In recent posts, we’ve covered an extensive amount of information about how to use in-store audio to create the best, most desired atmosphere for a business. The amount of time, effort, strategic thought and other resources that go into determining every aspect of a store’s audio experience—from dayparting to tempo—are not insignificant.
And yet, there is one area that we haven’t yet examined. That could be because the topic isn’t nearly as fun as thinking about holiday vibes and creative in-store announcements. While many businesses use music to set the tone and to create just the right mood, are the tunes they’re using actually legal?
The short answer? It depends.
So, what do business owners need to know about licensed versus unlicensed music? And how can business owners be sure their audio selections are on the right side of copyright law? Read on to find out!
What Is Licensed Music? Why Is It important?
Music—including what’s played over the speakers in-store—is protected by copyright law as a way to cover the copyright owners, allowing them exclusive rights to perform or play the music. According to copyright law, if someone, such as a business owner, plays that music for anything other than personal enjoyment without explicit permission, they are infringing on the copyright. That means the copyright owner has the right to sue for damages. Yes, a business owner can be sued for playing copyright protected music in their stores, and the cost of doing so can be very high. Courts can order damage recovery to the tune (get it?) of $750 to $150,000 per violation, depending on what the courts decide is reasonable.
However, there is an opportunity for businesses to use music legally to create the desired store vibe through music licensing. Music licensing is the appropriate use of copyrighted music, and it serves as a way to ensure that the copyright owners of the music are compensated when their work is used publically. If a license to the music is purchased, that purchaser has (albeit limited) rights to use the music without fear of infringing on the copyright. While there are a few exceptions, business owners need to obtain licensed music or partner with a technology solution that has a fully-licensed library of music.
Using licensed music to set the in-store vibe is critical so as not to infringe on copyright law and risk a potentially very costly mistake.
How to Get a License To… Play
There are several ways for businesses to legally license and play music over their in-store speakers. The first is through obtaining a license of their own by working with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO). Most music publishers and songwriters join a PRO that handles licensing their work to the public on their behalf. Examples of these organizations include the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and SESAC. These organizations are responsible for collecting and sending royalties to the copyright owners.
However, obtaining a license from one does not mean gaining rights to all. For example, a license from ASCAP only means a business can play music from that particular organization’s copyright holders, which can become EXTREMELY complicated, not to mention risky. In order to combat this, businesses can purchase a blanket license, meaning they can play any of the music from each library. However, costs to do so can rack up quickly to the tune of at least several thousands of dollars per year.
Rather than pay that hefty price tag, businesses can instead work with a technology solution provider that has a fully-licensed library of music. Using a technology that boasts a huge licensed music set list means business owners can stay out of the licensing nuts and bolts, but remain in charge of selecting the best playlists for their business without legality worries.
Understanding how to license music is something few business owners have the time or energy to focus on. They are far too busy with bottom lines, employee satisfaction, and all the other facets that go into running a successful company.
So, rather than pay or hire a lawyer to negotiate licensing deals, why not allow a technology partner to handle the legal side and keep the music licensed? Then, all you need to do is curate the perfect playlist and press ‘play’.
Interested in learning more? Request a demo of Vibenomics today and learn how you can start creating on-brand music and messaging for your in-store customers.