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Licences to Rock: Ensuring your business is licenced to play music

We’ve dealt recently with quite a few queries in respect of the playing of recorded music in public places and how to keep on the right side of the law.

The general position is that the public performance of recorded music generally requires two licences: one from PRS for Music and one from PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd). A common misconception is that a PRS licence is sufficient but in the vast majority of cases this is unlikely to be the case. If the venue puts on live music and never plays any recorded music then it is possible that only a PRS licence is required but such circumstances are likely to be rare.

PRS for Music and PPL are completely separate organisations representing different interests and legal rights in the music industry. PRS for Music generally represents composers who own the copyright in the composition. PPL generally represents the record companies which own the copyright in the sound recording. Whenever you play music using radio, TV, Spotify, CDs, jukebox etc in public then both licences are required and separate licence fees will be payable.

So what is meant by playing music in public? It is a broad definition and will cover everything outwith a home environment. As such offices, bars, restaurants, shops, garages, factories, hairdressers and public events will all be covered. There are some exceptions if music is played in medical treatment areas, certain types of holiday accommodation and private family events but these will depend on the particular circumstances.

PPL,_UK_LogoThe cost of the relevant licence is calculated based on various factors such as business type, number of staff, the use of the recorded music, the size of the premises and the capacity of the venue. It is possible to apply for the relevant licences online or by contacting PRS for Music and PPL by telephone.

In order to make things easier, PRS and PPL have recently started issuing a joint licence to cover factories, offices and garages with 4 or fewer employees where music cannot be heard by customers or visitors to the premises and the annual cost of this licence is £88 plus VAT.

PRS for Music and PPL are active in monitoring business premises and enforcement and will pursue businesses they think owe them money. If you wish to play recorded music but do not wish to pay for licence fees then it is possible to find royalty free radio stations and music – however, you’re not going to be able to play the latest chart toppers by Taylor Swift and Pharrell Williams (or other artists depending on your tastes!) which might be the very thing that creates much of the atmosphere in your premises.

It is recommended that specific advice is sought in respect of your premises if think you require a PRS and PPL licence or consider that one of the exemptions applies.

If you have any questions in respect of PRS and PPL licensing then please contact Angus McGuire on 01383 721 621.

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