What Song License Do I Need for a Business or Brand?

Published December 8, 2022

Music streaming apps like Spotify and Pandora should allow you to play music anywhere for any reason, right? Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that, especially if you’re playing music for a business or brand. So, before you begin streaming your favorite Spotify station at your new business location for your patrons, you need to read this.

What Is a Song License?

A song license—also known as a music license—is the permission an artist gives a business to use their songs at their location or within their brand. For artists to permit their music to be played, they must have the work copyrighted. A copyright is the artist’s exclusive rights to their work.

A copyright protects the artist’s work and allows the artist to choose if they want to allow someone to use their music. An artist gives a business or brand permission to use their work through a song license. If a business or brand fails to obtain a song license and uses an artist’s song, the business or brand is subject to copyright infringement.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement is when you—a business or brand owner—use a copyrighted song in a commercial setting that you did not pay for through obtaining a song or music license.

Copyright infringement is often discovered through video recordings of a business and posted on social media sites. You may be able to hear music being played in the background of the location of the video, triggering a copyright infringement claim.

The penalty for copyright infringements can vary. In the best-case scenario, the video with the copyrighted music playing in the background will be removed from the social media website. The worst-case scenario—what we’re trying to avoid having to happen to you—is that you are hit with hefty copyright infringement fines or taken to court.

What Type of Song License Do I Need?

A song license will be classified as performance or non-performance. A performance music license grants a business or brand permission to use the song for commercial gain. An example would be a dance studio using a song to choreograph a performance. The song is used solely to perform in a commercial setting for a business or brand.

A non-performance music license permits a business to play songs as background noise. No performances are being done while the music is playing. An example would be a doctor’s office waiting room that plays music to entertain patients and break up the silence as they wait.

Think about what type of business or brand you have and ask yourself if you need the music so that customers can perform to the song, or does the music simply need to act as background noise to break up the silence? This will help you determine if you need a performance or a non-performance music license.

Which Song License Should I Choose?

The good news is that you can choose a song license from all the PROs we listed above! This gives you the certainty that you will not be committing copyright infringement.

All you need to do is contact the PRO and request to obtain a license. There is often a step-by-step process on their website to walk you through the process of obtaining the right music license for your business. You will need to pay the annual fee to comply with the license so that you can play the songs without copyright infringement.

When Should I Obtain a Music License for My Business?

We recommend obtaining a music license at the same time you obtain your business license to stay on the same renewal schedule. A business and music license will need to be renewed each year.

If you have already gotten a business license, you should get a music license as soon as possible so that you can begin playing music in your business without copyright infringement.

The cost of a music license may also vary depending on your business type. A larger business with more space or performers may have to pay more money for a music license than a smaller space that does not use performers.

Royalty-Free Music and Live Performers

Songs composed in 1926 or earlier are considered public domain and have no copyright protection. You do not need a music license to play public domain songs in your business or as part of your brand. You can also use live performers at your business. This allows your business to play music without obtaining a music license while promoting a local artist.

Final Thoughts

You will need a song license for your business or brand if you plan on playing music for commercial purposes. If you plan to use music for both performance and non-performance purposes.

The music license permits you to play music in your business and protects you from committing copyright infringement. The music license will need to be renewed each year so that you remain in compliance. If you fail to renew your music license, you lose permission to use the music in your business.