Transforming The Customer Experience

Can I Play Music Purchased Online as Overhead Music?

Posted Jan 15, 2015 6:11:00 AM

ID-10076243Purchasing music through an online service such as iTunes or Amazon is a convenient way to get your hands on a nearly-infinite number selection of genres, artists, and songs.

However, when you spend 99 cents to download your new favorite song, you don’t technically “own” that song. You’re basically buying a license for personal use of that song.

With "personal use," you can listen to that song as many times as you want in the comfort of your home, your vehicle, through headphones…you get the picture. It’s for you to use in your private setting.

What you cannot do is play that song out loud in public, whether overhead in your restaurant, or on a guitar at your bar, or even over your phone lines when you place callers on-hold. This is considered “public performance” and you need a different type of license in order to use the song for any of these purposes.

While it may seem simple to curate your own selection of music for your establishment (just download music from the Internet, plug in your iPod and press play!), if you don’t have public performance licenses for every song, you’re breaking the law.

It may not seem like a serious offense to you, but in reality you’re stealing from copyright holders. Licensing companies such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC send field agents to investigate potential offenders, and you could end up with a lawsuit on your hands.

So, what’s the cost for legal public performance song use?

There are several music licensing companies, each offering a blanket license that covers their associated artists. The cost depends on the occupancy of your establishment, whether you’re using live or recorded music, and a few other factors. If you’re going to do it yourself, the simplest solution is to obtain a blanket license through each of ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. This will cover all the artists associated with each of those agencies. On the lower end, you’ll probably end up paying $1,500 per year to play your selected music.

On the other hand, when you work with a full-service company like Spectrio, you’ll be completely covered as part of your service agreement. We obtain all necessary synchronization and public performance rights so you don’t need to worry about extra costs or hiring a copyright lawyer just so you can play music in your establishment.

If you’d like more information about music licensing, feel free to visit any of the links below. And if you’re interested in a simple, straightforward way to obtain legal overhead music for your business, we’d love to hear from you!

Call us at 800.584.4653 or contact us here.

Performing Rights Organization Resources

(Image courtesy of fotographic1980 at