You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of playing music in your business. It draws in new customers, engages existing customers as they browse your shop, and makes wait times seem more meaningful. However, music comes at a price – if you don’t play by the rules set forth by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), you could face steep fines.

When you pay for a streaming internet music service like Pandora or Spotify, you might think you’re in the clear if you use it in your shop since you’re already paying a fee, but that’s not the case. Streaming music, even paid subscriptions, are meant for personal, in-home use.

What Am I Getting When I Pay for Streaming Internet Music?

Streaming music companies offer two basic ways to listen: free and subscription services. Free listening services rely on ad revenue to bring a profit, while paid subscriptions offer a break from ads or minimal ads during your listening time.

If you’re listening to a free streaming service in your store, you’re not paying anything toward the songwriters and copyright holders of the songs you’re streaming. This means that using free streaming services in your store is illegal. You’re making a profit, by way of customer engagement, on someone else’s work.

Additionally, if you use a paid or subscription streaming service, you’re also committing an illegal act. The fee you pay for the service is going to the company providing the music, not the songwriters or copyright holders of those songs. So even though that company paid to use that specific catalog of songs, they weren’t intended for use in a commercial or business setting.

To couch it in business terms, streaming music services are B2C, not B2B. The one exception to this is Pandora Business, which secures the rights to the music, but there are still problems you can encounter if you choose this option.

What Can Happen if I Stream Music in my Store?

If you’re streaming internet music in your store and it isn’t rights secured, you could face legal action. ASCAP and BMI both investigate instances of intellectual theft and the illegal use of tunes. You could potentially face thousands of dollars in fines per song. This adds up rapidly if you stream music all day, every day to keep your customers and staff engaged.

On top of the fines, you’ll need legal representation and might have to pay court fees. If the fines and legal fees don’t bankrupt your business, you’ll still need to purchase a license if you still want to play music in your shop.

These expenses are nothing compared to the hit your reputation will take if your shop is at the center of a legal controversy. While the old cliché “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” might hold true for some things, in the age of social media, your customer base can now tell you exactly what they think of every move you make. One wrong move or poorly thought-out response can make your customer base dwindle to zero, so why risk it?

Other Problems with Streaming Internet Music in your Store

Let’s say you’re not worried about the legal repercussions of using streaming internet music in your store, even though you should be. There are still major issues with the practice.

The first major problem is that you have little to no control over the content of songs. Digital streaming music services aren’t governed by FCC regulations, so profanity isn’t censored and songs with sexual, violent, or otherwise questionable content are fair game for airtime. Even if these song elements don’t bother you, they might bother your customers.

The second problem you’ll probably encounter is abrupt tempo changes. Even if you create a playlist heavy in artists that favor up-tempo beats, the streaming service can assert itself and insert some slower songs when you don’t want them.

Let’s say you’ve created the perfect mellow list. You’ll still get one or two songs that are high speed. The abrupt tempo and mood changes aren’t really a problem when you’re streaming music at home, but in a business setting where you’re trying to create a specific ambiance, they can be jarring.

Similarly, live tracks, unplugged versions and tracks with added commentary from the artists, which can be off-putting to some customers, might find their way into the rotation of a streaming music service.

The next problem is repetition. Streaming services generally pull from a limited pool of songs. They know you’ve got favorite artists and tracks, so they’ll circle back to those on occasion. Even Pandora, which boasts the “music genome project”, designed to seamlessly offer up tracks to meet your tastes as long as you keep giving them input on what they play, will still cycle back to what you like every so often.

Competitor Advertising and Technical Difficulties

As if all of these problems weren’t enough to deter you from using a streaming music service in your store, you’ll find that free services play ads every few songs. Some of these ads might be totally unrelated to your business – and you might very well find yourself giving air time to a competitor at some point. They wouldn’t do it for you, so why do it for them?

Technical problems can also arise when your Internet connection fails. Should your WiFi signal drops out or the computer you’re using to stream the music goes down, you’ll be dealing with sudden silence throughout your location. Any number of additional problems can happen when you bring technology into the equation.

If you’re trying to censor songs or change the track whenever something you dislike or feel is inappropriate comes on, you’ll find that you and your staff might be spending more time at the computer and less time serving your customers. And when customers have to wait because you’re fiddling with your streaming music service, complaints will rise – guaranteed.

Even if everything is okay on your end, the biggest sites experience downtime every now and again. If you’re relying on a streaming music service to (illegally) play music in your store, you’re asking for frustration.

Options for Playing Music in Your Store

Paying for a licensed catalog of music for your store eliminates virtually all of the problems associated with streaming music. The biggest problem – legality – is eliminated when you opt for a service that provides a catalog of music to choose from. If an ASCAP or BMI representative walks into your store, you’ll have proof that you licensed the music for business use.

There’s no reason to worry about questionable lyrics or content or a change in tempo because you’re in control of what’s being played. You’ll be able to create a different playlist for each day of the week from your catalog, decreasing the risk of repetition. You can even switch it up at will with easy-to-use software. Eliminate the risk of having competitor ads and insert your own sales messages into the mix. Since everything is set up beforehand, you and your staff will be more attentive to customer needs instead of fiddling with your music services.

As far as technical issues, some are unavoidable, but using a service with a dedicated technical service team means any issues are solved as soon as they’re detected.

Schedule a demo with Spectrio today to see how a licensed overhead music system can benefit your business.