Licensed Background Music for Business: Can I use Spotify, Deezer, Apple & Others?
No matter if you run a restaurant, own a gym or manage a retail store – you certainly use background music to improve your overall customer experience. A great in-store music atmosphere engages your customers while motivates also your employees.
You certainly know that. But what you may not know is that 80% of business owners are not aware that B2C music services are not licensed for commercial use. This means that Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music cannot be played in a business like a store or a restaurant.
So the answer to the question “can i use Spotify Deezer or Apple Music in my business to play background music?” is no. And this might be a big surprise for you!
The good news is that there are multiple alternative music services to Spotify that you can use. While complying with the law, and getting even more relevant music that you would get using a mainstream music service.
So why exactly are mainstream music services like Spotify, Deezer and Apple-Music not allowed in a business context? And then which alternative music services to use in my business in order to avoid legal penalties and fines? In this article we will learn all what a business owner needs to know about this topic.
Legal requirements when it comes to using background music in your business?
Super simple. The law says that in public places, like in a café, a hotel or an office, on contrary to a private place like your home or in your car, you cannot broadcast music without owning a specific license.
For example, in the UK, you will need to own a license from the PRS PPL Ltd. In Germany, to be registered at the GEMA while owning a license from the GVL. And in France, to be registered at the SACEM when owning a license from the SCPP.
Why are you legally obliged to own such a music license?
Again, very simple answer: to compensate fairly the artists (e.g. singers, authors, labels) whose music work you use when playing their songs in your business. Think about it this way: if you play a track from Rihanna in your bar, you potentially have 50 guests listening to it.
If you stream from Spotify a song from Rihanna into your earpods while going on a jog, you are the only person listening to the song. And Spotify pays – out of your monthly subscription – for each individual stream a micro-amount of money (i.e. royalty fees) back to the artists.
Now in your bar, as a business owner, you will also have to pay back to the artists a sum of money for the 50 persons enjoying their music work. That is what this PRS license in the UK is about. Or the SACEM license in France, or the GEMA ones in Germany.
This music license covers the amount of money that your business is paying back to artists for using and broadcasting their artistic work to a large audience.
How is the music license fee calculated?
This music license fee is based on your business type and the surface of your location (in square meters). The bigger your business, the more guests will listen to the music and artists you play, the higher the fees.
When understanding this simple matter of facts, you understand now the essence of why this license exists for your business. It also makes it more clear why the fee is based on the size of your business (surface in square meters), and why it is legitimate, even ethical, to pay it to support the work of artists we like.
Which license – for commercial use of music – is right for your business?
If you are playing recorded music in your business or organisation for customers, staff or both, through radio, TV, CDs or streaming services, you will need a licence to do so lawfully. And as mentioned above, the license fee will be based on your business type and size (i.e. number of employees or surface in square meters).
So let’s now pick the right license that corresponds to your establishment, to make sure that you pay the right fee, and not more than you should!
The exception that rules in USA and Canada
If your business is located in the USA or Canada, few legal B2B music services like Soundsuit or Moodmedia include all the licensing fees (e.g. BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, GMR, SOCAN, RE:SOUND) in their pricing.
If your business is located in the US, and you use a service such as Soundsuit, all the copyright fees and public performance rights are included in your Soundsuit subscription. You do not need to pay BMI-ASCAP fees nor GMR and SESAC fees on top.
If your business is located in the Canada, and you use for example a service such as Soundsuit, all the copyright fees and public performance rights are included in your Soundsuit subscription. You do not need to pay SOCAN fees nor Re:Sound fees on top.
There are a few very specific exceptions, however. In both U.S. and Canada, if you play music in a business that does any of the following, you should contact the local collecting societies to subscribe an extra specific public performance license:
- Conducts physical activity to music, such as a dance studio or fitness class.
- Plays music from another source other than your Soundsuit product such as a DJ, karaoke, or live music.
- Charges an admission fee.
In EU and the rest of the world, you do need to pay a music license to your local Copyright Collecting Society (e.g. PRS-PPL in the UK, GEMA in Germany, SACEM in France, etc.). to broadcast background music in your business, even if you subscribe to a legal music service for business such as Soundsuit or Moodmedia.
The example of the music license in the UK
If you are located in the UK, we will only need one license. Previously, businesses – which needed licensing for the public performance of recorded music – had to obtain 2 separate licenses, one from PPL and one from PRS-for-Music.
