Playing Music in a Public Venue

If you are a business or venue owner trying to avoid Performance Rights Organizations (PRO) fees, such as PRS, PPL, ASCAP, BMI etc. we have an option for you.

We can offer a PRS-free music service where the music can be played in public in the safe knowledge that it is not in any PRO and therefore no PRO has a mandate to charge you any additional fees.

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The Important Facts about Playing Music in Your Business Venue

If you are a business owner looking to play music in public and have found your way here, you will have probably already encountered PROs (Performance Rights Organizations) such as PRS, PPL, ASCAP, BMI etc. You may have realised that all mainstream music is registered with PROs and that it can be costly to play that music in your venue.

Myth: Royalty Free Music can be used to avoid paying PROs 

Generally speaking Royalty Free Music can not be used in your venue to avoid paying Performance Rights Organizations. This is because in reality most royalty free music is registered with PROs and this gives the collection societies a mandate to collect royalties for its use. However, there is a smaller subset of royalty free music that can be used, which is purposely not registered with any PROs.

Why is so much Royalty Free Music registered with PROs?

This type of music is created by independent composers who are looking to earn money from their music in as many ways as they can. In reality an independent artist has got a close to zero chance of earning any income from public use of their music by registering with a PRO. However, being in a PRO also gives them the best chance of being paid if their music gets played on TV or Radio. This is the primary reason they register. 

Can't the composer allow me to pay them directly for using their music? 

This is not a simple yes or no answer because music copyright can be complex and some PROs literally take rights away from the composer. A composer can give a waiver on the PRO element of his / her music which means their music can be used royalty-free in many situations where traditionally a PRO would charge a royalty, such as on-hold music and corporate video for example. However, most PROs do not like venues and businesses trying to avoid paying a license and some PROs will use the small print to avoid composers directly licensing music to venue owners. 

The bottom line

Don't expect that using any music labeled or sold as royalty free, stock music or copyright free music will get the PROs to leave you alone. The only time PROs will leave you alone is if the music is NOT in a PRO. If it is, or some of it is, they will persist.

If your aim is to avoid paying PROs you must use music that is clean of PRO registration and you cannot play any that is in a PRO. This means you must not play mainstream music in your venue in any form whatsoever. If you do, you risk legal action from Performance Rights Organizations.

Only use royalty free music that is not registered in a PRO *(And never will be). Or use a streaming service specifically aimed at offering independent music to venues and business owners.

*(And never will be) ??

This is important. Just because a piece of music is not registered with a PRO it does not mean that it never will be. The composer could be registering music at a later date, which means that a PRO has a mandate to collect royalties for it being played from that date onwards.

Some composers may have not got round to registering their music yet, whereas others are purposely not registering it as part of their business model to allow direct licensing of it. 

Be clear that the royalty free music you are licensing is PRO free in order to allow it to be used in public venues. If there is a possibility that it will be registered later you could be back where you started.

This is the reason we specify PRS Free Music differently from not in a PRO in our library. 

  • Not in a PRO means that isn't in one now, but doesn't rule it out being registered in the future.
  • PRS-free music is intentionally being kept out of a PRO to allow continued use of it in public venues.

Unless the supplier specifically tells you that it can be used in public and that allowing this is part of their business model, do not assume that it will be ok to use.


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