Public Performance Music Licensing For Restaurants

Background music licensing fees for bars and restaurants can seem complicated and even frustrating—but they don’t have to be! Control Play provides background music and music video services exclusively to casual dining restaurants, sports bars, pubs and neighbourhood bars. Part of the service to our subscribers is helping to navigate through the requirements for their bar and restaurant’s licensing fees for the public performance of copyrighted content.

In the USA, most public music is licensed through ASCAP, BMI, Global Music Rights or SESAC. They're professional organizations who act as agents for their members—publishers, composers, and songwriters—to negotiate the music public performance license agreements and fees that protect artists’ work.  

Creating a rich playlist with a variety of music will no doubt include artists represented by all or most of these organizations. You can choose to work with each organization directly or use the assistance of a commercial music service to provide the rights with their service. Control Play makes music licensing easy— we have agreements with all four organizations which allows our clients to play licensed music without any fear or hassle. 

Whether you're working with Control Play or any other commercial music service, you need to understand exactly what their agreement covers.  

A commercial music service license for a bar or restaurant doesn’t give your establishment the right to:

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

And—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 if you understand your responsibilities.  For more information about Control Play and music licensing for your restaurant or bar, contact us directly To learn more about restaurant music and guest experience, download our Background Music Guide here:

Background Music Guide

Jim Juniper

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