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Small Business

Are You Breaking the Law by Streaming Music at Your Business?

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Topics: Small Business

October 18, 2018

A recent Nielsen Music study of 5,000 small businesses discovered that 87% of business owners are illicitly playing music for customers at their place of business with streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. The practice is so widespread that songwriters, composers, and musicians (small business owners in their own right) are getting short-changed $888 million annually in the United States alone! Luckily, there are perfectly legal ways to play music at your business, and plenty of incentive to do so. By playing music that fits your business’s branding, you can improve customer loyalty, and see huge gains in revenue.

Why Playing Music at Your Business Makes Sense

Having a clear marketing plan and running a loyalty rewards program are great ways to boost brand loyalty among your customers, but equally important is creating an ambiance that resonates with your customers when they visit your business. That’s where music comes in. Research shows that playing music that is in line with your company’s branding can have a startling impact.

  • Customers spend  42.2% more time in stores when background music with brand-fit is played, compared to no music at all. (Source)
  • Average sales increase by 31.7% when brand-fit background music is played, compared with when incongruent background music is played in a store. (Source)
  • Brands that strategically use music that fits their brand identity are 96% more likely to be remembered compared with those that use non-fitting music or no music at all. (Source)

The key takeaway here? Music can keep your customers happy and spending more, but it has to match the personality of your business and your customers.

What’s NOT Legal When it Comes to Playing Music at Your Business

A majority of small businesses are playing music illegally, but it’s not because they are trying to rip-off of musicians. According to the Nielsen Music study, 86% of businesses are willing to pay for music, and in reality, most already are paying for music—they just don’t realize they have only paid for a personal license, which doesn’t allow them to play the music at their place of business.

With a few exceptions, you are NOT allowed to play music for your customers or employees from any of the following sources:

  • Streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music, even if you pay for a personal subscription
  • Digital downloads you lawfully purchased from sites like iTunes and Amazon
  • CDs, records, and other physical recordings you have lawfully purchased
  • Satellite radio subscribed under a personal subscription

How to Legally Play Music at Your Business

Thankfully, there are legal options out there for playing music at your business, both free and paid. Obviously, the paid options give you more control when it comes to fitting the music to your brand. These include the ability to choose from a multitude of playlists crossing multiple genres of music, as well as curating your own playlists.

Vintage Radio

Free Options

  • Play publicly broadcasted radio. It should be easy enough to find a local radio station that plays an appropriate style of music, but unfortunately there’s no getting around the commercials and DJ chatter, which are major turn-offs to many customers.
  • Stream classical music from a public domain music streaming site. Music written prior to 1922 is in the public domain, so you can play it without having to pay for it. Only problem is that classical music and other public domain music isn’t the right fit for every type of business.

Paid Services

  • Soundtrack Your Brand. This popular service is backed by Spotify and offers a multitude of music options for only a bit more than a personal subscription costs, with no special hardware requirements.
  • Pandora for Business. Pandora teamed up with Mood Media, allowing you to license your personal Pandora playlists to play at your business. Like the Spotify-backed streaming service, it costs only a little more than a personal subscription.
  • Cloudcover Music. An affordable streaming service with channels that are branded by business type, such as coffee shops, retail, restaurants, and more.
  • Sirius XM for Business. Access to a 100 business-friendly channels, including 30+ that are branded by genre with no commercials or DJ’s talking.

Whichever (legal) option you choose, make sure the music you play fits in with the overall brand identity you've created for your business. Do that, and you just might see customers coming in more frequently and spending more when they do.

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