The Dark Side of Using Music Apps for Background Music at Your Bar or Restaurant

If you walk into a bar or restaurant and don’t hear music, what do you think? You’re probably going to assume the establishment is closed. Ambiance in your bar or restaurant is just as crucial to the guest experience as the food and service—and the music is one of the most important factors in achieving a perfect vibe.

Phone laying on keyboard displaying apps with headphones next to it

Today, access to music is easier than ever—with a click of a button or a tap of your finger you can have a playlist running and tunes pumping within seconds. Sounds easy, right?

Using online streaming apps or making do-it-yourself playlists may seem like the easier and cheaper option, but what are you really risking when you just use an app and/or ignore music licensing laws for bars and restaurants

What seems like a simple solution and money saving measure may end up giving you twice the headaches, hurting your brand and costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits.

In this article, we'll go through what you’re risking by using “free” music—it may not be as simple as you think.


What’s more annoying or time-consuming than computer glitches, viruses and system crashes? Not only can a broken computer system slow down your service, it seriously impacts your records and costs big bucks to fix.

It's not like it's as risky as the days of grabbing Linkin Park off Limewire, but still, when your computer system touches every aspect of your business, are you willing to put it all at risk for free music?

If you add in the costs associated with potential system slowdowns, crashes and repairs, using a “free” service can wind up hitting your bottom line harder than paying for a secure system.


When planned with purpose, your background music and playlists can effectively create ambiance that helps elevate your brand. Guests will return expecting that signature vibe and experience; a consistent sound is imperative to creating a consistent experience.

While some free apps offer ready-made playlists, you risk playing a song that may contain offensive lyrics or contrast your brand unless you spend the time to review each song on those lists. There's also little wiggle room to remove individual tracks from pre-packaged playlists, for the most part. You’ll likely have to spend time building your own lists from scratch.

In many “do it yourself” music scenarios, the playlist is at the mercy of your staff and can change according to who is working that day. It’s great to have happy and engaged staff, however, a system that doesn’t set perimeters can result in a sound that doesn’t suit your brand or provide a consistent experience—especially if your establishment has multiple locations.

It's a matter of spending hours building appropriate playlists and surrendering control over your brand consistency.


Plan and simple: playing music without a license in your bar or restaurant is a copyright violation and you could be sued.

Think it won’t happen to you? Think again. Copyright infringement lawsuits usually don’t end favourably for the accused—and you could be looking at anywhere from $750 to $150,000 PER violation.
So if you’re currently streaming “free” music, or thinking about it, it’s time to examine what it’s really worth and what you’re willing to risk.

The good news is that there are affordable solutions out there that can ease your worries and help you avoid all of these risks—and the best part is you can actually SAVE money, time and add value to your guest experience while you're at it!

Let us show you how:

See how it works!

Creative Services Team

Learn how Control Play will WOW your guests with innovative video experiences!Schedule A Live Demo

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