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Music Licenses for Business

Music Licenses for Business

Written by

James Picken


July 7, 2023



With the rise of venues simply using consumer streaming services, licensing societies are cracking down.

Music is played across many types of businesses to create a desired atmosphere, entertain customers, put people at ease and much more. But what a lot of businesses don’t realise, is that they must obtain the necessary licenses to do so legally. The following information is specific to UK businesses.

Do I need a music license?

If you’re reading this, you probably do.

You’ll usually need to get a Public Performance License if you:

  • Play recorded music in public or at your business (including background music on a CD, radio or music channel).
  • Stage live music events in public (for example, a concert or festival).
  • Play live music or recorded music in a theatre.
  • Use sound recordings in a theatrical production (including on-stage and off-stage effects).

This obviously covers basically every retail and hospitality business. Music is so important to creating the perfect atmosphere, so it’s only fair that we follow the rules and make sure money is going to the artists. You could also be sued for copyright infringement if you don’t.

If you’re in the UK, you can contact PPL PRS to check if you need a license, or check out their sector page for information more specific to your business type.

What music license do I need?

Previously, businesses and organisations in the UK had to obtain separate Public Performance Licenses from PPL and PRS for Music. However, they’ve created a Joint Venture called PPL PRS Ltd and launched TheMusicLicense. It’s now one contract, one invoice, and one license, to make it even easier to follow.

How much is a music license?

How much your license will cost depends on a few factors, like the size and type of venue you’re looking to play the music in, and how the music is used.

Your best bet is to contact PPL PRS to get a quote, but below are some example costs for different sectors.

Sector Type Annual Cost (+VAT) Starts From...
Office & Workplace
Play music in an office (4 or fewer staff) £121.77 33p per day
Shops & Stores
Play music (audible area of 50sqm or less) £199.25 54p per day
Fitness & Dance
A fitness instructor holding three classes every week for 50 weeks of the year £270 73p per day
Hair & Beauty
Play music via radio (10 or fewer seats) £327.38 89p per day
Restaurants & Cafe
Play music via a radio (up to 30 seats that is 400sqm or less) £347.84 95p per day
Pubs & Bars
Play music via radio (400 sqm or less) £371.09 £1.01 per day
Live Music
A pub or bar could perform live music their premise for up to 100 people at a one off event £11.94 12p per person

All cost examples are subject to change. Office and Workplace, Shops and Stores, Hair and Beauty updated February 2023. Fitness and Dance updated February 2023. Restaurants and Cafés updated January 2023. Pubs and Bars updated January 2023. Daily cost examples are based on music usage for 365 days a year.

View latest examples here.

Why is music licensing important?

If you’re a retail and hospitality venue, you’re ultimately gaining from the music by providing a better experience for customers. If you’re a venue that doesn’t generally receive visits from customers, such as office environments, your employees are still considered “the public”, so it’s still an infringement of copyright to play music without a Public Performance License in place.

PPL distributes the music royalties for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers, representing the rights of over 130,000 performers and recording rightsholders, while PRS for Music distributes music license fees for the use of musical compositions and lyrics on behalf of over 160,000 songwriters, composers and publishers.

The licenses ensure that the people who create music are fairly rewarded for their talent and hard work to produce the amazing music we all enjoy and benefit from.

Why can’t I just use Spotify?

Once you have TheMusicLicense in place, you can play pretty much any commercial music in your venue all day long.

But there’s one thing to remember - music streaming services are only intended for consumer use - not for businesses. Using these platforms in a business is a breach of their terms, as they are not licensed for business use. Therefore, while broadcasting a homemade playlist through a sound system may feel like an easy option, this is illegal too.

Music licensing around the world

Not all of our customers are based in the UK, so here’s a breakdown of some of the other public licenses you need around the world.

Country Licenses
United States
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers): ASCAP is a performance rights organisation based in the United States. It represents songwriters, composers, and music publishers by licensing their music to various entities such as radio stations, television networks, streaming platforms, live venues, and more. ASCAP collects royalties for the public performance of musical compositions and distributes those royalties to its members based on the usage of their works.

SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers): SESAC is a performance rights organisation that operates in the United States. It represents songwriters and publishers in a manner similar to ASCAP and BMI. SESAC focuses on providing personalised attention to its members and tailoring its services to their needs. It offers licensing solutions for various types of music usage and collects royalties on behalf of its members.

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.): BMI is another prominent performance rights organisation in the United States. Like ASCAP and SESAC, BMI licences the public performance rights of musical compositions. It represents songwriters, composers, and music publishers and collects royalties from music users such as radio stations, television networks, digital services, and live venues. The collected royalties are then distributed to BMI members based on the usage of their music.

GMR (Global Music Rights): GMR is a relatively newer performance rights organisation in the United States. It was founded by music industry executive Irving Azoff to represent a select group of high-profile songwriters and artists. GMR focuses on negotiating more favourable licensing terms for its members' works, particularly in the realm of radio airplay and public performances. It operates independently from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, and its roster includes well-known artists and songwriters.

If you're in the US, your subscription to Startle includes the public performance licences, but you may need to obtain additional licences if you conduct physical activity to music (such as a dance studio or fitness class), play music from another source (such as a DJ, karaoke, or live music), or charge an admission fee.
IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organisation): IMRO is the equivalent of PRS in Ireland. It's responsible for collecting and distributing royalties to songwriters, composers, and music publishers for the public performance and broadcast of their musical works.

PPI (Phonographic Performance Ireland): PPI is the Irish counterpart of PPL. It focuses on collecting and distributing royalties to performers and record labels for the public performance and broadcast of sound recordings.
APRA AMCOS (Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society): APRA AMCOS manages the public performance and communication rights of songwriters, composers, and music publishers, as well as mechanical reproduction rights. This includes collecting royalties for music played in public places, on the radio, on television, and in other public settings.
SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada): SOCAN is the Canadian performing rights organisation that represents the interests of music creators, including songwriters, composers, and music publishers. It collects and distributes royalties for the public performance of musical works in Canada.

Re:Sound: Re:Sound is responsible for collecting and distributing royalties for the performance rights of recorded music in Canada. It represents performers and record labels and ensures that they receive fair compensation when their recordings are played in public or broadcasted.

That's why we're here.

With a professional background music subscription to a business service such as Startle Music, and your Public Performance Licenses in place, you’ll be playing music legally. You’ll also be protecting the rights of songwriters, composers and publishers for the use of their music.

A subscription of this type is a safe and simple way to not only ensure that you are legally compliant, but to benefit from better quality, more function, data capture and marketing opportunities over the equivalent consumer services.

In order to secure a high-quality, legal music system for your business, do your research and decide on what it is you want to achieve with your background music - this will help you to find the right solution for your brand.

Whatever your chosen music solution, when all of the necessary rights are properly taken care of, you can enjoy fully legal music and entertain customers in your venue without the worry of a visit from a licensing organisation.

Hey, we've just met you and this is crazy. But here's our number +44 (0)203 397 7676. So, call us maybe? Or get in touch here.

Music Licenses for Business

James Picken

Creative Director at Startle. It's my job to produce and execute our music output, making sure everything is sounding, feeling and performing just right for our customers. When I'm not doing this, you can find me either walking my dog, remixing 90s divas on Logic Pro X, returning overdue library books or throwing weights about in the gym.

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Hey, we've just met you and this is crazy. But here's our number +44 (0)203 397 7676. So, call us maybe?

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