Main image courtesy of Nash Studio Inc. (all rights reserved)
Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, to YouTube do not allow commercial use (such as in bars, restaurants, stores, schools, etc).
Legally playing music in a restaurant is not as simple as just selecting a playlist which is why these music services for businesses exist (the Jessica Albacore Roll exists just cuz)
Going in, I HAVE NO CLUE about the legalities of what is and what is not legal which is why I will be learning all about these things as you learn throughout this post.
SIDENOTE: I can bet that Jessica Alba has never endorsed the white fish/albacore tuna/bincho roll of her namesake, so I’m sure she could legally shut it all down if she wanted to (no Jessica Alba’core roll for you).
The Legalities are Partially Based Upon the Size of Your Business
According to OpenTable, if your restaurant is:
- Smaller than 3,750 gross square feet you are exempt from paying. Just keep in mind, this also includes your interior and exterior spaces to serve customers (so parking areas are not included).
- Larger than 3,750 gross square feet it can still be exempt if you only play music transmitted via radio, television, cable, or satellite sources, and you don’t charge your customers to listen to music. Other stipulations include not having more than four televisions and six speakers.
For more details, I suggest you head on over to Open Tables article “Everything You Need To Know About Legally Playing Music In Your Restaurant” by Nevin Martell because there are a lot of other details that you will want to be clued in on/aware of.
Learn What a PRO is (not the sort of pro that can finesse a $20 out of your hand either)
PRO stands for “Performance Rights Organizations,” and they control public performance licenses.
The three major PRO’s in the United States are ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.), and SESA (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers), and you can pay these companies directly or through a licensed music solution (three of which I highlight below).
Free Music Seems Good Enough to Me… to an Extent
The Extent of Why it is Better to Be Legal:
I don’t know about you, but my primary criteria would be to have the music that I want to set the right vibe although the additional factors below could ultimately be the overriding factors in my decision:
- No worries about the legal liability (licensing) from the music you play in your business to events.
- Clean music/explicit lyrics filter (for family friendly venues).
- Commercial free.
- Music mixing (can be planned to match the different moods and tempo of the day).
- Services such as Cloud Cover allow you to do messaging (promote specials, social media, to branding opportunities).
These Companies Will Help You Do things the Legal Way
If dancing around legal and illegal just is not worth the hassle and liability, here are a few services that allow you play music legally in your business (all curated for your specific type of business from bars, cafes, gyms, hotels, offices, to restaurants):
Pricing: starting at $16.16/mo. (month to month starts at $17.95/mo).
TLDR: one of the industry leaders
Apple: 111.1MB, 3.8 out of 5, 6 ratings.
Google: 40MB, 3.3 rating, 15 total reviews.
- Do they offer anything specific for Japanese restaurants? Yes, this company specifically has a “J-popsu” channel.
Some of the tracks played are by: ONE OK ROCK, Kobukuro, Yumi Matsutoya, GReeeeN, Kana Nishino, Aqua Timez, Misia, X Japan, Utada, Mai Fukui (they also have K-pop hits too).
Notes: CloudCover seems to be the industry leader based upon their marketing because they tout Toyota, Sprint, Domino’s Pizza, Mercedes Benz, T-Mobile, McDonald’s to Tim Hortons (thousands of companies) trusting Cloud Cover Music for their legal streaming music solution
“Any time you play digital music in your restaurant, whether downloaded or streamed, copyright laws apply and you need to pay for Public Performance Licenses (PPL) from the appropriate Performance Rights Organizations.”– Cloudcover Music
Pricing: starting at $3/mo, or in app purchases: $2.99 (1) to $3.99 (5) playlist.
TLDR: Based out of Japan and they only do Japanese music.
Apple: 32MB, no reviews.
Google: 48MB, 3.1 stars, 7 reviews
- Do they offer anything specific for Japanese restaurants? Yes, and unlike all the other services listed, this company is a Japanese (Osaka, Japan) based company that specializes in Japanese music.
Some of the tracks played are by: well, by nobody you would know because from what I understand, the major difference with Nash is that all of their music are original tracks.
Notes: the founder of Nash music is Yoshinari Nashiki, so if you are an American, you might think “Nash” is short for Nashville. If you thought that, it’s actually short for “Nashiki.” As for their app, it’s very web 1.0 in regards to the visual design/UI, but it’s a fairly easy app to use. I should also note that I think this service would be great for YouTuber’s and other content creators.
Pricing: starting at $24.29/month with no commitment.
TLDR: a very aesthetically pleasing experience with a solid service.
Apple: 46.5MB, 4 out of 5, 124 reviews
Google: 36MB, 2.9 Stars, 72 reviews
- Do they offer anything specific for Japanese restaurants? Yes, with dumb AF name like “Miso Music” which is meant for sushi restaurants (let me guess, the Latin station is called “Burrito Barrio Music”) although they also have “Japanese Bathhouse which is traditional Japanese music.”
Some of the tracks played are by: Derek Fiechter, “Japanese relaxation and meditation,” Satomi Saeki & Michio Miyagi (these two artists are the predominant artists in both of the two playlist – the Bathhouse playlist has 330 songs/26 hours).
- Example of one of their playlists is “Summer Break 2019” which is 84% pop, 10% EDM, and 6% hip hop
Some of the tracks played are by: Alan Walker, Sabrina Carpenter & Farruko, Martin Garrix, Macklemore & Fall Out Boys, Ozuna, Tyler, The Creator, Kygo & Rita Ora, Calvin Harris, Khalid & Disclosure, and a whole lot more.
Notes: I like the site design, and I like their playlists (well, not so much with their “ching chong” like playlist names), but overall this company reflects its Swedish (Stockholm) roots with a great design aesthetic.
Misc. Other Services
- JukeBoxy, $24.95 (dedicated hardware available).
- Pandora for Business, $26.95/month + $99 Mood media player, and they tout themselves as the “#1 streaming music solution for business.”
- Rockbot, $24.95/month (how annoying, they aren’t upfront with their pricing).
- SiriusXM for Business, $24.95-$35.95/month
- SoundMachine, $26.95/month*, $29.95 monthly (*annual)
Going over all the specifics, I see the countless benefits of a paid service from the perspective of a business although from the perspective of the artist and industry, keep in mind the content you are utilizing to entertain your patrons are not necessarily always mega superstar artists. Some can be small up and coming artists that you will be supporting by keeping your operations legal….. think about that as you savor that Jessica Alba’core roll (be good because Jessica can taketh that roll away if aren’t).
- Cloud Cover Music: “The Restaurant Owner’s Guide to Playing Licensed Music”