..do we need to?
We go through phases of being asked this question and then some of the time it crops up as part of an innocent conversation with a customer (both prospective and longstanding). A surprising amount of our customers don't realise they need a licence nor the consequences of not having one!
If you hire radio mikes from us, then the question doesn't arise - as an owner we license our radio mikes and are permitted under that license to issue a temporary "Permit to Use" to you for the duration of your show.
Sadly, our Permit doesn't cover any radio mikes that you own, they should (if operating in a licensed band) be licensed separately.
How do I know if I need a license?
Ideally, the person you purchased the equipment from should prompt you to buy the license - they don't have a legal requirement to do so nor are they obliged to record your details in the same way that someone retailing TV's is required.
If no one said anything to you, then there's as easy check you can do - look at the operating manual for the microphones and it should tell you the frequency they operate in. If that frequency is between 863 to 865MHz then you don't have to worry about a licence as you're working on the 'shared' frequency, similarly if the operating frequency is 2.4GHz then you're in the same band as WiFi networks which is also license free.
If the manual quotes any other frequency for your microphone and you're expecting to operate the microphones in the UK or EU then you need to have a look here - Arqiva are the company that monitor & licence radio on behalf of OFCOM. It's also worth mentioning that schools, amateur theatre and so on are NOT exempt from needing to have a licence. Should you receive a visit from the police accompanied by OFCOM officials then you're likely to have equipment seized, a fine levied and a visit to court.
Another quick 'rule of thumb' is how many "ways" of microphone are you paying for and expecting to use simultaneously? The more expensive makes will allow 3 or 4 in the shared/unlicensed channel but if you're hoping to use 6, 8 or 10 then chances are that you'll need to be in a licensed channel. If you're hoping to use 12 or more then you should check with Arqiva before you spend your money that they are able to allocate you some frequencies and issue a permit. In some cases, they may not be able to and you might have to rethink your plans which could entail using a mix of conventional and digital systems.
If you've read through this and you're beginning to have doubts about equipment you already own or about microphones you were thinking of buying then give our Sales team a call and let them talk through some options with you - our advice (as ever) is free!