You want to offer the best experience to your customers. For this,  you plan on playing some background music to create the perfect atmosphere, but you don’t know the rules for playing music on your business premises.

Or maybe you already use your Spotify or YouTube account with your own playlists, but you wonder if this is legal.

Should you worry about copyrights?

After reading this article, you will know what is legal or not and how to get commercially licensed music.


Do I need a license to play music in my business?

The short answer is yes, you need to use commercially licensed music to play music on your business premises.

Why do you need to pay for licensed music?

Because unlicensed services do not pay the songwriters, musicians, labels, and publishers of the songs you hear in-store.

As a professional yourself, you will agree that work needs to get rewarded. Hence, artists who create the music you want to play should benefit from their work.

Every time their music is played anywhere near the fees commercial subscription-based services pay in dubbing fees for every track and performance fees for each venue and zone they supply.

These new revenue streams from the retail, hospitality and leisure industries help musicians in the current world where they only get paid a fraction of the old CD sales income from domestic streaming services.

This drop in artist incomes has seen the reforming of many bands going on tour to boost their sales with ticket income and merchandise as their music is pirated online and in the face of diminishing returns from streaming services.

Radio, TV, and commercially licensed music streaming services are the remaining revenue streams for music artists and are critical to their survival.

Hence it is vital to understand the difference between truly licensed commercial background music services like Auracle Sound and unlicensed domestic music services like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, Tidal etc.


Why you should not use Spotify, iTunes or YouTube

Like any private subscription music streaming platform, they are not suitable for public performance.

Many UK businesses consider that domestic services like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, Napster and so on are licensed for public performance.

This is incorrect as you can see from these companies’ own Terms & Conditions, their service is for personal use only:


“As specified in our Terms & Conditions, Spotify Free and Premium accounts are for personal, non-commercial use only.”


“You shall be authorised to use iTunes Products only for personal, non-commercial use. For details of your rights and restrictions on your rights to use the iTunes.”


“The Services provided through the Application may be used for your personal, non-commercial use only. You agree not to (i) reproduce, record, retransmit, redistribute, disseminate, sell, rent, lend, broadcast, make available, communicate to the public, publicly perform…”


This means that if you use those services to play music on your business, you will both breach contract with them and infringe the copyright law.

This is not a situation you want to be in.


What happens if I stream music in my store without paying for licenses?

To hop on that, what are the risks if you don’t follow the T&Cs and the law?

For the streaming services, you may get your account closed. If you breach the contract, they block your access. Annoying but fair.

You would do the same if one of your customers didn’t respect your T&Cs.

But the risk is much bigger when it comes to infringing The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Let’s make it clear by citing the UK government: “You’re infringing copyright if you play live or recorded music in public without a licence. You could be sued for damages.”

Note: this also applies if you stream the music you have personally purchased as a download or CD. The license is for personal use only.


How much could you be fined for playing music illegally?

It depends on several factors, but small businesses have been fined several thousand pounds. For example, a bar in London has been fined £19k with a prison warning.

The famous fitness brand Peleton has been sued for $300 million for playing unlicensed music.


How can I legally avoid paying for a music license?

It is possible, but you may not want to. Let’s see why.

You have mostly three options to play music for free:

  1. use public-domain music
  2. use royalty-free music
  3. play the radio

Let’s discuss those options.

Public domain music is all music composed before 1922. This is essentially classical music, from Brahms to Mozart. Although it is nice to be able to play this music genre freely, it might not be the best fit for your business.

Royalty-free music, on the other hand, can be of any style. But you won’t find famous artists there, and the quality of the music is variable.

Lastly, playing the radio will give you access to the latest hits. But mostly that, over and over. And you will have to cope with advertisements or speakers. 

In the end, those solutions don’t give you much control over the atmosphere you want to create. And as a business-savvy person, you know that customers buy more or return when they have a good experience with you.

It may thus be wise to invest in a custom playlist. Your customers and your accountant will be happier.


How do I get commercially licensed music?

So now that you understand the importance of using commercially licensed music for your business, what should you do?

You could get a license to play music from an official music licensing organisation. The problem is that you may have to pay different fees for different types of licenses. It can be confusing, and you may be fined even if you paid for a license.

A better option is to use a specialized streaming service such as AuracleSound.

If you would like to get the latest music, fully licensed for public performance, and never risk any legal issues, get here a free one week trial.