I Play Music in My Business. Do I Need a Music License?

Playing music in your location creates a welcoming atmosphere, encourages lingering and other desired behaviors and enhances your immersive brand experience.

But if you’re not careful about the source of your music, you could face legal troubles.

Do I Need a Music License for My Company?

The answer: it depends.

If your business has a small footprint, you’re allowed to play music from traditional radio broadcasts without a license, provided you’re not charging customers for the music. Stores under 2,000 square feet and restaurants and bars under 3,750 square feet (excluding parking lots) are considered to have a small footprint.

However, if you’d like to play satellite radio, webcasts or other digital music, it’s best to check with a lawyer to see if you need a license.

Is It Okay to Play Music from a Streaming Service at My Business?

You might be thinking, “I already pay for a personal streaming service. Can’t I just use that?”

Most likely not. Streaming services created for personal use aren’t intended for commercial use.

However, some streaming platforms offer business programs that include the licensing fee, such as:

  • Soundtrack for Business
  • Pandora for Business
  • Cloud Cover Music
  • Rockbot
  • Dozmia for Business

Note that Apple Music and Tidal only provide music for noncommercial use.

Is There Any Music that Doesn’t Have a Copyright?

Yes, public domain music. That term refers to songs not protected by intellectual property laws.

Music in the public domain can be used freely without the permission of the owner.

The Purpose of Music Licenses

Music licenses exist to protect songwriters and their work. That protection is enforced by Performing Rights Organizations (PROs), which act as the liaison between the copyright owners and those who wish to publicly perform or play music. A public performance at a business includes music delivered via streaming, CDs, televisions, music on hold, DJs and live performers.

PROs also collect the licensing fees to distribute to songwriters and publishers.

Some PROs include BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and GMR.

How to Get a Music License

  1. Determine the music you want to play
  2. Find out which PRO manages the license for that music
  3. Contact the PRO to negotiate a contract

Legal Ramifications of Unlicensed Music Use

If you play music in your business without proper licensing, you could face legal trouble, such as:

  • A fine of $750 to $150,000 per infraction
  • A lawsuit or cease-and-desist demand from the copyright owner
  • Criminal charges (for serious offenses)

You may even have challenges with social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube may remove or demonetize content that contains unlicensed music.

Creating a Legal, Yet Thoughtfully Curated Playlist with SensoryMax

At SensoryMax, we’ll work with you to identify the right music for your brand, and then create a playlist that helps you achieve your sensory marketing goals, while also satisfying all legal requirements.

Reach out to us to learn more.

About the Writer

Cassandra Evans is an avid music-lover whose favorite artists are from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. She plays music constantly, whether she’s cooking, cleaning, playing board games, or simply driving to the store.