Can I Play Spotify At My Business? The Legal and Practical Guide

Music can be a great addition to any business – creating an inviting atmosphere, entertaining customers, and making the day go by faster for employees. However, as a business owner, you can’t just play any music you want. Copyright laws dictate how and when you can use songs legally in a commercial setting. 

So can you play Spotify at your business? What about other streaming services? How much can you play before it becomes a problem? This article will cover all the nuances around legally playing music in your business from Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and more. We’ll also provide practical tips to create the ideal soundtrack for your establishment within the confines of the law.

The Legality of Playing Streaming Services in Your Business

First, let’s cover the basics of the legality of playing songs from streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora in a business setting. 

The short answer is yes, you can play these services in your business, but there are limitations and licensing requirements you need to be aware of. 

Simply turning on Spotify in your cafe or bar does not give you the right to use that music commercially. The music licenses these streaming services hold only cover personal, non-commercial use. So if you want to play songs at your business from Spotify, Apple Music or other streaming platforms legally, you need to look into getting a public performance license.

Public Performance Licenses

A public performance license gives you the right to play copyrighted music publicly in a commercial setting like a store, restaurant, bar, or office. 

There are a few main performance rights organizations (PROs) that handle these licenses in the US:

– ASCAP – The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

– BMI – Broadcast Music, Inc

– SESAC – Originally stood for Society of European Stage Authors and Composers

– GMR – Global Music Rights

These organizations pay royalties to artists and labels when their songs are played publicly. By getting a public performance license from one of these PROs, you are given legal access to their repertoire of songs – enabling you to play that music in your business.

Rates for these licenses vary greatly based on factors like the size of your business, hours of operation, and whether it’s audio only or songs with visual components. Generally, PROs will either charge you a flat annual fee, or a percentage of your gross revenue.

For a small business just wanting to play some ambient music, fees can be as low as $10/month. Larger venues hosting live music events or DJs can pay upwards of $10,000/year.

What About Internet Radio and TV?

Many businesses opt to simply play internet radio or television stations on their premises as an easy way to have legal, ambient music. However, a public performance license is still required if you do this.

Even though the radio station itself has already paid for the rights to transmit music over the air and internet, as soon as you press play on that station in your business, you are engaging in a public performance of that music. Thus, requiring the proper licenses. 

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The rules for playing television stations and shows are similar. If your business has a TV that customers can hear, you need the appropriate license.

Checking with Your Streaming Service

Some streaming services like Spotify now offer special commercial licenses or plans for businesses. 

For example, Spotify offers Spotify Business, which gives access to ad-free music and customized playlists starting at $12.99/month. This takes care of the public performance license aspect.

Pandora also offers commercial subscriptions starting at $24.99/month that enable business usage. Check directly with your streaming service of choice to see if they offer commercial plans.

Sidestepping PROs with DMCA-Compliant Background Music

Dealing with all those PRO licenses and fees just to play some background tunes can be a hassle. That’s why some businesses opt to use a DMCA-compliant background music service instead.

DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Some background music services only use songs and compositions that are free from copyrights and licenses. 

This allows you to sidestep the whole public performance license issue altogether. These services usually charge a low monthly subscription fee for access to their catalogue of music.

Some popular DMCA-compliant background music services include:

– SoundMachine 

– Mood Media

– Cloud Cover Music

– PlayNetwork

– SOUNDMACHINE

– Qsic

The music on these services tends to be ambient instrumental soundscapes and lesser-known artists. But they can work well for adding subtle background music without licensing headaches.

Following Sound Restrictions

In addition to sorting out licenses, businesses must adhere to sound restrictions when playing music aloud. Your local city or municipality has regulations on allowable decibel levels for music in establishments.

Noise ordinances often have stricter limits during late-night hours. Fines can be issued for music that exceeds legal sound levels, especially if neighbour complaints arise.

Consider sound levels at your business and invest in a device like a decibel meter if needed. Also, be courteous by placing speakers away from doors and windows as much as possible.

Summary So Far:

– You need a public performance license to play streaming music services in your business

– Radio and TV also require licenses for public performance 

– Some streaming services offer commercial plans

– DMCA-compliant services let you avoid licenses

– Follow local noise ordinances and sound level limits

Practical Tips for Your Business Playlist

Now that we’ve covered the legalities, let’s get into the practical side of creating the ideal playlist for your business.

