THON at its very core is a dance marathon, of course — there’s going to be plenty of music all weekend long. THON-goers all across the BJC are constantly rocking along to their favorite songs, but have you ever wondered how THON accesses this vast library of music?
We sat down with THON DJ Coordinator Johnathan Ringenbach to find the answer — one that might come as a surprise.
Since THON began DJing internally in 2015, its collection of songs has grown to approximately 1,200 different tracks. But instead of merely asking record labels for permission to use the various songs, THON goes about track acquisition just like your everyday music consumer.
“Basically all of our songs are purchased via iTunes,” Ringenbach said. “Once you buy the title, you obtain rights to the song. It’s a complicated process because the copyrights can be pretty confusing.” In certain circumstances, this could lead to some messy legal (and pricy) complications — especially since THON is broadcasted on a live stream.
However, a convenient loophole allows for zero legal repercussions and more music for THON attendees. It’s called incidental music. “People aren’t coming to THON for the music, it’s just there so we’re able to play it through the livestream via separate permissions.”
In layman’s terms, if THON was based solely on its musical aspect with extra events taking a backseat, then there’d be an issue — an expensive one, at that.
“We get some donations, and some iTunes gift cards that we can use,” Ringenbach said. “We have money allotted every year that allows us to purchase the necessary songs we need.”
Ringenbach said THON purchased roughly 200 songs ahead of this year’s event and planned approximately 700 songs to play. He added that he was unfamiliar with the process each cover band must go through to obtain permission for the songs they play in their respective sets.
Copyright law can be quite confusing, but luckily THON was able to navigate the murky waters and puts on the 46-hour spectacle without a hitch.