A Brighter Future for Background Music Law

A Brighter Future for Background Music Law

Embracing background music within your venue is great, allowing your guests and frequents to be immersed in an interactive musical experience that they won’t find easily anywhere else. But as we know, all greatness comes with its foreshadowing dilemmas and the one for background music is the legal requirements necessary for background music to even be played at your premises. It can be easy for a lot of businesses to hear about the legal side of playing background music, and decide upon not playing music at all, or to go on regardless without the necessary licences (yes, two licences – a PPL licence and a PRS licence) that are required to play such music. However, it isn’t as bad as it sounds, with the licences being easily obtainable and not costing the earth in payments, plus the future is only going to be brighter for businesses thanks to something called TheMusicLicence – but more on that later..

With so many businesses that are on the high street and throughout our towns playing music, whether personalised playlists or straight from the radio, it is inevitable that many are currently falling afoul of the rules. If an inspector finds your venue playing music at any level without a licence, whether PPL or PRS, you’ll be seen as infringing copyright and you could be sued for damages for playing recorded, copyrighted music – fines of which may be beyond the price a small business would ever want to fork out.

There are many real-life examples of venues being fined or taken to court for playing music illegally in their venue, one of these significant examples comes from a popular pub in Union Street, Plymouth that saw inspectors catch the pub play songs from the likes of Rolling Stones and Camila Cabello without a PPL licence. The venue was soon taken to the High Court in London for their misdeed and a ban was imposed on the premises, with legal costs more than £2000. The premises were warned that if they play music at any of their venues, they’d be in contempt of the court and may have to pay a £10,000 fine, with a 6 months jail sentence. Over in Grantham, Gravity Bar and Ra Ra Bar were caught playing copyrighted tracks without a PPL licence by inspectors at both of their venues and were forced by a judge to pay £2397 and implement a music-free zone for their venue until all licences and payments were up to date.

For those that do have a music licence, some had still found themselves out of line by not being aware that a venue was required to not just have a PPL licence, but a PRS licence too – these two licencing societies being two separate entities that both did things in their own way, with the only thing in common being that if you played music without either licence, you’d find yourself in trouble. Times are a-changing, and in the words of the newly-created joint venture PPLPRS managing director Suzanne Smith, “it’s a new era for the music industry”. Having been two distinctively different licencing societies, the two, albeit still separate, have created a joint venture in order to combine the two societies’ public performance licencing activities for the better of the music industry. This being designed to “make life simpler for the many who rely on being licenced” through one contract, one invoice and ultimately – one licence.

With the two becoming one in the music licencing world, this will only bring advantages to the everyday business owner. Pointing people in one direction to manage their music licence will be more convenient and it’s likely that the overall amount of people that are caught out will end up decreasing. As the two licences slowly transition into one completely, it’s also likely that not only the business owners will be reaping the benefits, but the music artists too. TheMusicLicence is set to be one single invoice, rather than the two separate invoices as of prior, meaning if a business was going to buy one but wasn’t too aware of the other, this time they’ll be sure to be covered for both, thus recuperating the additional costs that otherwise wouldn’t have been paid to the artist and their record label.

Ensuring you’re legally playing music in your venue

If your venue enjoys playing live music or streaming music from a source such as a radio or TV, it is compulsory that such venue holds a ‘TheMusicLicence‘ – the double-up licence that ensures that the people who create music are fairly rewarded. The process of acquiring TheMusicLicence is as simple as following the new PPLPRS website through, choosing the venue category to best cover for your organisation, reviewing the quote checklist of which you’ll be asked about and then calling 0800 0720 808 from 8am-6pm Monday-Friday, in which a member of staff will help you work out your fee to pay. This fee varies depending on factors such as the type of venue and how you use music within such venue.

The way to ensure you’re legally covered is to pick up the right site licences to play music and utilise a background music provider such as soundjack who also pay a separate licence called a Dubbing licence. This licence is required as most digital systems make copies, or dubs, that are retained on devices and the copying aspect requires such licence to be present. soundjack, which is a managed solution for background music technology allows you to play a custom created playlist made to suit your type of venue or offer your consumer the chance to pick and play from your profiled music. Systems like Spotify or Apple Music may seem cheaper and more convenient when it comes to playing music in your venue, but unlike the service we offer, they do not pay the necessary dubbing fees to the music industry. By using soundjack it ensures you are paying the dubbing fees are paid as well as TheMusicLicence. Contact us for more information.

All this goes to show is that with the right licence or the right solution, you’ll be able to showcase the best music to your customers, giving them something to take in as they frequent your venue – whether that be a pub, educational establishment or a lobby. Plus, it should be known that there are many advantages to playing background music in your venue – from keeping customers longer to boosting customer spend.

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