Owners of copyright have the right to decide several things about what may be done with the works they have created. One of these is known as the performing right, which authorises the performance of the work in public. In this context a public performance is one to which the public (as opposed to family or close friends) have access, whether for free or after having paid for a ticket etc.
The Performing Rights Society (PRS) is the primary body responsible for administering this right on behalf of composers and songwriters. Technically it does this in behalf of its members, ie composers etc who have joined PRS, but in practice a licence from PRS will usually indemnify a performer against a claim of infringement from a non-member, who would instead need to claim their royalties from PRS. However as you mentioned, since a music publisher is usually the rights holder of the performing rights for sheet music, when they sell the sheet music, a licence to perform the musical work is included in the fee.
There is a separate right concerned with recording the performance, known as the mechanical right, for which separate permission (in the form of a licence) is required. In the UK administration of this right is handled by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society of Great Britain (MCPS), which conveniently now operates in conjunction with PRS as PRSforMusic
, meaning that joint licensing is available. Generally speaking the music publisher will not have licensed the mechanical right when they sold the sheet music (and indeed may not be authorised to do so).
Thus before your choir may make a recording of a performance of a copyright work a mechanical licence is required. In practice if the recording was for purely private purposes then a licence would not be necessary, but it would be if the recording is to be made available to the public. It doesn't matter whether this making available is done for profit or not. That said PRSforMusic does offer licences specifically intended for charities, churches etc, and so if you think this might apply to your choir, try contacting PRSforMusic for a blanket licence. Alternatively if your repertoire is mainly or exclusively religious you might be better contacting Christian Copyright Licensing International CCLI
. If you mainly deal with one music publisher, it might be worth contacting them to ask about mechanical rights as this could be cheaper than the PRSforMusic blanket licence.
It is important to note that all members of the choir have the right to agree or not to the recording. This is known as the performance right (not to be confused with the performing right) and if you did decide to sell copies of the recording or to raise revenue from adverts associated with your Youtube presence, then the performers are entitled to an equitable share of the proceeds. The performance also becomes a copyright work once it has been recorded (ie fixed in a permanent form) and the owner of that copyright is the producer of the recording. This copyright lasts for 70 years from the date the recording is made. In view of all this, it is worth drawing up an agreement to ensure that everyone's interests (performers, the producer, and the choir's conductor or administrator) are understood from the outset. This can prevent disputes arising later. At the same time it is worth considering how you might want to deal with other possible future uses of the recording, such as so-called sync rights and grand rights. I won't cover these in detail here but you can read up on them on Wikipedia
if you need to.