Creating playlists and streaming music in your store or restaurant is intended to relax or energize your patrons. However, even when you play popular songs in the background, you want to make sure that the music does not negatively impact your customers.
When you stream music from any given player, you run the risk of playing songs with explicit content. Suggestive lyrics, hate speech, and inappropriate words can hurt your customers and can give them a negative impression of your business. It is crucial to not only go through a music streaming service that can manage commercial licenses, but to work with a company that has a proven track record of offering the best music from the past several decades without problematic content.
What is ‘Inappropriate’ Content?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) manages rules and regulations for radio, television, and now internet broadcasts regarding explicit content and language.
The FCC defines each area.
- Obscene content: This does not have First Amendment protection in public spaces, although the content must be judged by the Supreme Court, and have no literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
- Indecent content: This content portrays bodies, bodily functions, or activities in a way that does not pass the obscenity test.
- Profane content: This covers “grossly offensive” language that may be a public nuisance.
Streaming services of all kinds, including those intended for personal use, are facing a debate around the FCC’s definitions for broadcasting. TV and radio have long managed these forms of inappropriate content so most people would enjoy broadcasts at different levels. However, services like Spotify or iTunes are now facing complaints from customers because children are gaining easier access to explicit content through mobile technology, like smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and other smart devices like Alexa and Siri. Families are now concerned that a child or guest might request a song and have problematic content foisted on them without their knowledge or consent.
Most of the debate has focused around personal music streaming services – programs like Pandora or YouTube that are designed to find songs you might like, or offer songs you already know you like. The problem is even more serious for businesses, who face all kinds of consequences for streaming inappropriate music. For example, a student employee at a café at Duke University was fired for accidentally playing a song with offensive lyrics after a patron complained. It is important to offer your patrons the best possible music that is not offensive, and you must follow the law about streaming music in your business.
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Licensing for Business Must Include Family-Friendly and Brand-Safe Option
When you want to stream music in your business, you may think this process is as simple as hooking up a smartphone to a wireless speaker, clicking the “filter explicit songs” option in the service, and playing whatever playlist you want. Personal streaming services are just now finding ways to filter explicit content and still struggling with this kind of regulation. In addition, you cannot use a personal music streaming service in your business because of how music licensing works.
Performing rights organizations (PROs) manage the licenses on behalf of musicians, composers, and other music rights holders, so they can ensure that royalties are paid to artists appropriately. Each PRO manages a different catalogue of songs. As a business owner, you can contact PROs directly to use the songs in their library, and for a fee, they will issue you a license to play their music in your business for a certain amount of time. If you need one song for a large presentation, for example, that license will be different than full library access for a whole year.
Regardless of the type of license you buy, however, you will have access to that PRO’s catalogue. If you want broader access to as much popular music as possible, you may find yourself needing to purchase licenses from multiple PROs. This is where commercial or business-focused music streaming services come in.
A music streaming service geared toward businesses understands that there are multiple approaches to keeping your customers happy.
One of these is to play the music they love, and another is to prevent them or their children from hearing explicit or offensive content without consenting to it. You can play instrumental music. Or, if you know your shoppers want pop, rap, country, rock, or other specific genres, you can still get access through a music streaming service to the licenses you need to play these songs without worrying about explicit lyrics.
- Obscene, Indecent and Profane Broadcasts. (September 13, 2017). Federal Communications Commission.
- Apple Could Remove Explicit Lyrics in Your Streaming Music. (March 31, 2016). Fortune.
- Then the Censors Came for Rap Music. (May 9, 2018). The Atlantic.
- Why Music Streaming Services Are Not as Family-Friendly as the Package Suggests. (February 21, 2017). The Huffington Post.
- 6 Things Companies Need to Know About Music Licensing. Copyright Clearance Center.
- Music to Match Your Business Goals. Cloud Cover Music.