From now on, the new formed PPL PRS Ltd. entity streamlines all this for you: business owners only need to obtain a single licence, the so called “TheMusicLicence”, and have to only deal with one invoice.
This is a great improvement for business owners, isn’t it? Music licensing is not the core business of any owners, and a simple, transparent and streamlined process to get and pay the right license as easy and fast as possible is what we all wish for.
The simple steps to follow to get your music license
So let’s select the right license for you. Let’s assume that you are in the UK. For readers who are not, the process with your local copyright collecting society (e.g. SACEM, GEMA, AKM, BUMA/STEMRA, KONA, etc.) will be almost one to one the same. No worry.
Go to the website of your local copyright collecting society, e.g. the PPL PRS Ltd.: pplprs.co.uk/
Click on the “Get your license” button and land here: pplprs.co.uk/getyourlicence/. You will not find directly the precise tariff which applies to your establishment. You will need to request a quote from PPL-PRS. No worry, it is a simple online form to fill.
In the form, select your business type. This is a very long list, ordered alphabetically, and covering all types of venues from “Bowling Alley” to “Cruise Ship” or “Hairdresser”. You will for sure find an entry that corresponds to your business, even if very specific like a “Lap Dance Bar”!
Select your number of employees
Fill your business contact information (name, address, email, etc.)
You’re done! Click on the “Submit” button, and wait for few business days to get your final quote.
How to pay for your music license?
PPL PRS makes it easy to pay your yearly invoice online on their site. With other local collecting agencies like the GEMA (Germany) or the SACEM (France), it might not be the case. They will send you a physical invoice per post that you will have to pay per bank transfer or check.
In Germany, the GEMA is now collecting on behalf of the GVL the fees related to public performance rights, while collecting its own fees. The advantage for you: a single entry point to get your license, and only one invoice to deal with!
Other business owners in Europe will still have to deal sometimes with 2 licenses and two invoices:
- SACEM and SCPP in France
- AKM and LSG in Austria
- KONA and GRAMEX in Denmark
- SUISA and SWISSPERFORM in Switzerland
- BUMA/STEMRA and SENA in the Netherlands
We should all hope that these local collecting societies will partner more closely and streamline their processes as it as the case in the UK and in Germany. The trend is set, let’s now wait to see improvements taking place, such as one single invoice per business/store to cover all the copyright fees. Owners needs their live to be simplified, running a business is hard enough!
Connect your device to the sound system of your store.
If you have the right licenses, you’re one step ahead of streaming music anywhere in your business: connect your device and music system first. Two simple professional options are available for you as a business owner:
- Wired hi-fi music system (i.e. amplifier + cables + speakers)
- Wireless, internet-enabled speakers (e.g. Sonos)
There are now several brands, models and transmission standards for wireless, internet-enabled speakers on the market. In order not to dive too deeply here, we will focus on the two leading transmission methods:
Everything you need to know to pick the system that fits you best – while not spending a ton – is packed in this article: Inexpensive music systems for your store or restaurant – the best of 2020
By the way, what about videoclips on TV?
Streaming video clips on a TV in your store, from for instance services like YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion, is not allowed. These three video streaming services are not licensed for commercial use. The same applies for the music streaming from end-user (B2C) streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, Youtube Music, etc. You are simply not allowed to use mainstream music streaming services – even if you own a paid/premium account – to play music in your store, i.e. for commercial use.
All music services do not qualify for a commercial use. Be sure to pick a legal one!
Copyright laws insure that music streaming services pay fair royalties to the artists for their musical work. Mainstream streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Youtube and others meet the requirements for the private playback of music. But hey do not pay the higher royalties corresponding to the broadcast rights for the public playback of music in a business. This is why these B2C music services can not be used in a commercial context. Concretely, this means that you as a business owner, or any employee of yours, are not allowed to use your B2C music subscription (e.g. Spotify) – even a paying one, so called “premium” – to broadcast music in your establishment!
This important piece of information is actually not well known by owners. While 90% of business owners use music to strengthen their customer experience, only 1 out of 5 plays legal music, according to a Nielsen study published in 2018. This number is now increasing very quickly because of the more systematic in-store audits and inspections. In fact, the collection societies such as PRS, GEMA, SACEM, AKM, SUISA, BUMA, KONA conduct regular physical inspections of businesses to:
- check in they play background music with ou without a license
- verify that the music service the use is a licensed B2B music service or not
Copyright-free vs. licensed music – a strategic choice for your business success.
