Although music streaming is a relatively new industry, it has radically changed how the average consumer listens to and accesses music.
Internet-based and mobile app streaming services allow users to listen to songs they love, create playlists or “stations” based on their favorite genre or artist, and even download entire albums quickly and cheaply.
Between 2010 and 2016, music streaming services became better, more varied, and much more popular. By the end of 2015, they made more money than other kinds of digital music downloads and physical music purchases.
The History of Music Streaming and Licensing
The MP3 was created in the late 1980s as a method of compressing sound sequences into small files for easy digital storage and transmission. While this format was not widely used until a decade later, it is a file extension that most people are now familiar with. In fact, many new sound compression formats have been developed based on the MP3’s popularity through MP3 downloading services, of which Napster is the most famous.
They found rare recordings, cover songs, and live versions of music that they craved, all for free. The music industry quickly came after P2P services with Napster as their focus. Due to lawsuits regarding the licensing of music, Napster stopped its free sharing service in 2001.
However, there was a clear market for music online, specifically acquiring individual songs. Apple seized this opportunity in 2003 when they unveiled iTunes, which could be used on their new iPods and, eventually, through other Macs and Apple products. The personal computer company needed to charge for songs, but set the price at a low 99 cents per song. They paid for personal use music licenses, their customers paid very little for each song, and everything was legal.
The portability of the iPod led to a boom in personal digital devices, eventually influencing how smartphones are used.
Many modern streaming services have apps for phones, tablets, and laptops, so users can access their playlists, stations, or music libraries from nearly anywhere, on whatever device they want.
With easy access to music, however, comes a new concern about music licensing and royalties – using a streaming service in a business to provide background, or even foreground, music for customers. As more people start small businesses, and brick-and-mortar stores become popular again, it is important for potential business owners to know how to license music, which is possible with some business-focused streaming services.
Music Streaming Options Are Booming
Streaming services account for 75 percent of all music consumption in 2018; two years earlier, streaming was only half of all music consumption. Meanwhile, listening to physical albums, digital albums, and individually purchased digital tracks continues to decline.
These services often have a free option and a subscription plan. The free version of the service forces ads on the listener every few minutes, which helps pay for the service. The subscription plans are intentionally cheap. Some services offer several types of plans and allow you to enjoy music without listening to advertising.
There are also associated devices that work with smartphones or mobile music players to broadcast the sound. Bluetooth speakers and connections to hook into larger sound systems are almost everywhere. This makes a high-quality personal sound system easy to purchase and set up, including in your small business.
However, you cannot use your mobile phone to stream a consumer music streaming service through a Bluetooth speaker to create ambiance for your customers. This violates music copyright, and you could face a major lawsuit.
How to Use Music Streaming for Business
Too many business owners don’t realize that it is illegal to use personal streaming services to play music in their business. A reported 83 percent of businesses use personal music streamers rather than acquiring the right copyright for the music they play.
PROs and music publishers send employees under cover to random businesses to determine whether they are breaking copyright law. Not understanding the different types of copyright is not an excuse, and you could face hefty fines if you do not have the correct licenses with the PROs for the music you play.
Fortunately, the rise of personal music streaming has led to a similar rise in music streaming for business. Companies like Cloud Cover Music take the basic idea of the music streaming interface, with different playlists and access to a wide range of songs, and work with PROs to get the correct type of license for music streaming in your business.
Services for business music streaming like Cloud Cover Music include the following:
- You can download mobile apps to phones or tablets, so you have access to your business’s playlists legally from several devices.
- There are no ads in the background to interrupt the soundscape you created for your customers. Many personal streaming services feature ads in their free options.
- Ads that are played are designed specifically for your business, so you can effectively communicate with your customers.
- Some companies, like Cloud Cover Music, have partnered with hardware manufacturers like Sonos, so you can get the best possible sound system for your space.
- Cloud Cover Music and some other streaming services offer mood-specific and business-specific playlists. This means you do not have to build your own individual playlists all the time, and you still have great music options to choose from.
- Explicit content in music is filtered out, unlike with personal streaming services. This ensures the environment is friendly for all your customers.
Businesses have long understood that the right background or foreground music can keep customers in their stores for longer, improving sales, customer experience, and customer satisfaction. Since your employees likely have more experience using a mobile app-based streaming service, companies that provide music streaming services for businesses feature apps that are easy to understand and use.
To set up streaming music in your business:
- Research the best option for your business. Cloud Cover Music offers a 14-day trial, so you can try it out for free.
- Get help from curators to set up specific playlists for your business, or choose from a range of pre-selected options.
- Set up devices in all your retail locations, if you have more than one store, so employees can use one account and music is consistent across your brand.
- Set up partnered hardware like Sonos for great sound quality.
- Upload your in-store messages to play between a certain number of songs at no cost with Cloud Cover Music.
- Store an unlimited number of these messages in your library.
These new streaming services can integrate branded messaging and keep a consistent feeling in your business, all while ensuring the music you play is properly licensed.
Music Licensing and Why It Is Important for Business
Composers, musicians, and music copyright holders work with performing rights organizations (PROs) to have their copyrighted music disseminated into the world appropriately, so they can receive payment for their work. Each PRO manages a different catalogue of music. While they may manage hundreds of thousands of songs and compositions, they do not have everything.
- Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)
- American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)
- Global Music Rights (GMR)
BMI and ASCAP are the two largest PROs, so purchasing licenses through them to use specific music can cover most legal issues while giving you access to the biggest catalogues.
The reason you must get licenses to cover playing music in your business is due to the legal definition of public performance. The term seems like the band should be playing their songs live, but in fact, a public performance of a song occurs when it is played in front of a substantial group of people, like a group gathering in a bar or shopping outlet. Each time the song plays, a small royalty must be paid to the artist or their estate. Most businesses are considered to have a substantial number of people or the potential for a large group, so offices, restaurants, and retail stores are all required to license the music they play through PROs.
For businesses, there are several music streaming services that offer licensing to play songs through their program. These services, in a similar manner to personal streaming services, gather licenses from several PROs, allowing you to create playlists and moods for your business while legally playing music.
- Here’s Why the Music Industry Is Celebrating Again — and Here’s Why the Music Industry Is Still in Mourning. (January 27, 2018). Recode.
- From the Phonograph to Spotify: The History of Streaming Music. (November 22, 2017). HubSpot.
- Streaming Services Account for 75% of All Music Listening in 2018, Up From 50% in 2016. (July 11, 2018). Business Insider.
- Best Music Streaming Services. (May 18, 2018). Consumer Reports.
- A Comprehensive Comparison of Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) in the US. (February 20, 2018). Digital Music News.
- Is Your Business Streaming Music for Customers? That’s Breaking the Law. (October 2018). The Guardian.
- What Is a Public Performance License? (September 2018). Exploration.io.
- Cloud Cover Music and Sonos. Sonos.