American Idol and song rights

American Idol shows people essentially coming in off the street and auditioning for their show by singing (usually) a cover of some well-known song.

For AI to broadcast those auditions, do they have to get permission from the rights holders? And, if so, could this explain why they don’t show all of the auditions, even for people who advance to the next rounds?

The show justs buy a blanket licence from the music licensing companies (ASCAP, BMI, etc.). Once bought, anyone can sing any song covered. Since they’re buying the license anyway, it’s not a factor in whether they show a singer or not.

However, once past the initial audition, they can only sing songs from the catalogue the producers have bought licenses for.

AFAIK you don’t need permission to perform or record someone else’s song, you just owe them some dough.

The Master says

If the information in that 27-year-old column is still correct, you can cover a released song without getting prior permission, but the composer dictates who gets the first shot at his or her composition.

I think an American Idol contestant might be skating on thin ice if he or she tried to audition with a song that had never been recorded before (and wasn’t composed by the person auditioning).