Music for Restaurants: Stream Legal, Customized Playlists

Patrons come to your restaurant for the food. The music you play could entice them to stay for the atmosphere and come back for more. But before you grab your phone and stream your favorite songs into your restaurant, remember the law.

Musicians, composers, producers, and other professionals have the right to compensation when their work is played in public. Your restaurant is a public space, and you must get permission before the songs start playing.

At Cloud Cover Music, we can help you craft and manage the perfect soundtrack for your restaurant. And we’ll handle all the legal details, so you can focus on serving your customers.

How Does Music Licensing Work?

As a business owner, you know how the laws protect your intellectual property. Just as you'd contact lawyers if someone stole your company name or recipe, people who create music may come after you if you play their music without permission.

To pay the required fees, you must work with music copyright holders. There is only one real exception, according to the National Restaurant Association, and that involves radio. If your restaurant is 3,750 square feet or smaller and you play only radio, you don't have to pay a fee.

But playing radio means subjecting your patrons to commercials, DJ banter, and more content you can't control. That could make it less than ideal for your business.

Cloud Cover Music negotiates these licenses, so you can play music you want without worry.

customers waiting in line

Fill Your Restaurant With Sound

Cloud Cover Music lets you create custom playlists from a huge library of songs. If you're short on time, pick from a preselected list and start playing songs immediately. Change your playlist at any point, and use zones to switch out the sounds in different parts of your restaurant (like the bar and the bathrooms).

Control everything from your phone or another mobile device. Stream your songs through an existing Sonos system, or take advantage of our relationship with Best Buy Business to upgrade and delight your customers.

The system is sophisticated, but getting started is easy. You'll master the interface in no time, and you'll wonder how you ever ran your restaurant without it.

group eating together at a qsr

Basic Considerations When Choosing Music for Restaurants

In research discussed in FSR Magazine, researchers found that playing the right music could increase sales by 9 percent.

With profits on the line, it's vital to ensure that the music you play is right for the audience you serve. That can take a little bit of creativity and a lot of planning. Consider these factors:


Unless you're hosting live musicians, the music you play isn't meant to be the main event. That means, in most cases, songs shouldn't be so loud that it's difficult for your patrons to focus on your food. As an article in LS Retail explains, music that is too loud can diminish patrons' sense of taste.

The music should be loud enough to cover up some unpleasant noises associated with restaurants. Your patrons may not want to hear intimate conversations held by other diners or your kitchen staff yelling about orders.

Your music should work as a buffer, so patrons can focus on their conversation and tune out the other sounds.

Assess volume multiple times throughout the day. During peak times, a loud room might demand louder music. When it's quiet, you might need to turn the tunes down.


Researchers in Psychology Today suggest that songs with loud, fast beats stimulate the body's fight-or-flight system, encouraging quick eating.

While some restaurants may want fast music to help tables turn over more quickly, no one wants their guests to feel stressed. This means some kinds of music you may enjoy in other venues, such as gyms or dance clubs, may not be appropriate for eating.

Customer Feedback

Your customers may have very strong feelings about the music they love and the music they hate, and they may feel very comfortable telling you their preferences. When your playlist is in place, listen to these concerns, but know that it will be impossible to keep every customer happy all the time.

Music is personal, and what we like is based on our opinions, background, and demographics. Your job is to develop the soundtrack that fits your brand and the experience your brand delivers. Focus on that, and the opinions you hear, while important, may not shake the choices you make.

cashier smiling

Choose the Right Music for Restaurants

These things will influence the music that is right for your restaurant:

  • The market segment you serve
  • The food you offer
  • The décor of your restaurant
  • The patrons who visit you

Let's break down choices by restaurant type, and we'll offer a few suggestions on music choices that might be right for all of these different types of businesses.

Fast Casual Restaurants

These types of restaurants are seeing an explosion in growth. In fact, The Washington Post reports that the fast casual sector has grown by 550 percent since 1999.

These restaurants are known for providing a quality product that is slightly more expensive than items served in fast food restaurants, and the Post suggests that they are also associated with sustainability. People who eat in places like this care about the environment and the impact their choices make on the environment.

Running a successful fast casual restaurant might mean looking for music that is independent, young, and fresh. Consumers who head to these places might not be interested in country music's more conservative feel, and they may dislike associations made with classic rock. Serving up music by independent, likeminded artists like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson might be a better option.

Fast Food Restaurants

These types of establishments are almost exclusively focused on speed. Many people who go to fast food restaurants don't plan to eat there. They order, take the food away, and eat it in a different location. Fast foods tend to be a bit on the unhealthy, greasy side.

Research quoted by Science Daily suggests that 20 percent of restaurant patrons ordered an unhealthy menu selection when exposed to louder, faster ambient music. If you're hoping to entice your patrons to choose from a greasy menu, setting that expectation with music could help.

Classic rock could do the trick quite nicely. This familiar music could also help patrons feel entertained while they wait.

Ethnic Restaurants

Many restaurants serve food that is associated with a specific country of origin. Customers often like it when the music is associated with the same country as the cuisine.

A study in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management observed that customers prefer when the entire restaurant experience, including the music choice, feels authentic.

Fine Dining Establishments

These restaurants offer diners an upscale experience. Guests may spend a long time in a restaurant like this as they consume appetizers, main courses, and desserts.

The music in fine-dining restaurants should promote a leisurely, posh experience. Optimal choices include jazz and classical music, which are associated with sophistication and class.

Connect With Cloud Cover Music

At Cloud Cover Music, we have a wide variety of music that is just right for the restaurant environment. We can help you choose songs that fit your brand, and our negotiated agreements with copyright holders ensure you're following the law. One small fee makes it possible.

Getting started is easy. Just contact us, and we'll tell you more.


Report: Music Can Increase Restaurant Sales by 9 Percent. (March 2017). FSR Magazine.

5 Reasons Why You Should Play Music in Your Restaurant. (December 2017). LS Retail.

The Psychology of Restaurant Music. (July 2014). Psychology Today.

The Chipotle Effect: Why America Is Obsessed with Fast Casual Food. (February 2015). The Washington Post.

Cheeseburger or Salad? How Music Volume Impacts Your Decision. (May 2018). Science Daily.

Effects of Authentic Atmospherics in Ethnic Restaurants: Investigating Chinese Restaurants. (2011). International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.


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