Do You Play Music at Your Business?

Many of our members play music in their retail stores, cafes and other public places. But have you considered whether you’re infringing copyright laws and licensing agreements? Until OneMusic Australia launches this year (2019), members may need to take out separate licences with APRA AMCOS and the PPCA. If you don’t obtain these licences, you could face hefty fines and other legal consequences. This brief article will help members remain compliant.

Copyright considerations

A musical track can have more than one copyright owner:

  • the composer owns the copyright to the musical work;

  • the songwriter owns the copyright to the lyrics; and

  • the producer owns the copyright to the sound recording.

The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) protects copyright owners and gives them exclusive rights to:

  • make copies of the track;

  • perform the music in public places such as cafes, retail outlets and restaurants; and

  • communicate the track to the public.

Members should remain careful not to infringe the rights of copyright owners by playing music in their shops, cafe or public spaces without permission.

Streaming services

There are two types of music streaming services: B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business). Apple Music and Spotify are both B2C. The licences under each of these services are for private, non-commercial use. Playing music through these services in your retail shop, cafe or public space would be a direct breach of the following terms and conditions:

  • Spotify: “You promise and agree that you are using the Content for your own personal, non-commercial, entertainment use and that you will not redistribute or transfer the Spotify Service or the Content.”

  • Apple Media Services: “You may use the Services and Content only for personal, non-commercial purposes.”

Any breach of these clauses could render you liable for damages for breach of contract and copyright infringement. This is because artists and composers are entitled to different compensation if their music is used in a business.

To play music in your retail shop, cafe or public space, you need to obtain appropriate licences.

Obtaining licences

In Australia, there are two licensing frameworks protecting the reproduction and playing of music in commercial settings:

  • the Australasian Performing Right Association/Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (APRA AMCOS) administers licences concerning the composition of the musical work and lyrics; and

  • the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) and the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) administers licences concerning sound recordings or music videos (for example, the CD or music in other formats).

APRA AMCOS and the PPCA are simplifying the process of obtaining the requisite licences. In 2019, restaurateurs and cafe owners will be able to buy a ‘blanket’ licence through OneMusic Australia. Until then, members need to take out separate licences with each of these organisations.

For example, the Restaurant and Cafe Licence Scheme provided by APRA AMCOS allows business owners to play music in their establishments and on their websites. On the other hand, PPCA Public Performance Licence Scheme is for the use of protected sound recordings and music videos.

The price of the licence package depends on how you intend to use the music. Members should contact the relevant organisations to determine the most appropriate package for your business.


Members who don’t want to pay the annual licensing fees to APRA AMCOS and the PPCA, may decide to:

  • play royalty-free music;

  • contact the music supplier directly; or

  • use a background music supplier that provides you with the required licences.


Penalties for copyright infringement are varied. A court may order an injunction against you. This means it would stop you from playing the music in your café or retail store. Alternatively, a court could fine you up to $60,500 if you are an individual and $302,500 if you are a corporation. If you are playing through a paid streaming service, you may also be liable for damages for violating the terms and conditions of your subscription.

Aside from the legal consequences, any breach of copyright may damage the reputation of your business. The Chamber recommends its members to take out appropriate licences and to remain compliant at all times.

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