Playing Music Legally in your Business: What you Need to Know

Music is an important part of most businesses, as the right background tunes create the best ambience. It has even been revealed that the music that customers hear in a business establishment can even influence their behaviors as consumers. However, there is a lot of confusion as to what is and is not allowed. Copyright concerns make business owners wonder what they must do to play music in their businesses without being in violation of the law.

So, how does one play music in their store or other business establishment within the allowances of the law? The guide below will answer this question and more.

Can I Play Music from a Streaming Music Source?

Pandora Radio, Spotify and other such apps are very popular among consumers – but they are intended to be used privately, rather than commercially.

How About Music that I Have Already Purchased?

Let’s say that you have an impressive music collection that you’ve bought legally and want to use in your business. While you might own this content, this does not mean that you own the commercial rights to use this content. Like with streaming services, any music that you’ve bought is intended to be enjoyed privately.

What Licenses are Necessary to Play Music in my Business?

BMI, ASCAP and SESAC are the three performance rights organizations (or PROs) that represent music publishers, songwriters and musical artists in the States. From these PROs, a business owner may acquire a public performing license, or a PPL. This, of course, costs money.

Should I Get Licenses for All Three PROs?

The three organizations represent different artists and music distributors, so if you want to get the widest selection of music available it is common practice to get licenses with all three. If you pay for a license from BMI, for instance, you are only able to use the music from BMI’s catalog.

What Happens if I Don’t Get the Proper Licensing?

Failure to obtain music licensing from a PRO to play music that’s a part of the PRO’s catalog is in violation of the law, so it does carry with it some fairly stiff penalties. Businesses have been fined anywhere between $750 and $100,000 per song that’s been played without the appropriate licensing. Yes, you read that right – per song.

What are B2B Services?

Business-to-Business (or B2B) services facilitate businesses with licensed music legally and at a relatively low cost. This option is utilized by small business owners that lack the funds necessary to consistently pay the fees related to BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. For around $20 to $40 per month, the music service handles the paperwork behind the licensing issue so that business owners can use their music catalog in their establishments. One example of a B2B music service is Cloud Cover Music.

It is always worthwhile to obtain the legal rights to play music in one’s business rather than to test their odds and play it illegally. Most music that’s available to consumers is available only for private consumption and carry penalties if used in a commercial fashion. Compared to the cost of these legal fees and penalties, it’s really not that pricey to get the adequate licensing.