Business owners and decision makers are constantly battling a common enemy – time. There never seems to be enough of it to get done all the things they need to get done. Even the most prioritized day means you have to take care of the most pressing issues, often feeling some things have slipped through the cracks. One of those things that can slip through the cracks is making sure the music played in your store is legal and not infringing on any copyright laws. We understand you work hard to prioritize your time, so we’ve rounded up the good, the bad and the ugly of avoiding this legality.

The Good
People love music. A person wouldn’t have a hard time rounding up all the documented and scientific evidence to prove that we are a people in love with our music. Baroque to Bon Jovi, country western to Chopin; we love where music takes us, what it does to our mood and even how it helps fill in the silence. Whether you run an upscale restaurant or local retail boutique, your customers want to hear music and you’re happy to set a tone that makes them (and your employees) feel good.

The Bad
But even with good news, there is bad news. The bad news is, not having the rights to the music that’s played in an establishment can put the business in hot water.  When talking to our customers about music in their business, we get a lot of common questions, so we’ve round some of them up here to talk about “the bad” side.

Question: What about my personal streaming service like Pandora, Spotify or Apple Music?
Answer: The quick answer is no. While these are great streaming services, they are intended (and licensed for) personal use. These streaming services are designed for B2C (Business to Consumer) not B2B (Business to Business). You would need to obtain a Public Performance License (PPL) in order to play streamed music for your customers or employees.  

Question: What about music I purchased on iTunes?
Answer: One could think, “I bought it, so I own it.” This doesn’t work with commercially used music. Basically, what you’ve purchased from iTunes (or something like it) is a lease on that song. Additionally, that lease only covers your personal listening and not sharing that with your customers.

Question: Do I only need to the rights to one publishing company?
Answer: One song could have more than one major licensing group. Songwriters, composers, and publishers of one song could all be part of the 3 major licensing groups (and there are more than listed here) —ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers),  BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), GMR (Global Music Rights). In 2018, ASCAP and BMI announced they would create database to clear up the confusion on who owns what; however, with these two groups owning the rights to over 13 million songs it can be a lot for a person to keep up with.

The Ugly
Brass tacks, this can get expensive quickly in legal fees. There are real consequences for not having the correct licenses, and some businesses have had to (or have the potential of) paying heavily. One example of this comes from a Springfield, MO local eatery Galloway Station. According to the Springfield Newsleader article, a BMI employee went to the establishment one night and noted around 8 songs that were owned by the licensing company and had not been purchased properly. The song list included:

  • “Black Cat” — Janet Jackson
  • “Devil Went Down to Georgia” — Charles E. (Charlie) Daniels, Tom Crain, William Joel (Taz) DiGregorio, Fred Edwards, Charlie Hayward and James W. Marshall
  • “Hold On, I’m Coming” — Isaac Hayes Jr. and David Porter
  • “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” — Elton John and Bernie Taupin
  • “Walk Like An Egyptian” — Liam Sternberg
  • “White Rabbit” — Grace Slick
  • “Yesterday’s Gone,” also known as “Don’t Stop” — Christine McVie
  • “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” — Matthew Shultz, Donald Shultz, Daniel Tichenor, Jared Champion and Lincoln Parish

According to the article, the restaurant could be faced with fines ranging from $750 per song to $150,000 per song in willful infringement. These are fines that not only add up quickly, but can deeply hurt (or bankrupt) an establishment.

So what are my options?
Not wanting to pay these fines, businesses who want to play music have two options:

  1. Pay the fees directly
  2. Pay a music service solution

Paying the fees directly to the licensing has a wide range of costs and factors from number of locations and number of employees but averages around $1,000-$7,000 a year for one (ASCAP) licensing group. If you play songs that have more than one licensure or songs from other license groups, then you’ll need to keep a license from every group respectively.

Using a music service, like Mood Media, allows for someone else to make sure you’re covered in the licensing and usually start in packages that are much more reasonable. This allows the business owner to provide great music for their customers at a price that is very reasonable while protecting the business owner from playing unlicensed music.

We understand you want to provide a great atmosphere for your customers, but want to do so in a way that protects you legally and financially. If you’re looking at what music options could be for your establishment, Audio Acoustics today.

Looking to add a playlist for your patrons or customers? Check out our article on how to create a playlist that fits your audience