Business owners like you work hard to ensure that you offer the best products, store environment, and customer service.

From your business plan to your quarterly reports, you know the success of your business relies on keeping your customers happy.

In-store or restaurant music is well-known to change your customers’ mood, pace, and decision-making.

If you choose a great music experience for your brand, your customers will enjoy their visit, appreciate your products, potentially buy more from you, and recommend your business to their friends. If you choose the wrong type of music, at the wrong volume, this can be a big turnoff for people who may otherwise want your products or service.

Of course, playing music in a business is not as simple as setting up a wireless speaker and playing a personal playlist off your smartphone. The quality of your sound system can change how your customers experience music, so you must get the best possible sound setup for your type of establishment.

You also need specific licenses to play music in a business. With so many factors in play, it is important to know the basics and how much control you can have over the music in your type of business.

Music Is Important, So How Do You Access It Legally?

Music can influence customers in many ways. It can:

  • Create and differentiate your brand from others.
  • Build the best emotional atmosphere in your space.
  • Create a feeling of privacy in the space.
  • Set your shoppers’ pace, helping them to slow down.
  • Shorten waiting times through tempo, helping people to move faster.
  • Increase employee productivity through more positive mood.

But if you cannot play music from your personal collection, how can you legally use music? That involves understanding how copyright laws influence music’s availability.

A performing rights organization (PRO) is a service institution within the music industry that manages copyright distribution through licenses on behalf of musicians, composers, performers, and publishers. These organizations keep a large catalogue of songs and monitor for copyright violations. These violations include sharing music files without licensed permission, like in the early days of Napster and similar file-sharing services. If you purchase a CD or a subscription for a music streaming service, however, you receive a personal license to play that music for yourself or in personal situations for friends.

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The individual license provided in these personal services does not cover commercial uses of the music. If you play a CD you bought in your restaurant, for example, you are violating the musicians’ copyright. This is because, legally, playing copyrighted music before a larger group of people is considered a public performance of the work. The composer, artist, or copyright holder is legally entitled to royalties for public performances even if you pay for a music streaming service for personal use.

Fortunately, the rise of music streaming services has led to a rise in services focused on corporate or commercial streaming. The benefit of many music streaming services is being able to create a station or playlist that can match your brand, your store, or your ambiance, and this means you have a huge amount of control over the music at your business which can, in turn, benefit your customers.


The type of commercial music streaming service you choose can depend greatly on the type of business you own or manage. Your choice can also be influenced by how much control you have within the company.

Types of Businesses

There are a few basic types of businesses.

  • Service business: This type of business provides intangible products to customers, which are usually called services instead of goods. Businesses in this category may provide professional skills, advice, expertise, or guidance. For example, salons, law firms, schools, and banks are all service businesses.
  • Merchandizing business: This business provides goods rather than services. They rarely make the products they sell, and they typically sell their products at prices higher than the cost of manufacturing and shipping. Businesses in this category are usually retail but sometimes considered to be restaurants, cafes, or bars. Other examples include grocery stores, convenience stores, or toy stores.
  • Manufacturing business: These businesses make money by creating products or goods to sell to merchandizers rather than directly to individual consumers. Types of manufacturing businesses include car makers, computer manufacturers, and furniture producers.

It is rare that manufacturers will face issues with music licensing while retailers, restaurants, hotels, and offices will face the problem of legally using music more often.

Regardless of business type, if music is used illegally, who is responsible? Understanding the management hierarchy can illuminate this.

Management Hierarchies in Business: Who Is Responsible for Music Choices and Copyright?

Most businesses have three levels of management.

  1. Low-level: foremen, supervisors, project managers, and section heads
  2. Mid-level: branch managers, department leads, and general managers
  3. Top-level: CEOs, boards of directors, president, or vice president of a company

This arrangement typically resembles a pyramid at most organizations with few people at the top making decisions that are then delegated to employees on the lower levels.

If a specific storefront illegally uses music during retail hours, who in the company is responsible? Representatives from the PRO will target the business owner, CEO, or franchise owner – the person at the top who is responsible for making decisions. A copyright lawsuit will most likely involve the company, and the person in control of that company, not the individual who made the decision. However, that person may face consequences, including being fired for cause, if they illegally use music in a business.

If an individual owns and runs a business alone, they are responsible for violating the copyright, but again, their business will be the focus of the lawsuit rather than their person.

It is unlikely that a store clerk, bar manager, or mid-level office worker understands the nuances of music copyright law. That person likely chooses music they think stylistically benefits the work they are doing. While the intention is good, the outcome can be bad. If you own a business or franchise, it is your responsibility to know enough about these laws to make decisions for your business, including for your employees.


If an individual owns and runs a business alone, they are responsible for violating the copyright, but again, their business will be the focus of the lawsuit rather than their person.

Control the Music at Your Business With Premium Music Streaming

Working with a commercial music streaming services allows your business to legally play music from several PROs because the service will manage the licensing issues for you. You pay a subscription fee or a one-time access fee, depending on your needs, and you have access to a large library of streaming music. Some services may offer you personal control over the station or playlist while others offer customized solutions like creating specific moods tailored to your business.

If you work with these groups to purchase their hardware, including music players and speakers, you not only get great sound quality, but you can also give your employees access to music selection through the commercial streaming service. You can control the music played at your business and empower your employees to work with you on music choices.

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