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Don’t Forget Those Music Licenses if You’re Playing Music in Your Business


If you have a business, you may want to inject a little life into the atmosphere, especially if you have customers coming in. One way to do that is to play music. You have Apple Music or Spotify—or even a radio—so why not just pump some music through those speakers to create a mood, or just so the place seems livelier?

You can certainly do that. But only if you have permission to use the music you’re playing.

Yes, You Need a License

You may think you have permission. After all, the radio is free. You pay for your Spotify or Apple Music or other services. So, you can do what you want with that music, right? Well, not exactly.

The payment you make for that music is for your own personal enjoyment—not to play over speakers to the public in a business establishment or for commercial purposes. For that, you’ll need a license.

Your first thought may be why you need a license, if the music you’re playing is just “in the background.” People aren’t paying to walk into your business, and you aren’t holding a public concert. In fact your business may have nothing to do with music or even entertainment.

It doesn’t matter. You still need a license.

How to Get the Licenses

To get a license, you would, technically, need to go to every single artist whose music is playing in your business, and negotiate a license and royalty arrangement with each of them.

But services like ASCAP and BMI, the major players in this area, make that easy for you. Note that they each may represent different artists, so you will need a license for both, if you are using artists from both libraries.

They represent thousands of artists. You just pay them a licensing fee, and they take care of the rest. As long as you have the license, you can use the music. Licenses are generally not that expensive though it often depends on how big the business is, the use of the music, and how often you’re using it.

Note that there are exemptions for music that is used for charitable purposes, and for the use of TV broadcasts, so long as there is no fee to the public to access them, and so long as the business establishment is small enough.

Who is Liable?

Sometimes, a venue may have bands or live music, that is playing copyrighted music from artists. While everybody who infringes is liable, in almost all cases, it is the establishment’s owner or the venue, not the individual artist or performer, that the artists go after for using music without a license.

But how will Dua Lipa or PitBull or Taylor Swift ever know you’re using their music? Because BMI and ASCAP actually have people that drop into venues, and note what music they hear in them. They then go back and check the license, and if you don’t have one, you can expect a cease and desist letter (or worse).

Keep your business out of trouble. We can help. Call our Fort Lauderdale business lawyers at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954-440-3993 today.




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