A guide to music licensing

What is a public performance licence?

Music licensing is something of a legal minefield. Understandably, many business owners don't understand why they have to pay for music licences over and above paying for the music itself. And from not just one but two separate organisations in most countries. The PRS and PPL in the UK.

Our short guide to music licensing explains what your legal obligations when playing music in your business premises are, and how it is that by using MusicStream excusively you can avoid these obligations and associated costs:

  • When a business plays music to customers or staff it's classed as a public performance (as opposed to personal use). Public performance requires a licence so that money can be passed back to the rights owners.
  • PRS (the Performing Rights Society) represents the composers and publishing companies that own the copyrights in the song / composition. It collects public performance licence income and distributes back to the rights holders who register their compositions with the PRS.
  • The purchase of a CD only grants the owner limited rights - for example for personal use - it does not give the purchaser the right to publicly perform or broadcast it. That right is what you are paying for when you purchase a PRS licence and it is a legal obligation.
  • It's worth mentioning that the likes of iTunes and Spotify are not licensed by the rights owners (labels & publishers) to be used for business use in any event - whether you have a PRS and PPL licence or not!
  • PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd.) has a similar role but for recordings rather than compositions. It is the collection agency for the owners of the 'master recording', i.e. the physical or digital recording itself rather than the piece of music, typically a record label and its recording artists. In the U.K. it is also a legal obligation to have a PPL licence to play sound recordings in public in most situations.
  • The tariffs that the collection agencies apply are notoriously complicated and many small businesses only become aware of their licensing obligations when they are pursued by one or both of these bodies.
  • Tariffs are calculated based on various criteria, for example audible area, which can result in huge bills for larger sites.
  • To avoid paying these fees you must play rights-inclusive music exclusively in a given defined space.

All MusicStream tracks are 'rights-inclusive'

There are many terms used to describe music that requires no performance licence inclusing royalty-free, rights-inclusive, rights-paid, licence-free. MusicStream buys the rights or acquires licence agreements for Music not registered with the collection agencies and we then licence it directly to you, so you no longer have to deal with PRS or PPL. 

Unlike consumer streaming services like Spotify and download sites like iTunes (that are illegal to use in a commercial environment), MusicStream is designed for business.

  • Find out how we source our 'rights-inclusive' music. read more iconMore
  • How does MusicStream work? read more iconMore
  • Features and pricing. read more iconMore
  • Frequently asked questions. read more iconMore


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