1. Can I legally stream background music from Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora in my Café or Restaurant?
2. Is it legal to play purchased iTunes songs, or music from CDs/MP3s as background music in a café or restaurant?
3. How can I get a license for playing music in my business?
4. How much does it cost to license music for my business?
5. What happens if I stream music in my store, café, or restaurant without paying for licenses?
6. What are the licensing requirements for live music, music videos, DJs and Karaoke?
7. What’s the most cost-effective legal music for my business?
Let’s jump in!
The short answer is “no.” To understand why, it helps to remember that music is considered a form of intellectual property.
The right to play that property, including when and where you play it, is governed by a legal instrument known as a “license.”
Any time a piece of music gets played, the rules set forth in its license apply. Music licensing fees and costs depend on how you intend to use the music, especially when it comes to a music license for business.
Streaming apps like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Pandora license music for “consumer” or “business-to-consumer” (B2C) use.
This means that you can stream music from these platforms for your personal enjoyment, or for the enjoyment of friends and family.
Restaurant music licensing works very differently. A café, restaurant, salon, or other store is a profit-generating enterprise. Background music plays a theoretical role in the profit that business generates.
Think of it this way—suppose you stream Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” in your restaurant, and it puts a guest in a good enough mood to order a second round of margaritas. Jimmy Buffet just helped make you money, but you didn’t pay him for it.
To legally enjoy that “Margaritaville” windfall, you would need to purchase a “Public Performance License” (PPL), a kind of “business-to-business” (B2B) license.
Music licenses for business ensure that the artist gets compensated for the use of their work in a for-profit enterprise. This applies to salon music licensing, café music licensing … all across the board.
Again, no. When you buy a music CD or digital download, you don’t just purchase an MP3 file or a shiny round disk—you purchase a license for the use of that music.
Same as with music streamed from Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Pandora, that license you purchased is a business-to-consumer (B2C) license.
It does not give you permission to play that MP3 or CD as background music in your café, restaurant, or store unless you go the extra mile and purchase a music license for business.
If you desperately want to play a Queen song in your café and want to get a café music license, the first choice is to find out which Performers’ Rights Organization (PRO) is authorized to license that piece of music.
The same piece of music may license through a different PRO, depending on the country:
Canada has SOCAN (The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada).
Licensing rights in the United Kingdom are controlled by PPL PRS Ltd., a joint venture of the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Right Society.
In Australia, the go-to organizations are the Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS) and Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA).
If this alphabet soup looks intimidating, third-party agencies can secure your PPL license from the applicable PRO for an extra fee.
As you can imagine, a restaurant music license for business can be considerably more expensive than a Spotify or Apple Music membership.
Music licensing costs and fees will vary based on the size and volume of your business, but ASCAP alone charges $390 per year, minimum.
Most establishments who go this route obtain blanket PPLs from every applicable PRO, just to cover their bases. Annual restaurant music licensing from BMI, ASCAP, and GML can set you back in excess of $2,000.
To make matters worse, PRO music licenses for business come with time-consuming paperwork and reporting requirements.
A more affordable option may be to try a specialty streaming service like GetMusicAt. These services are similar to Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Pandora … the difference being that all of their music offerings carry a PPL license. They’re yours to play as background music in your restaurant or store for a low monthly fee.
Some establishments break the rules and get away with it, but if caught, the consequences can be grave. Music licensing fees and costs pale by comparison.
Fines for playing a song in a restaurant, café, store, or other B2C establishment without a PPL range from $750 to $150,000. Per song played.
It’s not an empty threat. BMI and ASCAP file between 400 and 500 lawsuits per year against establishments that fail to obtain music licenses for business. BMI files a dozen or more per year in the state of New Jersey alone.
Amici III Ristorante in Linden, NJ, was ordered to pay $6,000 per song for playing songs by the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and Amy Winehouse without a restaurant music license.
Settlements of BMI lawsuits in Tampa Bay, FL over the last ten years have ranged in value from $10,000 to over $60,000.
The responsibility of obtaining a music license for business usually falls on the venue, producer, or promoter.
This means that a live band, DJ, or karaoke host is not liable for the license of the music they play unless they help produce the event. The venue or promoter, on the other hand, might be liable.
A different license, known as a Video Performance License or “VPL”, must be obtained to screen music videos in a restaurant, café, store, or other B2C establishment.
GetMusicAt offers a cost-effective, completely legal alternative to obtaining a restaurant music license, café music license, or other costly music license for business.
A typical channel or playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, or Pandora will mix in popular artists like Beyonce, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Beck, Justin Timberlake, etc. PPL licenses for all of this popular music can be very expensive.
GetMusicAt functions in a similar way to Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Pandora, but with one important distinction— you don’t have to worry about fees to legal rights organizations since all of our artists are unsigned and therefore aren’t connected to these organizations.
Of course we make sure all artists get paid, not by legal rights organizations but directly from us.
That’s why you won’t hear Beyonce or Queen on a GetMusicAt playlist. You will find R&B channels and classic rock channels, along with country music, Latin, EDM, dance pop … whatever you could want.
The low cost of a GetMusicAt membership authorizes you to stream that music in your café, restaurant, or other business establishment open to the public.
It’s as simple as that. For one affordable membership, you can fill your restaurant or store with background music from any genre, without any risk of a costly lawsuit.
GetMusic.At is a legal business music streaming service starting from €19/mo with access to all of our music and features.
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