Playing music in your business? Here's what you need to know!

Customers are more attracted to your business if music is playing in the background than if they are greeted by silence. However, keep in mind that the performance of music can be subject to the payment of license fees. Music creators, such as composers, lyric writers, and performing artists have copyright on their works and need to be paid a fair royalty when their works are performed and used by others. 

Music that is no longer subject to any copyright restraints due to copyright expiring is considered to be in the public domain, so you can play it freely. But if copyright protection still exists then you’ll need to pay to use it.
How long does copyright protection last?

Copyright lasts for the lifetime of the artist, the remainder of the calendar year in which they die, and for a further 50 years. In other words, copyright expires on December 31st of the 50th year after the artist dies. 

What is “public performance of music”?

Public performance of music for most businesses consists of background music that is playing over speakers in the workplace, hold music on a telephone system, and music in elevators. If you use social media to promote your service/product (for example making videos with catchy tunes in the background), then that music too could be subject to licensing requirements.
Who do I pay to play?

There are two main agencies that collect the royalties:

  • SOCAN, on behalf of composers, authors and publishers; and
  • Re:Sound on behalf of performing artists and record companies.

The Copyright Board of Canada sets the fees and these agencies collect and remit the fees to the music creators. 

There may be other licensing agencies involved; check out the Connect Music Licensing website for more information, and to ensure you are covering all necessary payments.
Most of the license fees are based on how the music is played and the square footage of the area where the music can be heard.  If you receive an invoice from Re:Sound or SOCAN it’s important to double-check the information they have to ensure you are paying the correct fee. Both companies have fee calculators on their websites to help you budget for payments.