Pay BEFORE You Play: Why Music Licensing Matters

Does your business need a license to play music? Do you really need a music license just to play cover songs?

Music licensing is not something to gamble with. Spotify recently settled a class action lawsuit for more than $43 million after failing to pay publishers and songwriters when they streamed their music. While Spotify’s business will survive, what happens when a business cannot absorb the costs associated with copyright infringement?

A local St. Louis blues bar, called Beale on Broadway, was recently sued by Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI). BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC are performing rights organizations that represent artists and publishers. These organizations represent singers and songwriters and require restaurants and other venues to pay for the music that they play. This arrangement allows businesses to play copyrighted music without fear of a lawsuit for music copyright infringement.

Unfortunately, Beale on Broadway did not obtain a license from BMI.  They have been sued for allowing a cover band to play copyrighted music in their venue.

Copyright law is very unforgiving. The statutes often dictate that if a copyright has been infringed, a defendant has to pay staggering damages that could upend them financially. (Before Spotify’s settlement, the damages were upwards of $200 million.)

In case you’re wondering how BMI found out about cover songs playing in a small St. Louis bar, note that performing rights organizations employ “undercover” representatives to visit venues in search of music copyright infringement.

Does your business or band need help with music licensing? Contact one of our copyright attorneys today.

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