Thursday, February 13, 2014

The 411 on music licensing for restaurants

Music licensing companies collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed. Restaurants or businesses that play music from recording artists or have live musicians performing previously recorded music must pay license fees to these companies. The three largest companies that license music are BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Businesses may periodically receive requests for payment from these companies. It is important to pay what is owed to all three companies. Late fees and penalties for non-payment could add up to, in some cases, thousands of dollars.

Musicians are frequently hired to perform at restaurants and bars. Many times, the Louisiana Restaurant Association gets asked the question: Why should my business be responsible for a licensing fee for the music that is played, when the musician is the one performing the song? A short, simple answer to that question is that your business is receiving a benefit from the live music being performed there.

Background music played over a sound system can provide ambiance to a restaurant. To mitigate the costs of that form of entertainment, restaurants can purchase a business package from a music service, a cable company or satellite radio company. The contract should stipulate that the company from which you are buying the service is responsible for any music licensing fees.

Broadcast Music, Inc. currently represents some more than 6.5 million compositions — a number that is constantly growing. As a result, BMI has, over the years, implemented a number of technological innovations in its continuing effort to gather the most accurate information available about where, when and how its members’ compositions are played or performed, as well as ensuring that royalty payments are made in as precise and timely a manner as possible. Call at (800) 925-8451 or visit

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) has partnered with BMI to provide an association discount program. Members receive a:

  • 5 percent discount on BMI licensing fees
  • 5 percent online discount for licensing and/or paying at
  • 10 percent timely payment discount for paying your fee in full within 30 days of invoice
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is a membership association of more than 410,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers of every kind of music. Through agreements with affiliated international societies, ASCAP also represents hundreds of thousands of music creators worldwide. ASCAP is the only U.S. performing rights organization created and controlled by composers, songwriters and music publishers, with a Board of Directors elected by and from the membership. Visit


Formerly the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, SESAC was founded in 1930 to serve European composers not adequately represented in the United States. Though the company name was once an acronym, today it is simply SESAC and not an abbreviation of anything. With an international reach and a vast repertory that spans virtually every genre of music, SESAC is the fastest growing and most technologically adept of the nation’s performing rights companies. Visit

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