Many businesses stream music for their customers to enjoy while shopping, eating or getting their hair done. It may seem innocent enough, but if you are using someone’s personal playlist or stream, your business is likely engaging in copyright infringement.

Anyone who plays a song in a public space, regardless of whether it is playing from your computer or phone, needs a public performance license. This protects artists from their music being used unfairly without compensation paid to them.

Illegal streaming hurts musicians

When you stream illegally at a business, musicians are missing out on a lot of potential income for their music. A recent study by Nielsen Music showed the problem is widespread. According to Forbes, musicians are missing out on $888 million a year from small businesses playing personal music streams. The same survey found that 71 percent of small businesses believe it is legal to play their personal music in their places of work.

Where is the line for streaming use?

It is perfectly legal to stream your music at home. However, when you play music from a service like Spotify, your licensing agreement limits this to personal use. Playing your music over a speaker at work is considered a public performance, not personal use.

What is the alternative for businesses?

You may be wondering how you can legally provide music for your customers to enjoy. A business can play music on a radio or a TV and not breach copyright laws. There are also several business-to-business streaming services that provide playlists for a monthly fee. Some, like Soundtrack Your Brand or Pandora for Business, do not cost much more than personal streaming services.