Your music should complement the vibe you want to cultivate for customers and employees. Here are some tips for different business types:

Retail Stores/Boutiques:

– Keep volume moderate to allow for conversations

– Avoid abrasive genres like metal or hardcore rap

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– Contemporary hits or light pop works well 

– Tailor music to your target demographic

– Change playlists for holidays or seasons

Cafes and Restaurants: 

– Use background music for ambience

– Acoustic, folk, jazz, or classical styles work well

– Avoid vocal music if you want conversations

– Match music to your food genre – Latin for Mexican places

– Make separate playlists for breakfast, lunch, and dinner rushes

Salons and Spas:

– Soothing instrumental or new-age genres

– Avoid loud or distracting songs

– World music or sounds of nature may suit some places

– Ask clients about their music preferences 

– Separate playlists for procedures vs waiting room

Bars and Pubs:

– Dance and upbeat party music works 

– Genres can match your theme or crowd – country, hip-hop, top 40

– Take requests and mix in nostalgic throwbacks

– Invest in quality speakers for clear sound

– Have playlists ready for slow hours vs live DJ sets

Offices and Call Centres:

– Keep music subtle to not distract workers

– Ask employees for input to increase morale 

– Playlists for focus, productivity, relaxation as needed

– Avoid divisive songs with controversial lyrics

– Ensure everyone can hear safety announcements over music

Getting Input from Employees and Customers

Speaking of employee input, it’s smart to get opinions from your staff on business playlists. They often have their finger on the pulse of music tastes. Certain songs can also carry special memories for employees, making them meaningful when played in the workplace. 

You may musically be inclined one musically-inclined to manage your business playlists if music plays a big role. This gives them ownership and allows them to rotate selections.

Including customer conquests and feedback in our rotations also adds a nice personal touch. You want people to feel connected to the music experience at your establishment.

Following Playlists and Curating Your Own

Once you have a general music direction for your business, it’s time to build out actual playlists to add to the mix.

You can follow pre-made public playlists on Spotify and other services based on your preferred genre or mood. These are ready for you to play instantly. However, exclusively using outside playlists does limit your customization abilities.

That’s why many businesses choose to also curate their unique playlists that exactly fit their goals. Tailor these to your brand image, customers, employees and more. Change it up seasonally or even at different times/days.

You can also hire professional DJ services to handle music sourcing and mixing for your business if you want to fully outsource this task.

Conclusion

Adding music to your business can greatly enhance ambience and enjoyment for all. But make sure to secure proper licensing and follow sound regulations in your area. Consider both the legal technicalities and the practical tips outlined here when playing streaming music services or curating the ideal playlists for your establishment. Contact the PROs to discuss rates if needed. And most importantly – keep the music complementary to your brand and venue.

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FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about playing Spotify and other streaming services in a business:

Q: Do I need a license to play the radio or TV in my business?

A: Yes, you need a public performance license from the PROs (ASCAP, BMI, etc) even when playing radio or television stations aloud in your business. The station has only secured the rights to transmit songs – not for you to publicly perform them.

Q: Can anyone create a playlist using songs from Spotify and play it at their business? 

A: No, a public performance license is still required to play Spotify or Apple Music playlists in a public, commercial setting like a business. The music licenses these platforms hold do not extend to business usage.

Q: Is there a minimum number of songs I can play per month without needing a license?

A: Unfortunately there is no minimum threshold that exempts you from public performance licensing requirements. All businesses playing copyrighted music need licenses, regardless of volume. The only exception is playing music not under copyright, like the offerings on some DMCA-compliant background music services.

Q: What happens if my business gets caught playing songs without the right licenses?  

A: You may receive a cease and desist letter and you could get hit with copyright infringement fines. The PROs actively monitor businesses suspected of unauthorized public performances of music. It’s always best to proactively secure proper licensing based on your intended use.

Q: Where can I learn more about public performance licensing?

A: The official websites for ASCAP, BMI and SESAC provide information on public performance licenses for businesses. You can also consult a lawyer specializing in entertainment law for assistance navigating licensing needs.

Q: What are my alternatives for background music if I don’t want to deal with licenses? 

A: Rather than using streaming services, you can subscribe to DMCA-compliant background music providers like SoundMachine or Cloud Cover Music. Their offerings sidestep licensing because the music is free from catalogues However, their catalogues are more limited. Another option is to only play live music from performers at your venue. Live music gets around licensing since areal time the songs are in real-time. 

Q: Can I be fined for playing music too loudly in my business?

A: Yes, nearly all municipalities have noise ordinances restricting allowable decibel levels, especially late at night. Fines can be issued if your music exceeds legal volumes. Use your best judgment on volume, invest in a decibel neighbour be mindful of neighbors.

Conclusion

I hope this comprehensive guide helps explain the ins and outs of legally playing streaming music services at your business. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!

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