Is it Legal to Play Music at Your Business?

Is it Legal to Play Music at Your Business?

Many play music at their place of business thinking nothing of it. And yet, did you know that there can potentially be liabilities associated? Beginning in the 1940s there have been two decrees inexistent which state that Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI/) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP/) have to license public performance rights and do so for a reasonable cost.

The problem now though is that the Department of Justice (DOJ/) is reviewing these decrees in light of the changing landscape of the music industry. Essentially, the DOJ is looking at how those who create the music are rewarded for their intellectual property.

So what then does this mean if you are a small business who regularly plays music, be it via streaming, radio, or some other such platform…Depending on what the DOJ decides to do with the decrees—whether to change them or scrap them all together—you very well may have to adjust your approach when it comes to music being played in the workplace.

Legally Playing Music At Your Business

In many cases, you may be faced with paying a licensing fee to comply when playing music; however, there are some exemptions:

  • If the music comes from TV, radio or cable/satellite and you are not charging to hear the music, then no licensing is required.
  • However, if the music comes from a live band or a CD then this is not exempt.
  • If your venue is smaller than 3750 sq ft and has fewer than four TVs, you do not have to procure licenses.
  • For those restaurants though for example, that are larger than 3750 sq ft, you will have to get public performance rights, even for music from TV or radio.
  • You can also opt for royalty-free music, such that exists in the public domain. This doesn't require licensing.

Many small businesses simply are not aware of the rules and regulations concerning music being played, which is why it is important to do your research, know where you stand and ensure that you are in fact in compliance.

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