whether you want to buy sheet music for every member, hire out music for specific performances or photocopy songs for each choir member to practice with – there are different benefits and drawbacks.

New to running a choir? Read our Ultimate Guide to Running a Choir.

Buying Music Sheets

For small choirs that will make good long-term use of the music, purchasing sheet music outright is a straightforward option that provides ownership of the music. Your choir can build a library of repertoire over time, allowing for easy access to favourite pieces to be re-used again and again.

However, buying individual copies for each choir member can become costly, especially if you are a larger choir with diverse repertoire needs. Additionally, purchasing multiple copies may not be sensible for one-time performances or special events.


Hiring Sheet Music

Renting music offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness if your choir only needs the repertoire for a limited time. By hiring music, your choir can access a wide range of repertoire without the upfront cost of purchasing. Various choirs with extensive libraries will rent out their repertoire to other choirs – usually for a fee.

This option is particularly beneficial for choirs with limited budgets where specific pieces are needed for a short time. For example, for a one-time performance of a song. However, rental fees can still accumulate over time.


There is a lot of confusion around photocopying and copyright, but we are pleased to say it is absolutely possible to photocopy your repertoire legally – and it’s not as complicated as you may think. All you need to do is get an Amateur Choir Licence with a simple upfront cost. Alternatively you would need to contact individual publishers to ask their permission directly, this is not a process that is particularly quick and there will still be fees involved.

Acquiring a licence is beneficial if your choir needs extra copies of music you already own. It is particularly cost-effective for larger or growing choirs with tighter budgets.

sheet music

Now, to address the elephant in the room:

Why can’t I photocopy my sheet music for free?

There are legal and ethical implications to consider. Violating copyright law in this way deprives arrangers, publishers and composers of compensation for their work. This has a big impact on income. Discouraging future creatives from innovating and writing new repertoire that can be enjoyed  by choirs.
When you make copies of sheet music, you report information to PMLL on what music you are using. This ensures that fees go to the correct publishers and composers.

In Conclusion

The most cost-effective option will vary depending on your choir. For choirs with limited need for sheet music, renting may be the best option. If your choir is small and has a few favourites songs that they like to reuse again and again, buying individual copies is the simplest solution. For choirs with more varied needs, an Amateur Choir Licence could provide the most value in the long run.

It’s essential to carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of each option to determine the best fit for your choir’s needs. With the right approach and proper licensing, choirs can enjoy a harmonious blend of repertoire while contributing to a thriving music community.