What Options Do Businesses Have For In-Store Overhead Music?

What Options Do Businesses Have For In-Store Overhead Music?

in-store music, overhead music, business music, background music, music for business

When it comes to welcoming customers and encouraging sales, the way a store sounds, is just as important as how it looks. Music does more than soothe the savage beast, it also affects the perception of brands, and influences the customer experience as well as buying decisions.

Many business owners attack the in-store music problem by raiding their MP3 library and trying to build their own playlists, playing a radio, or by using unlicensed consumer music services like Spotify. There are numerous pitfalls when you resort to these options for your in-store music, which we’ll cover below.

Most businesses understand the value of using music to influence their guests’ experience, but few understand how to use in-store background music strategically and the best practices for doing so. Therefore, we’ve put together our list of do’s and don’ts, as well as the best “legal” options for choosing the right in-store music.

1. Make Sure It’s Legal!

While there is certainly a lot of thought that should go into your in-store music, one thing you “must” do before hitting the play button, is to make sure it’s legal! Does every business comply with these rules? Absolutely not. There are widespread violations and non-compliance, (sometimes willfully).

Music is protected by copyright law, which provides exclusive rights to copyright owners to perform or play their songs. If someone plays music without permission, they are infringing on the copyright, and copyright law allows the owner to recover damages ranging from $750 per violation, to $150,000 if a court decides the infringement was willful.

The reality is that this scenario is common, especially in the bar and restaurant industry. Business owners are often caught off-guard when they are held liable for copyright infringement (the unauthorized use of a person’s copyrighted work, see 17 U.S.C §501) due to simply playing music in their establishment.

PRO’s (Performing Rights Organizations) such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC have been around dating back to 1914. They are organizations responsible for collecting royalties on behalf of copyright holders (e.g. singers, songwriters, music publishers, etc.) And, with the digital age, also comes a new policing organization to the industry, SoundExchange, which collects royalties solely for digital public performances, which includes satellite, Internet radio, and cable television music channels. These organizations are notorious for sending out their “watchdogs” to enforce licensing requirements.

PROs hire investigators that visit businesses to see whether songs are played without a license. When they sue, they usually don’t lose! Last year, in Range Road Music, Inc. v. East Coast Foods, Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found a California business violated copyright laws when it played music without a license. The court awarded the Performing Rights Organization (PRO) nearly $200,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

2.Avoid Playing Radio

You must absolutely avoid using commercial radio stations for your in-store background music! Why? You can’t control the content, and since radio stations play advertiser commercials about every 15 minutes, they may hear a competitor’s commercial and hold-off on their purchasing decision or even worse, not stick around and head-off to the competition.

3. Ditch The Dish

If you’ve ever tried to watch satellite television during a rain storm, then you know the pain of not being able to receive the signal! Satellite delivered music requires a dish or receiver on the business end and, as the term implies, a satellite up in space. A signal is beamed from the music provider up to the satellite and down to each location. Clear, uninterrupted reception is often influenced by bad local weather. A rainy or snowy day can mean no music. In addition, satellite music most often requires a dish to be installed. Many businesses don’t have access or landlord permission to a roof or an unobstructed outside area for a satellite dish.

4. Don’t Just Press Play On Pandora or Other Internet Radio

It doesn’t take long before the MP3 playlists get stale and repetitive. The constant stream of competitor commercials and senseless chatter on FM radio turns that option cold quickly, and consumer services will often earn an SMB a threatening letter from the music licensing police.

5.Keeping Pace With Hassle-Free Music Delivery Solution

With internet delivered music, all that’s needed is the receiver, amplifier and speakers. No computers or dish. The receiver plugs into an Internet outlet and the music is streamed over the internet. Our internet media player is designed to have a small footprint on a local network; we use low bandwidth to achieve our high quality sound.


Jazz Example:


Classical Example:


Music is essential to many businesses for creating an engaging customer experience. Businesses such as retailers, restaurants, hotels, spas and coffee shops offer music to enhance the ambiance of their businesses and entertain their customers. At the Original On Hold, Inc. not only is every aspect of the consumer experience mapped out and created with a great deal of thought and attention, much of it is rigorously researched, tested, and optimized. We’re all about music for business, and creating an immersive brand experience for your customers.

Have questions about in-store music for at your business? Let us know in the comments section below, and our  music designers will be happy to give some expert advice.

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