Legal Hotel Background Music or Else Pay The Piper!

Legal Hotel Background Music or Else Pay The Piper!

Hoteliers Is Your Hotel Background Music Legal?


While the customer experience may seem alien to some businesses, there’s one industry in particular which practically invented the concept – the hotel industry.  Positive guest experiences are  considered the number one criteria that travelers use to select hotels – far outweighing price and location. According to the Harvard Review, customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had poor experiences. Clearly happy guests can help ensure that hotel revenues remain healthy.

This has eager hotel operators who want to enhance customer experiences and elevate their brands implementing a variety of techniques to accomplish this task. This includes everything from aroma and scent marketing, to the background music playing at their property. But, before incorporating a musical experience for your guest, you had better make sure of one thing first: “the music you’re playing is legal.”

The Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield found this out the hard (and expensive) way. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) which are one of three performance rights organizations who police the music industry, brought suit against the hotel for playing copyrighted songs without a license.  The ASCAP lawsuit is claiming up to $30,000 in damages per song. Thus, playing just four unlicensed songs could result in a $120,000 penalty—or up to $600,000  if the infringement was willful—plus the infringer may also be required to pay the opposing side’s legal fees and costs.


Be Knowledgable of Service Agreements

As noted above, ASCAP is just one of three P.R.O.’s – BMI and SESAC are the others. As you might have guessed you need to pay all three organizations which can also be a costly endeavor, as the fees and rate schedule depend on a variety of factors, including the size of your property, to determine the cost of the license. This can be up to a few thousands dollars per year. And if you think you can avoid all this by simply playing a streaming music service like Pandora – think again! The popular music streaming service (as with others) requires you to have a business license in order to legally play Pandora at your business. It’s right in their service agreement.


So What are Hoteliers to Do?

Although it would certainly be cheaper to just stop playing music altogether, music has long been a tool for guest engagement, plus there’s also added brand value when playing the right background music.  You can also have different music in different spaces. For example, you can have one style of music in your lobby, another in the spa, a different genre outdoors and yet another in your restaurant.

One of the best options available to hotels is to partner with a  business music service provider  which will not only take one more responsibility off your shoulders, but also handle the licenses necessary to play music, and also curate the content of such playlists.


The Bottom Line!

Do not let your eagerness to entertain and engage your guests cloud your better judgement. If you intend to play music at your hotel, it is important not to cut corners. In the era of custom playlists and streaming radio, access to music may be immediate, but it still comes at a price.



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