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In-store music has the power to set the mood in your establishment and motivate customers to buy. It reflects your brand and changes customer behavior.

With the right in-store music, you can convince people to spend more, eat faster, order more drinks, or make buying choices that increase your average purchase size. It’s no wonder that so many companies choose to play overhead music from the moment their doors open.

However, adding music to the buying process is more complicated than plugging in Pandora and choosing a few playlists.

Just last year, 25 businesses in the Tampa Bay Area faced lawsuits for playing music publicly without a license. These organizations settled for various amounts ranging from $10,200 to $62,501.

Before you start broadcasting the latest hits or encouraging your customers to relax with soft melodies, make sure you’re not in the legal red zone. Here’s what you need to know about getting licenses for in-store music and the companies that offer them.

What Music Types Are Illegal to Play In Businesses?

The first step in the overhead music process is understanding whether the music you’re currently playing is illegal. To help, here’s a quick checklist of popular types of background music found in small businesses.

If you use any of these music sources, you’re putting your company at risk of major fines and legal battles because of unlawful use.

  • Music played from personal devices (like a smartphone)
  • Music played from CDs
  • Music streamed from Pandora or Spotify
  • Broadcasting music from television programming

Businesses can stream Pandora if they pay to cover the removal of commercials and if they invest in a business Pandora account that pays the cost of licensing fees. However, many businesses don’t realize they have to do that and simply use their own free personal accounts hooked up in the store.

How Can You Play Music Legally In Your Business?

If you want to play in-store music legally, then you need to acquire music licenses from at least one company in the industry. There are several to choose from, but most people work with the top four because of their vast libraries and genres to choose from.

Most companies will typically pay $1,500 per year to cover the cost of music licensing.

This includes a blanket license with a few of the top organizations. However, larger businesses and companies that need niche uses for music rights (like for live performances) will typically pay more.

If you work with an agency that specializes in music licenses (like Spectrio) then it should be easier to obtain legal permission to play music. You won’t have to work with the licensing organizations on an individual level and might get a better rate for blanket coverage.

Even if you think $1,500 is a steep price to play music for your business, consider paying a $10,000 fine instead if you’re caught without one.

What Are the Top Companies that Offer Music Licenses?

There are four major companies that offer music licensing that you have likely heard of: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR. Each company has different artists and business practices to attract musicians and licensees. Here’s what you need to know about each of these licensing organizations, including their size, business practices, and types of artists represented.


ASCAP is the second largest PRO in the industry. It boasts more than 640,000 creators sharing more than 10 million songs. With an artists following that strong, licensees can find some of the best names in the business or promote up and coming artists that are still trying to make money off of their music.

ASCAP boasts a variety of genres ranging from music theatre and TV to Jazz, Latin, Hip-hop and Country. It was the first PRO in the nation and has been operational since 1914.  

Broadcast Music Inc.

BMI just edges out ASCAP in the size and number of songs offered through its services. It currently represents 800,000 songwriters and their 13 million musical works. It has been operational since 1939 and has offices across the globe, including Los Angeles, London, and Puerto Rico.

Approximately one out of two songs played on the radio is licensed through BMI and this organization represents performers from more than 90 countries. Whatever music you want in your store, this company is likely to have.  

SESAC Performing Rights

SESAC is smaller than ASCAP with 30,000 affiliated songwriters sharing more than 400,000 songs. However, just because it is small now doesn’t mean it should be overlooked.

It offers music by some of the top names in the industry (making it a favorite of licensees) and promotes fair pay practices for artists. For example, it was the first company to pay royalties monthly instead of quarterly, making it a favorite of many artists.

Global Music Rights

While Global Music Rights is one of the smaller choices out of the big four options, it’s rapidly growing and serves as a platform for many budding artists and legacy performers. This is a great option if you’re looking for highly-specific music for your business that isn’t already covered by ASCAP or BMI.

All of the music we offer is fully licensed and complies with industry regulations. You can rest assured that the music you play is completely legal and licensed appropriately for your business!

Essentially, this means you won’t have to worry about working directly with the companies or choosing songs based on the licensing brand. You can focus on creating amazing overhead music playlists and choosing interesting songs while we take care of the licensing management and payment agreements.

Don’t Put Your Business At Risk With Unlicensed In-Store Music

If you’re opening a new business (or have been playing music illegally) and want to include legal overhead music to match your brand, contact Spectrio to discuss our overhead music solutions.

We make it easy for you to create playlists and select certain artists and songs based on your goals.

Plus, our licensing agreements with the top four companies make your playlists completely legal, allowing you to relax and focus on other parts of your operations.

Don’t think twice about playing illegal music. Contact us for a comprehensive and legal plan.