Just ask anyone who works in your bar: Do tips matter? Chances are, you'll hear an emphatic "yes." In most cases, tips make up the majority of the money your staff takes home, and those tips can add up to big money.

For example, a bartender quoted in an article in Portland's Willamette Week says he made somewhere between $800 and $1,000 per week in tips — and that was in the 1990s.

Pulling in those big tips requires a full house. Your staff must have people to serve in order to get tips for their work. But tip levels could also be influenced by whether or not your patrons are having a good time. This could be where music for business comes in.

The perfect bar soundtrack can seem to make any little annoyance fade away. Patrons can be moved to sing along, order another drink, and spend a little more money. Adding in that little bit of music could be crucial to your success.

But you'll need to take very special steps in order to find the best music, and you'll need to make sure you have a legal right to use that soundtrack.

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What Music Can You Play?

Songs aren't created by algorithms. They're created by real people, and those people expect to be paid for their work. The fees they pull down don't end when their recording hits the airwaves. Each time that piece of music is played, either in its original form or by a cover artist, the creator of the piece should get a fee.

The Texas Music Office reminds bar and restaurant owners that they aren't exempt from this rule even if they're playing music from a personal player like an iPhone. License fees paid when you purchase that music apply only to personal use, not music played publicly.

The Texas Music Office says there are exemptions for food and drinking establishments under 3,750 square feet. If you own a business of this size, you can play a public radio station. But you still must follow the rules about recorded and live music.

It can be tempting to blow off these rules and play whatever you'd like to play, but the fines for noncompliance can be steep. The Daily Beast reports that a bar in North Carolina was fined $30,450 for playing just four songs without a license. The bar was also hit with $10,700 in attorneys’ fees. The owners of that bar had to close it down.

There are three major organizations that track licensing issues, and they do not work together. In order to play any recorded piece you'd like to play, and in order to let a live band do the same, you would need a relationship with all three entities, and each entity would require a separate fee.

Organizations like ours offer a different option. We work with these organizations to offer clear, complete licensing for businesses. If you're hoping to play music in your bar, we encourage you to connect with us.

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Choosing the Right Music for Your Bar

Once you've determined that you would like to play music in your establishment, you'll need to find the best tunes to set the mood. The ambiance within a bar or pub matters more than you might think.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers attempted to break down the connection between bars and violence. Did violent patrons make the space violent? In this study of 327 frequent bar patrons, researchers found that the characteristics of the bar predicted violence. In other words, the violent people didn't enter a peaceful bar and transform it. Instead, these people chose bars like them.

Music helps to create a sense of affiliation. Spaces in which familiar music is playing seem somehow familiar. That means choosing music your ideal patron might like and connect with is absolutely vital to your long-term success as a bar owner.

The experience your patrons expect can also influence the music you should select. When your customers come into your bar, are they expecting:

  • Low light, loud music, and dancing?
  • Kid-friendly, light-drinking patrons?
  • Bare skin, loud cursing, and violence?
  • An experience similar to one they might find in an English pub?

In a study in the Journal of Hospitality Marketing and Management, researchers found that people in bars like music that helps to amplify their current mood. If they're feeling quiet and calm, they'd like similarly quiet and calm music. If they're feeling excited, they'd like exciting music.

Think about what sorts of activities your patrons engage in right before they come to your bar, and then think about what they tend to do while they're under your care. You should be able to use that research to find playlists and music that best matches the vibe your patrons are hoping for.

Don't forget that the volume of the music matters just as much as the music itself. In a study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical an Experimental Research, scientists found that loud music led to increased beer consumption regardless of the type of music played. In other words, the volume mattered more than the beat, the words, or the feeling. Just sheer noise made people drink more. Don't forget to factor that into your research.

In a study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical an Experimental Research, scientists found that loud music led to increased beer consumption regardless of the type of music played.

Variety Is Key

Just as every bar is different, so is the playlist at every bar. Music that seems perfectly aligned with one type of consumer might seem totally inappropriate for another. Since there are so many different types of bars, and different types of bar patrons, it's impossible to come up with one setlist that's right for each environment.

In addition, many bars rotate their music selections throughout the night. In an overview article published by Serious Eats, each bartender spoke of changing the songs depending on the mood in the room. They might play quieter, blues-type music early in the evening when the party is just getting started, and they might play dance classics late at night when patrons feel tipsy and nostalgic.

That's why having a wide variety of music and playlists is so important. When you have many options to choose from, you'll be able to keep the party going.

Best Playlists for Bars & Pubs

1. Dance: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1py9L0HxEVKvYuHm1HYRTO?si=cldaooh3SU-ANdfOETGtuQ

Song: 365

Artist(s): Zedd, Katy Perry

Song: Ain't My Fault

Artist(s): Zara Larsson

Song: All Good

Artist(s): Ciara

Song: Charisma (feat. Jamie Lidell)

Artist(s): Oliver, Jamie Lidell

Song: Clap Your Hands (feat. Ava Max)

Artist(s): Le Youth, Ava Max

Song: High and Low

Artist(s): Empire of the Sun

Song: Hotter Than Hell - Matoma Remix

Artist(s): Dua Lipa, Matoma

Song: I Need Your Love (feat. Ellie Goulding)

Artist(s): Calvin Harris, Ellie Goulding

Song: I'd Do It Again

Artist(s): Gigamesh, Gavin Turek

Song: Jackie Chan

Artist(s): Tiësto, Dzeko, Preme, Post Malone

2. Aggressive: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3PwGUZsdlu3ac7TZCu1djL?si=2Mv-CNjsR4aGtJnPAnEDUw

Song: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Mono Version

Artist(s): The Rolling Stones

Song: Any Way You Want It

Artist(s): Journey

Song: Are You Gonna Go My Way

Artist(s): Lenny Kravitz

Song: Baba O'Riley

Artist(s): The Who

Song: Ballroom Blitz

Artist(s): Sweet

Song: Born To Be Wild - Single Version

Artist(s): Steppenwolf

Song: Edge of Seventeen

Artist(s): Stevie Nicks

Song: Facing My Fear

Artist(s): Cortes

Song: Go

Artist(s): The Black Keys

Song: Ready To Let Go

Artist(s): Cage The Elephant

3. Relaxing: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3HVbM3pMMh8rIAXjSZoviD?si=imgrA7U-Trixsa0Q5PVW8g

Song: All Blues

Artist(s): Miles Davis

Song: So What

Artist(s): Miles Davis

Song: (Love Is) The Tender Trap

Artist(s): Frank Sinatra

Song: Beautiful Love (Take 1)

Artist(s): Bill Evans Trio

Song: Darn That Dream

Artist(s): George Shearing, The Montgomery Brothers

Song: (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons

Artist(s): Nat King Cole

Song: Pick Yourself Up

Artist(s): Gregory Porter

Song: Autumn In New York

Artist(s): Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong

Song: On The Sunny Side Of The Street

Artist(s): Billie Holiday

Song: Prelude To A Kiss

Artist(s): Sarah Vaughan

Let Us Help You

At Cloud Cover Music, we specialize in matching the right music with the right venue, at prices that are reasonable and easy to understand.

We take care of all the legal issues, so you can focus on building your business. And we offer complete protection, so you won't have to worry about someone complaining about your work.

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We are connected with hundreds of bars and pubs across the country, and we'd love to work with you. Contact us and let's get started.