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3 weeks ago

Everything You Need to Know About Music Licensing

Amid the hustle and bustle of running a small business, ensuring your company stays on the right side of the law is essential. Something often overlooked is the legality of playing music on your premises. This guide will help you understand music licensing in the UK, making it easier to remain compliant.

Why Businesses Use Music

Music can be a powerful tool for small businesses, enhancing the overall customer experience and setting the tone for your establishment.


Music can create a welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere for customers. Whether it's calming jazz in a cafe or upbeat pop tunes in a shop, the right music can positively influence mood and behaviour.

Brand Identity

The music you choose can help define your brand identity and differentiate your business from competitors. By selecting music that aligns with your brand values and target audience, you can reinforce your brand image and leave a lasting impression on customers.


Music can serve as an icebreaker and create opportunities for engagement with your customers. Whether discussing a song playing in the background or sharing playlists on social media, music can foster connections and strengthen customer relationships.


Music can be used as a marketing tool to promote special events, sales or promotions. By incorporating licensed music into your promotional efforts, you can capture attention, generate excitement and drive foot traffic to your business.


Playing music in the workplace can boost productivity and morale for businesses with employees. Studies have shown that music can improve mood, reduce stress and increase focus, leading to a more positive work environment and higher employee satisfaction.

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Understanding Music Licensing

Before delving into the specifics of obtaining licenses, it's essential to understand the fundamentals of music licensing in the UK. Licensing involves obtaining permission from copyright holders to play their music in public settings.

There are two primary organisations responsible for licensing music. The first is PRS for Music, which collects and distributes royalties for the public performance of music on behalf of composers, songwriters and music publishers. On the other hand, PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) licenses recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers.

Determining What Your Business Needs

Every business is unique, including its music licensing requirements. Before proceeding with licence applications, take the time to assess your specific needs.

Type of Music

Determine whether you'll play live, recorded or both on your premises.

Size of Your Premises

Consider the size of your business premises, as this may impact the type of licence you need.

Nature of Your Business

If your business serves alcohol or hosts events, you may have additional licensing obligations. These types of businesses usually require some form of music licensing:

  • Shops

  • Offices and factories

  • Hairdressers and salons

  • Cinemas and theatres

  • Hotels and B&Bs

  • Restaurants and cafes

  • Pubs, bars and nightclubs

  • Social clubs and members’ clubs

  • Sports grounds and sporting facilities

  • Gyms and health facilities

  • Bingo halls and casinos

  • Public transport

  • Churches

Staff and customer in record shop

Obtaining the Required Licenses

Once you clearly understand your licensing needs, it's time to secure the necessary permits.

PRS for Music Licence

Visit the PRS for Music website to initiate the license application process. Provide comprehensive details about your business, including the type of music you intend to play and the size of your premises.

PPL Licence

Head over to the PPL website and submit your licence application. Like the PRS process, you'll need to offer information about your business operations and music use.

Local Authority Licensing

Check with your local council to determine whether you need additional licenses or permits to play music on your premises. Requirements may vary depending on your location and the nature of your business.

Compliance and Renewal

Obtaining licenses is the first step, but maintaining compliance is equally important. Non-compliance can have severe repercussions for your business.

Keeping Records

Maintain meticulous records of the music you play and where it comes from. Accurate record-keeping demonstrates your commitment to compliance.

Licence Renewal

Ensure that you renew your licences promptly to avoid coverage lapses. Set reminders well before expiration dates to stay on top of renewals.

Penalties and Fines

Authorities may impose fines or penalties of up to £5,000 for playing music without the required licences. The severity of the violation can affect the extent of the penalties.

Risk of Closure

In extreme cases of non-compliance, authorities may order the closure of your business, potentially resulting in severe financial losses and reputational damage.

Seeking Professional Advice

If you need more clarity about your licensing requirements or find the application process daunting, seek professional advice.

Legal Counsel

Consider consulting legal professionals specialising in intellectual property rights and music. They can offer valuable guidance tailored to your specific business needs.

Licensing Specialists

Reach out to licensing specialists who can assist throughout the process and ensure you meet all regulatory requirements.

Man playing guitar in a recording studio

Royalty-Free as an Alternative

For small businesses in the UK, royalty-free music offers a convenient and cost-effective alternative to traditional licensing agreements. It may not sound ideal, but it's worth considering. With royalty-free options, SMEs can enjoy the benefits of music without the associated complexities.

Royalty-free music typically involves a one-time licensing fee or even free usage options, coming pre-approved for commercial use. A wide range of royalty-free music is now available, spanning various genres and styles. Professional composers and musicians around the world work hard to produce high-quality, royalty-free music, giving small businesses access to tracks that can provide a great benefit.

Bowing Out

Navigating the intricacies of music licensing may seem daunting initially. Still, with the proper knowledge and guidance, you can ensure compliance while enjoying the benefits of playing music on your premises. Take the time to understand your licensing obligations, obtain the necessary permits, and maintain meticulous records to safeguard your business.

Harmonising with Business Broadband

If your business will be playing music from an online streaming platform like Spotify or Apple Music, a consistent Wi-Fi connection is essential. Finding a broadband deal for your business can be a formidable task, with a wide array of providers, plans and technical details to consider. At BusinessComparison, we simplify this challenge by making securing the perfect broadband deal straightforward.

Credit Solutions for SMEs

If your business has incurred an unexpected fine related to inadequate music licensing, a credit card is a good solution for prompt payment. Choosing the right business credit card is essential for effective financial management. Compare options based on rewards, interest rates and fees. Select a card that aligns with your business needs and offers valuable perks.

Let us Help Your Business

We help you compare essential business products and services, ensuring you get the best deal and helping you with your bottom line. Save time and money with us by comparing today.

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Sam White