Playing Music on Your Premise

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The legality surrounding music licensing and playing music in your brewery/distillery is a hot topic. So hot, in fact, that CBC had a seminar on the topic (“Pulling Back the Curtain on Music Licensing”).

Happening closer to home (that is if you live in NC):

The latest edition of the North Carolina Lawyers Weekly magazine highlighted a civil lawsuit where the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers is suing a strip club in South Carolina and two restaurants and a bar in North Carolina for playing songs (C+C. Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat,” Lenny Kravtiz’s “Fly Away,” and Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen”, just to name a few) without paying for licensing fees. Monetary damages range from $750 to $30,000 for each cause of action.

If you play music in your brewery, distillery, taproom, or restaurant then you probably (or should) know that you need to abide by certain licensing regulations. Performing rights organizations (PROs) serve as an intermediary between you, the restaurant/brewery/distillery/taproom, owner and songwriters. Some PROs are: Broadcast Music Inc., the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, and Global Music Rights.

How do PROs work? You pay a fee to the PROs for a general license that grants permission to use all of the music each organization represents, and the PROs distribute the fees and operating expenses to the songwriters, publishers, and composers. Each PRO has a different storage music because the licensing and royalty fees for each songwriter, publisher, and composer differ. Usually each PRO has an online database where you can search for what music that PRO has available

I use Pandora for music. Do I have to pay a fee?

Pandora’s “term of use” specifically prohibit businesses from streaming music without setting up and complying with the terms of a paid Pandora business account.

What is public performance of music and what is the performing right?

A ‘public performance’ includes any music played outside a normal circle of friends and family. Songwriters, composers, and music publishers have the exclusive right to play their music publicly and to authorize others to do so under the copyright law-this is called the ‘performing right.’

“All Rights Reserved” means that playing the movie or song before a public audience is prohibited unless you obtain permission.

We purchased our own iPod, CDs, and gaming software to play. Can’t we play this anywhere?

When you buy an audio file, software, or a CD the purchase price only covers your private use. Once you decide to play any copyrighted music publicly, you need permission from the copyrighted owners.

Do we need a license to use radios and/or TVs?

Any food service or drinking establishment that is 3750 square feet or larger, or an establishment that is not a food service or drinking establishment that is 2000 square feet or larger must secure public performance rights for TVs or radios if:

If the business is using any of the following in regard to a TV:

  • More than 4 TVs; or
  • More than 1 TV in any one room; or
  • If any of the TVs used has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches; or
  • If any audio portion is communicated by more than 6 loudspeakers; or
  • If there is any cover charge.

If the business is using any of the following in regard to a radio:

  • More than 6 loudspeakers; or
  • More than 4 loudspeakers in any one room; or
  • If there is any cover charge; or
  • Music on hold.

As you can probably tell, music licensing is very complex! So, before you play your favorite Pandora station or turn on SirusXM radio, think about if you’re complying with music licensing rules.

Contact us!

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to email me at or or call 919-335-5291.