6 critical things you should know before you play music at your business premises.
When you buy a Music CD or a MP3 from a store you buy a right from the copyright owners to enjoy the music personally.
Just like books, music too is copyrighted material.
This means that you can’t play the same music commercially.
Many business owners are unaware of this. Those who indulge in playing music publicly, or without permission are subject to copyright infringement.
Yes, there are a few exceptions and ways you can play music legally in your business premises.
To understand what you can and cannot do, go through the article which answers common questions asked about music licensing for businesses.
What is ASCAP and BMI?
ASCAP and BMI are two of the most well known Performance Rights Organizations [PROs] that represent the community of songwriters, composers and publishers. There are many other PROs.
The PROs act as an intermediary entity between copyright owners and music users such as restaurants, retail stores, or any other kind of business which plays copyrighted music. These PRO’s make licensing for this intellectual property easier for music users.
Businesses need to pay a fee to organizations like ASCAP and BMI to obtain public performance rights. Only then can it play music owned by songwriters, composers and publishers which the PRO’s represent.
If I pay ASCAP do I also need to pay BMI?
Remember PRO’s do not necessarily represent songs themselves. They represent songwriters too. So you only need to pay PRO’s which represent the writers of the songs you’re using in your business.
Take a scenario: If you use a song written by a songwriter who is registered with ASCAP, then you only need to pay ASCAP, and not BMI. Unfortunately, there are many songs written by multiple songwriters belonging to ASCAP and BMI. In that case you need to pay both the PRO’s.
To make this easier there are databases available online which have a list of songwriters registered with ASCAP and BMI you should go through them.
Is there a way to avoid paying PRO’s altogether?
If you’re using music CD’s or even streaming songs over the internet in your business premises, then you generally have to pay PRO’s.
However, nowadays there are a few services available which provide you music for business use. This kind of services make it easier for you to freely use music in your business premises where you don’t have to go through a licensing process.
There are a few exceptions also in the copyright law. A few ways you can use music legally in your business. These are some ways you can tactfully avoid paying the PRO’s.
One more way to avoid paying PRO’s is to directly work with the writers, composers and publishers.
You can obtain rights from music producers directly. However, it is recommended to hire a music attorney to go through this process.
Can I stream music from services like Saavn, Gaana, etc, as background music in my business premises?
The simple answer to this question is… no.
Remember there are two types of music streaming services - Business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B). Most of these internet streaming services like Saavn and Gaana offer a B2C service. Which means that this music is not for commercial use and can only be enjoyed personally with family and friends.
To play this music within your business premises, either for your customers or employees, would require you to apply for Performance Rights of the songs.
What if I use copyright free music or old music?
However old the song may be, if it is protected under copyright law, then you have to take the necessary licenses from PRO’s.
You can go through the list of databases of ASCAP and BMI to check whether the songs are meant to be used in the public domain.
On the other hand, if you are using copyright free music you need not pay PRO’s.
But in this case be sure that the songs that you’re using are not protected under copyright law and that they are meant to use for public domain.
- Are these licenses negotiable?
It can be difficult to get a different price for licensing, but what you can do is create a playlist of songs which has writers, composers and publishers belonging to a particular PRO. This should definitely decrease your licensing costs.
These are a few ways to tackle licensing for commercial use of music. To get these licenses you can go through each of the PRO’s websites where you’ll get all the necessary information required and could apply for licenses.
Are you a songwriter, music composer, music label, or producer seeking royalties from the music you have created?
Did you find this article useful?
Know someone who’d benefit from this? Share it with friends on social media.
Have a question about ASCAP and BMI for businesses? Or know something important that we’ve missed out here? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below.