According to studies by Nielsen (2018) and SACEM (2016), 65% of customers want to listen to music in retail stores that they know or describe as high quality. 64% of customers rate copyright-free music (e.g. GEMA-free music in Germany, PRS-free music in the UK) as music works of lower quality and find them annoying and uninteresting to create a mood in a store.
This is surely the crucial question you can ask yourself as a business owner: how important is a superior customer experience for my business to be successful? To work on harmonising the interior design, lights, customer service and music atmosphere in your business may attract more guests and turn them into loyal returning customers. Do i make a priority to connect and engage with my customers through a great music atmosphere? and how much are you willing to invest to achieve your goal?
Providers of copyright-free background music and providers of licensed music do not differ significantly in price. Surprisingly! Here is a list of players in Europe and the USA:
Providers of copyright-free music (songs and artists not known)
- Jamendo (Luxemburg) – from 9 to $29 /month per location
- Epidemicsound (USA) – prices on request only
- Music2biz (Germany) – from 15 to $45 /month per location
Providers of copyrighted/licensed background music (known artists and songs)
- MyInstoreRadio (Denmark) – prices on request only (service only designed for large retail or hospitality chains)
- Soundtrackyourbrand (Sweden) – $34.99 /month per location for the Essential plan, $49.99 fort he Unlimited plan (+ one-time payment of $199 for a receiver)
- Soundsuit (Germany) – $24.95 /month per location for the Essential plan (no specific hardware receiver needed, works with all sound systems)
- Soundexperts (Germany) – from $49 /month per location (+ one-time payment of $279 for a receiver)
- Moodmedia (Canada) – prices on request only; service only designed for large retail or hospitality chains (+ one-time payment of $449 for a receiver)
We at Soundsuit are proud to pay high royalty fees (to GEMA, SACEM, PRS, and others) to honour the great work of great artists fairly, and to engage your customers with great tracks. So we only play well-known and recognised titles to delight your customers. Our curated selection of newly published titles is tailored to your business and your customers. New titles are added every day.
Digital Music Assistant for businesses – relieve your staff of all the music hassle!
B2B music services could be much more than a licensed music service for commercial use. At Soundsuit we know how much time, effort and music/DJ know-how he takes to create and update great playlists for your business. Many customers of us refer to this as the “music hassle” they were facing before trying out Soundsuit:
- scouting for new songs every week
- saving them in a specific playlists
- organising playlists by time of day and/or day of the week
- going back and forth to their laptop or tablet during their business hours to switch between the playlists
- and try to play the right music at the right time of the day for their given customers in the store.
In summary, a nightmare for the majority of business owners and their staff!
The benefits of a digital assistant for business owners
Soundsuit’s team created a digital music assistant for business owners and their staff, relieving 100% of the music hassle:
- the hours spent on searching for new fresh cool tracks to match your business positioning/image
- the multiple playlists to build, each time with a different mood and tempo, e.g. one for the morning, one for happy hour, one for Saturday afternoon, etc.
- the manual rotation of playlists every 2-3 hours to fit your business needs along the day (e.g. calm morning, lunch break, happy hour, etc.)
You have peace of mind when streaming music in your establishment. Once you have registered your business to the PPL PRS / SACEM / BUMA / KONA / etc. (depending on your country of residence), Soundsuit takes care of all the rest. Soundsuit mixes a new playlist each day in your store, and this fully tailored to your
- business type (restaurant, gym, hotel lobby, etc.)
- customer group (gender, age group, lifestyle, etc.)
- preferred mood (e.g. Chill, Calm, Loungy, Happy, Exciting, Party, etc.)
- and brand/store positioning (mainstream, trendy, alternative, etc.).
Soundsuit offers you a 30 day free trial to let you discover the value-add of this truly easy-to-use, legal and intelligent music service – designed precisely for modern business owners!
Background music for business is a simple thing. Can i use Spotify, Deezer, Apple and others? The answer is no. These services simply do not pay the proper copyright fees to artists to play their music work to a larger audience. So they cannot be use legally in a business.
Great B2B alternatives exist for business owners who want to improve their customer experience through music. These services are legal, and therefore pay fair compensation to the artists.
These background music services also offers features and technologies that simplify the life of business owners. You do not need any longer to sit at your laptop hours per month to build and schedule yourself playlists, that at the end may match your in-store customer target audience as well as your store image poorly. Let modern Smart Music Assistant do all the work for you.