4 Important Tips to Navigate Restaurant and Bar Music Licensing

It’s no secret that most patrons are looking for a certain ambiance when they select a venue for a night out. The right music is the most important ingredient for effectively creating ambiance in your bar or restaurant. Venues without arrangements to pay licensing fees, however, risk losing this vital element. 

Close up on vinyl record with Control Play logo in top right corner

What’s a bar or restaurant without music? Background music licensing for bars and restaurants can seem complicated or frustrating—but it doesn't have to be. Control Play can help you understand and navigate the requirements and limitations of your bar and restaurant’s music licensing fees.


1. Know who’s in charge

In the USA, most public music is licensed through ASCAP, BMI or SESAC: professional organizations who act as agents for their members (publishers, composers and songwriters) to negotiate the music license agreements and fees that protect artists’ work. Building a rich playlist with a variety of music often means you’ll face music licensing fees from each organization. However, Control Play makes music licensing easy for you— we have agreements with these three organizations and more, which allows our clients to play licensed music without the headache.


2. Know what you DON’T get

So you have a standard music license—that means you can hire a live band and set up a karaoke night, right? Well, the answer is: probably not.

A standard background music license for a bar or restaurant usually doesn’t give your establishment the right to:

  • allow a DJ to play music
  • hire a live band to perform
  • use a karaoke service
  • charge a cover
  • use any other music sources such as radio, television, CD, karaoke or MP3 players

That’s right, even playing music off your phone requires a special license.


3. Know your TV limitations

Most standard music licenses don’t include music or music videos from TV programming. According to the National Restaurant Association, if your restaurant or bar is 3,750 square feet or larger, you’ll need a special public performance rights agreement if you’re using any of the following:

  • more than four TVs
  • more than one TV in any one room
  • any TV with a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches
  • if any audio from the TV is put out by more than six loudspeakers, or four loudspeakers in any one room or outdoor space
  • if there is a cover charge

It’s a lot to remember, but it doesn’t have to be complicated…


4. Make it easy on yourself

Save yourself the headaches and let us take care of your restaurant or bar’s background music licensing for you. For more information about Control Play and music licensing for your restaurant or bar, visit or contact us directly at

And for more info on background music licensing, talk with one of our experts and see a live demo for yourself:

Music licensing live demo

Creative Services Team

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