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Playing Music in Commercial Premises – Is it Legal?

In times gone by, many workplaces and business premises would have a radio playing to provide some background music for people and customers to listen to as they worked or shopped.  Most retail outlets nowadays have music playing and some companies with branches throughout the UK have their own radio stations, playing music with breaks to advertise their products and special offers to make sure customers are fully aware of what’s available in store.  Restaurants play music to enhance the dining experience, hair and beauty salons play music that soothes and relaxes.  Even medical professionals often harness the power of music with dentists and doctors playing music to calm their patients during procedures.  Over the festive season, shops and businesses across the UK tend to play Christmas music and carols to ensure that they offer customers a full festive experience to get them in the mood for Christmas spending.

According to a recent report by Nielsen Music, a massive 83% of businesses are illegally using a personal music service like Apple Music or Spotify to play to the public and it’s estimated that this is costing the music industry nearly $3 billion each year!  The chances of being caught playing music in this way and then being prosecuted for doing so are extremely slim and it’s thought that more than 20 million businesses worldwide are breaking the law in this way. 

This results in the holders of the rights to the music are missing out on royalties of as much as $100 million every month, a problem that is challenging the music industry which does not have the technology tools and outreach necessary to collect monies due to them. 

Most small business owners who play music in this manner are probably not even aware that it’s illegal to do so – however, ignorance of the law is no excuse and it’s up to the business owner to ensure that any music played is legally and ethical sourced.  You need to get a licence if you plan to:

  • Play recorded music in public or at a business premises
  • Stage live music events in public
  • Play live or recorded music in a theatre
  • Use sound recordings in a theatrical production.

Playing music in public without a licence is an infringement of copyright and the licence that applies is called “TheMusicLicence”.  The cost of the licence will be based on issues such as how the music is used and the venue where it is played.  A single licence to play music can be obtained from PPL PRS, the UK’s two music licensing societies who have joined forces to make it easier for customers to obtain a music licence for the playing or performance of music in public.  The PPL PRS website has all the information necessary to find out whether or not you need to obtain a licence to play music and costs vary depending on a range of factors.