Understanding Licensing Requirements for Music at Work

Playing music in the office is a great way to boost the mood and morale of your employees and put customers in the frame of mind to buy. But you can't just pop in a mix of tunes and crank up the volume.

Playing music at your place of business means paying the artist and record company responsible for the songs you love.

Benefits of Playing Music in the Office

Offices foster collaboration, and that's critical. Researchers say that workers who are ready to collaborate stick to a tricky task 64 percent longer than their solitary peers, and they have higher success rates too.

Even so, a full 81 percent of people who worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic don't want to go back to work at all, or they would prefer to work in a hybrid format.

Music could help to do the following:

  • Soothe background sounds: Offices can be noisy spaces. Keyboards click, phones ring, and teammates chatter. The right background music could wipe away the noise and allow for deeper focus.
  • Set the tone: A curated playlist could help workers wake up in the morning and wind down in the evening.
  • Allow for conversation: Your staff shares the music equally, and the tunes could become a focal point. Workers may love the same song, and that shared experience could help them work together more effectively.
  • Designate zones: The music you play in the break room could foster quiet contemplation, while the tunes playing in the rec room could help people burn off stress.

The music you play could help your clients too. If they must wait for a meeting to start, the tunes could help them make the most of their time. And the music could help them feel happy and upbeat during their visit too.

Do I Have to Pay Royalties to Play Music at Work?

Yes. These payments (or royalties in the entertainment industry) are the lifeblood of the music business. Royalties fund the record companies that locate and promote top artists and put food on the tables of musicians around the world.

But understanding royalties can be complicated. Each time you play a song, two copyrights apply:

  • Composition: The lyrics and melody are protected by one copyright.
  • Recording: The audio recording of the piece is protected by a separate copyright.

You need a license to play music in public in the office. And that license should cover both copyrights.

What Are Performing Rights Organizations?

Performing rights organizations (PROs) are companies that collect the fees and royalties on behalf of the music creators. These folks ensure the chain from listener to artist is properly maintained by royalties moving up the chain.

There are numerous PROs of various sizes and influences. Each PRO represents some but not all of the world’s music artists.

But all you want to do is play music in your office. How do you know which PRO to pay? How much does playing one song cost? How should you make a payment? It all sounds terribly confusing.

That’s where a service like Cloud Cover Music comes in and saves the day.

Penalties You’ll Face for Playing Music Illegally

Experts say composers and artists could be missing out on $2.65 billion in revenue due to people playing their music without a license. PROs work hard to make up that lost revenue.

Fines vary based on the size of your office, how many speakers you use, and how many songs you've played illegally. Typically, PROs send plenty of notifications with payment options. Ignore them, and you'll go to court to determine how much you'll pay.

PROs "routinely" send representatives to organizations without licenses to listen for music. Fines from those visits could be as large as $150,000, depending on the court.

How Can I Legally Stream Office Music?

Cloud Cover Music provides several invaluable services to its customers (an affordable, scalable music system, and in-store promotional messaging, among others). Still, perhaps none are as valuable as handling ALL the red tape and potential pitfalls associated with obtaining rights and paying royalties on the music for business you play.

That's right: CCM customers can rest easy in the knowledge that all licenses and other fees are included in their monthly plan cost and that when they play a song at work, everyone who is supposed to get paid is getting paid.

Try us with a free 14-Day trial today. No setup fees. No long-term contracts.


New Study Finds That Collaboration Drives Workplace Performance. (June 2017). Forbes.

Over 80% of Workers Don't Want to Go Back to the Office Full-Time, Survey Finds. (March 2021). CNET.

How Musicians Make Money (or Don't At All) in 2018. (August 2018). Rolling Stone.

Why Your Business May Be Breaching Copyright Law by Streaming Personal Playlists. (October 2018). Forbes.

Music Licensing for Your Business. (April 2012). Texas Music Office.


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