Tips to Help Restaurants and Bars Save Money on Music Licensing

Posted in News on September 7, 2004
Restaurants and bars that depend on music to entertain customers can save money on music licensing fees by following simple tips provided by BMI, a non-profit-making company representing 300,000 songwriters and music publishers.

BMI grants businesses legal permission in the form of a music license to play copyrighted music. While the daily cost of a BMI license is about the same as a soft drink at most restaurants, the music tab increases in businesses which rely heavily on musical entertainment to generate profits. According to BMI, these tips will keep the sound of music easy on the bottom line and the ears of customers.

1. Join a restaurant or licensed beverage association. Many state associations and some national groups have agreements with BMI which can shave another 10% or more from the cost of your license. Call BMI at 1-800-925-8451, send them e-mail at, or go to Licensing to get names of participating associations.

2. Report promptly to BMI any changes in the way you use music. The amount of your licensing fee may be affected by factors such as charging admission, providing live music, or offering karaoke nights. BMI's license for eating and drinking establishments provides for changing music policy up to three times per year by phone.

3. Pay music licensing fees promptly. BMI gives eating and drinking establishments a 10% discount for timely payment.

4. If your business uses only customer-played music on a vendor-owned jukebox, the vendor may have already secured the necessary license. If you operate a traditional jukebox, you may qualify to save money by licensing through the Jukebox Licensing Office (JLO). Contact the JLO at 1-800-955-5853 or e-mail them at

5. Provide accurate information to performing rights organizations about how you use music. Periodically confirm with them that your fees are appropriate for your music use, and thereby assure that you are not inadvertently paying too much.

A music license is a contract giving businesses the legal right to play copyrighted songs, either live or recorded, in public places such as restaurants, stores, hotels and stadiums. Without permission from a songwriter or the performing rights organization representing that songwriter, only the copyright owner can play a song lawfully in a public place. Most of the songs written in the last century are protected by copyright, regardless of the composer's nationality. BMI represents 300,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers with a catalog of approximately 4.5 million songs, as well as musical works from around the world.


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