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When opening a restaurant, bar, retail store, or other brick and mortar business, background music is an important piece of consideration. Making sure you're doing things legally, installing a high-quality audio system, and choosing the right type of music can be time consuming, but hopefully the following information can provide you with some guidance.

Note: This article includes affiliate links where the author may receive a commission.

Why You Should Play Music in Your Business

Music is an important part of any business. It covers up unwanted noise and dramatically improves the customer experience, and can work to compliment other atmospheric elements.

According to Uncovering a Musical Myth, a survey about music in a business setting, a lack of music can result in a negative customer experience. 32-41% of respondents said they would react negatively or very negatively to the absence of music, which means they may leave your business without making a purchase.

Additionally, the wrong choice of music can bring negative results...

Alternatively, the right music can bring positive results...

With these survey results, it's obvious that music is extremely important for a business setting. Unfortunately, many businesses don't get it right...

With the information provided in this article, you'll stand above other businesses by maintaining a positive experience with the right choice of audio systems and background music for your business.

Business Music Licenses

Obtaining a business music license is an important part of making sure you're in compliance with U.S. copyright law. There are many different options for playing music legally in your business, such as getting licenses from the performance rights organizations (the PROs - BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC), or subscribing to a background music service that specializes in music for business use.

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Choosing a background music service to handle the complicated and time consuming licensing process is a simpler approach, but if you'd like to take a DIY approach, here are the steps you need to take to ensure compliance with copyright law.

1. Do you Need a License to Play Music in Your Business?

Most likely, the answer is yes. Most businesses do need a license to play music in their business. However, there are some exceptions under U.S. copyright law, which I've outlined in a previous post.

2. Who do You Need Business Music Licenses From?

The short answer to this step is to obtain licenses from all three of the PROs. However, legally speaking, you only need licenses from the PROs that represent the songwriters of the songs you'll be playing.

To save time, I'd recommend you just get licenses from all three PROs. Most songs, especially popular ones, have multiple songwriters, which means one song can require a license from BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC collectively. However, if you think you may be able to cut out one of the PROs from your licensing payouts, you can check their databases to see which of the songs in your playlist are covered by each organization.

There's also a fourth PRO that you may need to get a license from called Global Music Rights. They're relatively new, and extremely small, so it's likely that you won't need a license from them, but it's worth a mention.

3. How do I Get a Business Music License from BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC?

Once you've determined that you do need to pay to use music in your business, and who you need to pay, simply go to the PROs websites and fill out the required forms.

If you have any other questions about music licensing, check out this posts: 13 Common Questions About Licensing for Business

Commercial Audio and Sound Systems for Business

This part of the article includes content provided with courtesy of Crutchfield.

Looking for a commercial audio system?

It's important to choose a commercial audio system that meets your business's needs. Maybe you just need the same music playing throughout your restaurant, or maybe you've split your retail store up into sections, each with a different style in need of a different playlist.

Commercial audio systems are set up much differently than home audio systems. Often times, these sound systems require custom wiring for speaker placement. While not all commercial sound systems are designed the same way, the following information can introduce you to the basics.

Check out this video for information on how commercial audio systems differ from home audio systems, provided by Crutchfield.

Parts of a Commercial Sound System

There are 4 basic parts of a commercial audio system.

1. The Audio Source

The audio source is where the music comes from. This can be an iPod, CD Player, or computer. With a properly set up audio system, you can even play music from different sources in different parts of your business.

2. The Amplifier

The amplifier powers the audio system's speakers that are placed throughout your business.

3. Volume Control

This controls the volume for your sound system. If your business has audio split into sections, there may be multiple volume nobs, each controlling a different section of the overall audio system.

If you're interested in how to differentiate the levels of volume in your audio system for different areas of your business, check out this video:

4. Speakers

The speakers should broadcast the beautiful sound of your music selection, and should blend nicely with your decor. You can choose in-ceiling speakers, mounted speakers, or even environmental, weatherproof speakers that can be discussed as rocks or easily hidden in bushes.

For more information about commercial audio system design, check out this article by Crutchfield.

Things to Consider When Buying Speakers for Your Business

Shopping for commercial speakers can be overwhelming. You want the sound in your business to maintain a high quality to reinforce the image of your brand.

Here are some questions to ask when choosing speakers for your business.

1. What type of speakers do you need?

There are a variety of speaker types you can choose for your business. For a high end restaurant or bar, in-ceiling speakers or may be the best choice. Alternatively, pendant speakers (cone-shaped speakers that hang down from the ceiling) may be best if you're seeking for a modern design. Consider the speakers that best represent your style and provide the best quality for your businesses music.

2. What tools, equipment, or accessories do I need to get everything connected?

In order to connect your source to play through your speakers, you'll need an amplifier. It's important to choose an amplifier that can power your entire sound system. You'll also need wire and volume controls (for different channels if necessary).

3. Who will put it together?

Unless you're an audio expert, you'll likely need someone to install your audio system for you. In many areas, it's legally required that a qualified professional put together your audio system for you, so check with your local authorities before attempting to go it alone.

If you'd like to install the sound system yourself, many sound system design firms like Crutchfield can offer post-purchase technical assistance. Alternatively, you can hire an electrician (typically less than the cost of an installer) to run the wiring and install the system.

Choosing the Right Music for Your Business

Choosing the right type of music to use in your business is an important part of creating a memorable experience for your customers. As previously mentioned in this post, many businesses get music selection wrong. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right music for your business.

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Pick a Music Style that Matches Your Business's Style

The most important part of music selection is to make sure the music matches the rest of the atmosphere. If you have an Irish pub, but you're playing punk rock, your customers aren't going to experience a level of atmospheric immersion that will bring them back. Play music that matches the decor of your business, and strongly reflects the products you sell.

Here are some examples:

  • A coffee shop that buys coffee from small farms should feature independent singer/songwriter music, reinforcing their cultural values.
  • A retail store selling high-end products with a modern look should play modern, upbeat music, such as EDM or Pop.
  • A Hookah bar with an Indian theme should play music from India, not American music.

It's all about atmospheric consistency. Give your customers the chance to become fully immersed in your business, and they're more likely to tell their friends about it.

Pay Attention to Tempo and Volume

The tempo of a song refers to how fast it is. Fast-paced music with higher levels of volume causes increased heart rate, which results in people moving more quickly. For restaurants, this can result in higher levels of table turnover, but for retail stores, this means customers will spend less time lingering, and could decrease average checkout dollars. Take careful consideration to the tempo of the songs you select for your businesses playlist.

In terms of volume levels, be careful about having your music too loud. Louder volume does resemble a modern atmosphere, but can distract from other elements of your business and cover up conversations between customers, which can result in a negative experience. Over 44% of those surveyed in Uncovering a Musical Myth said that music being played too loud would cause them to leave, so choose a volume level that's high enough to reinforce your atmosphere, but not so loud that it covers up conversations between customers.

Choosing the Right Mood for Your Music

Musical key is the element of a song that determines it's mood. Minor key songs have a sad sound, while major key songs typically convey happy emotions.

For most businesses, choosing major key songs is the way to go. While minor key songs are much more emotionally appealing, the potential to result in a negative emotional state among customers risks causing them to build negative perceptions of your brand.

If you need additional tips specific to your type of business, check out our guides for coffee shops, restaurants, car dealerships, and hookah bars.

Alternatively, if you need a background music provider for your business, check out Dozmia for Business

Hopefully this guide provided you with everything you were looking for in terms of music licensing, installing a sound system in your business, and putting together the perfect playlist to reflect your atmosphere and brand.

Thanks for reading!

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