Can I Play Music in my Restaurant?

Can I Play Music in my Restaurant

Music sets the mood for a relaxing and memorable stay in a restaurant from a customer’s point of view. We usually hear classical music when we step into a fine dining restaurant, while we hear soft rock to alternative pop music in a casual diner (mostly aired from the radio). In some diners though, they have a jukebox to play music. You see music soothes the soul and it in some ways define our very moods, which is why we can relate a lot to it.

Music in an establishment

In some countries, playing any type of music, whether it is in a restaurant, a bar, or any public place is allowed. Airing songs from the TV or the radio is also allowed. However, in some countries like Canada, the US and UK, playing music in your establishment is not allowed. Singers, songwriters and music labels spend time, effort; resources and intellect to produce the music that we enjoy today, and it is only fair that, just like a worker who did his job right, musicians also want fair treatment.


The music that we hear anywhere is someone’s intellectual property and is therefore protected by copyrights law. This means that only the copyright owners have the right to play or perform their songs, and if someone uses their music without permission, they will face a big fine that the copyright owner can declare to recover damages ranging from $750 per violation, to $150,000 if a court elects the violation deserves it.

Should you get a license?

Depending on the size of the establishment, the owner must secure a license before airing or playing any type of music.

  • Cd’s and purchased music online – Any type of music that you purchase, should only be for your private use. If you intend to let the public hear it, like play it over your restaurant, necessary licensing fees apply.
  • Live Music – aside from paying the band, you also need to pay for copyrights on the songs that your band is going to play, unless they are playing all originals.

How to Get a License

Songwriters, composers and music label companies join one of three Performing Rights Organizations that authorizes their work to the public, and those are the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and SESAC . The PROs send royalties to the copyright owners.

It is better to get a blanket license from each of the PRO’s which allows the licensee to play any of the music from each PRO’s library. In any case, playing music comes with a price.