Any of you have licenses to play your radio or jukebox?

I keep getting letters from BMI saying I need to buy their licenses or they can come in and arrest me for having the radio turned on and fine me $150k

And after reading their “fine print”, it also says they are not the only licenses place that you have to get music licenses from, they only cover about 50% of the songs on the radio. There are 2 other places in the USA I would have to get licenses from just to have the radio on.

The longer I’m open the more irritated I get with this kind of crap just popping up out of no where.

Ideas? Thoughts?

Thanks all

Get your music from Sattelite or Cable TV subscription. I think if you have a commercial account with either vendor, then you can play their channels - which can include SIRIUS for music.
Better than radio anyway, as you get to avoid all the Round Table commercials, etc…

well, I have an “AMI” Internet Jukebox that I get though a vendor… it has the state sticker and all that on it, but according to the BMI fine print, your still at fault. (i dont see how that works)
But I also have karaoke on Saturdays and DJ on Fridays, which again, i’m at fault for them singing covered material :roll:

The “2 other places” you’re referring to are ASCAP and Sesac.

BMI and ASCAP together will cover about 90% of popular music. Sesac generally has more obscure artists.

I have ASCAP and BMI licenses for mechanical music. We then use an MP3 player for our dining room and hand select all of the music. That way, we play exactly what we want and have our own advertisements shuffled in with the music. The licenses are about $150 each for the year; not too expensive.

I don’t think the mechanical license will cover Karaoke though, only the recorded performance. I think you start getting into the realm of publishing licenses for Karakoe or cover bands… you’re not using the recorded version, but are using the melodies and lyrics.

Copyright law can be a PITA, but if you’ve already gotten notice from them it would probably be a good idea to get legal. The RIAA will NOT hesitate to sue you.

BTW, MM is correct that a commercial satellite subscription will cover you; the licensing fees are included. But, that will not cover you for Karaoke or a DJ.

Wow,I guess here in the Philly area these licsenses don’t exist or are not pushed at all because I never heard of such a thing!We have a vender and thats it.


We use Musak service and that takes care of it.

What if I hook up my stereo or computer and play whatever I want to play? I just don’t get it. Any needing a license to turn on the radio!!! They are the ones broadcasting that over the air, if I play it, how can I be sued. I am sorry guys but I just don’t get it.

He is the argument and theory they make . . . .

When turning on a radio, or other music source playing copyrighted music, we are using their product to enhance or generate our business. The radio station pays their licensing fees for using the product to generate/enhance their business . . . not ours.

You are benefiting financially (directly or indirectly) from their copyrighted and/or licensed work. I agree with the basic premise of the argument, but not with the application. I want to pay a one-time license to use the material I want to use . . . not an annual or monthly payment for all of the material in a repertoire that I will never have use for.

I don’t want to play the radio in my place because I don’t want the news and commercials. I do not want to play CD’s becasue I have had way too many problems with what the employees put on to listen to when I am not around.

A subscription service solves all the problems.

Copyright law applies worldwide, and has been around for a long, long time (ASCAP was formed in 1914). What do you mean by having a vendor? Most small restaurants play music with no license and never have an issue. But if you are caught, they will sue. The RIAA vigorously defends it’s members.

If you’re using music in a commercial endeavor, you need to pay the artist for the use. ASCAP and BMI were formed to make things easy. Otherwise you would have to keep track of what songs you play and how many times. You would have to negotiate with the artist directly for the cost of each spin and send them all checks for royalties. Radio stations would have to do the same.

Wiseguy, you can’t hook up your stereo or computer and play whatever you want. When you purchase a song or album, you’re buying the rights for personal use only, not commercial. Same goes for the radio. It’s the same reason you can’t just get a standard cable subscription and turn on ESPN in your restaurant.

Like Nick, I agree with the idea and by no means believe we should be able to use music for free. But the application is poor.

When I pay my mechanical license, the money goes into a pool and is redistributed to all artists. I would rather see the money go directly to the artists that I’ve chosen to play.

There’s a song out there that is perfect for my restaurant… The title of the song happens to be the name of my restaurant. When I first put together my website, I thought it would be cool to have a 20 second clip play. So I contacted the company that holds the rights to get a quote. They told me $5,000 per year for a 20 second clip! Their rational was that if you put it on the Internet, you have a possible audience of billions :shock:

Wiseguy, you can’t hook up your stereo or computer and play whatever you want. When you purchase a song or album, you’re buying the rights for personal use only, not commercial. Same goes for the radio. It’s the same reason you can’t just get a standard cable subscription and turn on ESPN in your restaurant.


That is crazy! So if I buy a CD from Wal-Mart, the only “LEGAL” way that I can listen to it is with a walkman (I know I’m old) or in my car with all windows up of course, or at home with all doors and windows closed. Then all of these scenarios having a volume level so as not to allow any leakage of said media to be audible by any other persons. What the “F” is the point then? I am sorry guys…I still don’t get it. If I buy a CD, I should be able to do what I want with it. And then someone mentioned something about a band playing a cover song being able to get sued…WTF!!! You know that is our tax dollars paying for the court system to entertain this nonsense. You know with “Freedom of speech” you can go out in public and say anything you want to. But, I have to pay if I want to listen to you? I believe in buying music for the media. If I buy a CD, I am buying the ability to store the music, to transport it, to play it repeatedly. Somewhere, as Americans, we gotta draw a line in the sand. Maybe I’m wrong…I dunno…just venting…I don’t get it…sorry for the long rant.

Having your car windows open and somebody else listening is not the same as using it in a commercial application.

Commercially, you are using the music to aid your business. You are making money off of it. You are allowed to let other people listen non-commercially. As soon as you use it to help you make money, the situation changes.

I’m in no way a supporter of the RIAA, so I pretty much agree with you. I’m just stating the facts. And I do believe that, if they could, the RIAA would like the situation you described.

As for cover bands, yep. Again, I think it’s ridiculous and am only stating the facts. Bar owners routinely get sued for having cover bands play and not have the appropriate licensing from the songwriter. The industry has hoards of people out there looking for this type of stuff.

There are solutions if you don’t want to purchase a license… you could play Mozart and Bach all day. Those are in the public domain :smiley:

Contracts are clear, concise and specific (when done well). The license for a CD or movie or software DVD or whatever comes with a license for use. If you pay for and use that product, then you are implicitly agreeing to that contract and license for use. These contracts are generally for private, home use as defined by customary and acceptable usage of those terms. Entertaining patrons of a restaurant genrally falls outside that realm.

Intentional or unintentional use of that product for some other purpose exposes a purchaser to lawsuit for violating copyright. If we do not like it, then we should find other resources for purchasing our media. “Freedom of Speech” specifically regards government abridgment of speech (within constraints) rather than individual willing entrance into licensing agreements.

That said, we all know the rules and have to make personal business decisions about how we interact with those rules. We all make our choices and accept any future consequences if they eventually come.