Music Licensing for Restaurants: Everything You Need to Know


As a restaurant owner, you understand the importance of creating the perfect ambiance for your customers.

Music plays an integral role in creating the perfect ambiance for your restaurant. From setting the mood to enhancing the overall dining experience, music has a significant impact on customers’ perception of your establishment. However, as a responsible business owner, it’s crucial to obtain proper music licensing to avoid legal troubles and support the artists behind the music. With various options available, including PRO licenses, commercial streaming services, and direct licenses, it’s easy to find the right music licensing solution for your restaurant. Remember, investing in proper music licensing not only protects you but also supports the music industry as a whole. So go ahead and create the perfect dining experience for your customers with the right music, legally obtained through appropriate licensing.

The Danger of Unauthorized Music Streaming

Federal law states that any commercial establishment wanting to play copyrighted music in any form must first obtain the correct license. When businesses simply plug in a Spotify playlist, or any other personal music streaming service including Apple Music, YouTube, Pandora, SiriusXM, iTunes, Amazon Music or Tidal, they may violate copyright laws.

The consequences of copyright infringement can be severe. Take, for example, the case of Meadowlark Bar in Denver, which was sued for $27,000 for playing copyrighted hits after they stopped paying the licensing fees. Similarly, The Blue Moose Bar & Grill in Topeka is being hit with a lawsuit seeking damages over unlicensed use of just two of the songs they play, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Play That Funky Music.”

In the U.S., copyright infringement is a federal crime, and violating music licensing laws can be penalized with hefty fines ranging from $750 to $30,000 per infraction, although penalties for “willful” infringement can climb to $150,000. Furthermore, the plaintiffs can also seek reimbursement for their legal fees. To avoid such costly litigation, it’s crucial to understand the various music licensing options available for restaurants.

What is Music Licensing?

Music licensing refers to the process of legally obtaining permission from copyright holders to use their music in a public setting. In this case, as a restaurant owner or manager, you will need to obtain a public performance license, which gives you the right to play music in your establishment. This type of license is different from the one used for personal use, such as streaming music through headphones or playing it in your car. The public performance license is required because the music you play in your restaurant is considered a “public performance” and thus requires special permission from the copyright holder.

The Misconception About Personal Streaming Services

It’s a common misconception that playing music from your personal digital library or streaming account does not require a music license for restaurants. In reality, consumer music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon Music, Tidal, and Pandora are designed for personal, non-commercial use. Their terms of service explicitly state that these services can’t be used publicly or in a business setting.

If you misuse these services for commercial purposes, you may be engaging in copyright infringement – which could make you liable for fines. Searching through the terms of service for various streaming platforms, and navigating the complex intellectual property landscape, is time-consuming and mistakes can expose a restaurant to legal risks. That’s why it’s essential to obtain a proper music license for your restaurant and avoid using personal streaming services.

Types of Music Licensing for Restaurants

  1. Performing Rights Organizations (PROs)

The two major PROs in the U.S. are ASCAP and BMI, which represent over 90% of all musical works. These organizations collect fees from businesses that play music in public and distribute the royalties to the artists. As a restaurant owner, you will need to obtain separate licenses from both ASCAP and BMI to cover all the music you play.

  1. Music Streaming Services for Businesses

Music streaming services like CloudMusic offer commercial licenses specifically designed for businesses that offer customizable playlists and cater to different types of establishments, from bars and restaurants to retail stores and hotels.

The Importance of Compliance

These cautionary tales serve as a stark reminder of the importance of compliance when it comes to restaurant music. Big companies as well as small business owners can be targeted for lawsuits if they don’t comply with copyright law. For this reason, it’s essential to secure the proper music licenses.

Generally, businesses need labels, publishers, and performing rights organization (PRO) licenses to play background music in their establishments. In Canada, the performing rights society is [SOCAN](

The Benefits of Proper Music Licensing

Apart from avoiding legal troubles and supporting the music industry, obtaining proper music licensing for your restaurant has additional benefits. These include:

  • Increased customer satisfaction: By curating a suitable playlist that aligns with your customers’ preferences, you can enhance their dining experience and leave a lasting impression.
  • Building a unique brand identity: The music you choose can help distinguish your restaurant from others and create a distinct atmosphere for customers to remember.
  • Increased foot traffic: Music has the power to attract passersby and entice them to step into your restaurant. A well-curated playlist can be a great marketing tool for your business.
  • Better employee morale: Good music can also improve employees’ mood and productivity, creating a positive working environment. # End of Document. # End of Text.

The CloudMusic Solution

CloudMusic offers a solution to this common dilemma. By providing fully licensed music specifically curated for businesses, CloudMusic ensures that restaurant owners can enjoy a diverse selection of tracks without the fear of copyright infringement.

By partnering with CloudMusic and obtaining the necessary licenses, restaurant owners can enjoy peace of mind knowing that they are supporting artists, protecting their businesses, and providing customers with a memorable dining experience. To avoid risks, a service like CloudMusic will provide legal, compliant, hassle-free music streaming for restaurants – allowing you to save time and money!

Don’t let the complexities of music licensing laws put your business at risk. Take the necessary steps to ensure compliance and create the perfect soundtrack for your restaurant with CloudMusic.

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