While many businesses understand that music creates a certain atmosphere in their restaurant, bar, or shop, many businesses are still not happy to pay for using music, as they don’t understand where the money goes. What happens if you don’t pay?
If you are playing mainstream music in your business and not paying a license the composer / artist / band will potentially lose revenue. Royalty collection organizations or performance royalty organizations exist to collect revenue that is then distributed to the artists whose music is being played. If you do not pay, they don’t get paid.
You may think you have paid by buying the CD, streaming service or download, however, all you are buying in this matter is the right to consume the music for personal pleasure. This does not extend to business use and the collecting societies who look after the mainstream record labels and artists will charge you for using the music in your business. If you don’t pay or don’t stop playing the music, they will take legal action.
With independent music, you still have to pay a license, but in reality the independent artist or band is likely to not receive any payment. This is because payouts are based on statistics and the main beneficiaries of the payments are the popular mainstream artists at the time. Even in 2017 the way the payouts are determined is by a sample playlist, which involves a representative going and listening to what music is playing during their visit.
So, if you are playing a mix of mainstream and local bands and are paying your license, then the mainstream artists will get paid but the independent bands may not get anything. Even if you are only playing independent artists, they will still most likely get nothing as your money will go to the mainstream artists based on the statistics.
If you think about it, how many venues will be playing the likes of Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, Sam Smith, Adele, Rihanna etc. compared to your mate’s indie band. Even if your mate’s band is picked up on the sample (which is unlikely) the percentage of plays is going to be tiny.
An Alternative Method
Another way is to not play any mainstream artists, but just play music by independent bands and artists who are not registered with a PRO, such as PRS, ASACP or BMI. If they have registered with a PRO you will not be able to play their music without paying a license. Ironic, considering they will probably not get anything from it. You could argue that you would pay them direct with their permission, but some PROs will not accept this and still make the business owner pay.
However, if you had enough independent music that wasn’t in a PRO, and you paid the artist directly you would be good to go. While the quantity of music will be less, and you won’t be able to play any mainstream music the costs are a lot lower. In this arrangement you are basically paying the artist or band directly, or more realistically via a supplier / indie label who has a lot of music to offer. This can be for a one-time fee for a quantity of music or from a streaming service that allows you to play playlists of predetermined genres of music.
While some venues will want the latest big names playing, other businesses may be more flexible. For example, in a waiting room, a cafe, restaurant, small shop etc. you can create a perfectly enhanced atmosphere with carefully chosen independent music. Your objective may be more about setting a mood rather than playing recognisable music.
While independent music is going to be a lower cost and will benefit and provide an income to independent artists rather than to the top earners in the mainstream industry, it is down to who you prefer to pay and what your clientele will expect. Having said that, not having any background music at all is certainly going to leave your business lacking in atmosphere.
For more information about such a service, please see our Public Venue Music Service