music recommendation

What do you all use for music in your restaurant?

We currently have muzak and all of my employees including myself hate it, and am looking for ideas to replace it. It would be playing in both the dining room and kitchen.

You might give 80’s mix a whirl, it’s fairly popular and unlikely to offend if that’s a concern. Regardless I’d recommend having some sort of separate system in the kitchen, even if it’s just a boombox. It’s a cheap way to keeps those cooks happy, since in my experience what your cooks and what your customers listen to will be vastly different.

What’s the theme or atmosphere of your restuarant? Go with something that matches it.

In our delco the cooks choose. The rule is that it can not be too loud. (If I can hear it over the phone when I call in, it is too loud) Also, no rap or hip hop with offensive lyrics.

At our other store that has seating, we use Musak. We have the disc service rather than satellite. There are so many discs to choose from that we really have had no problem finding stuff that is acceptable to me for the customer and which the crew likes. We have blues, jazz, bluegrass, 50s, 60s, 70s discs. A new set of discs comes every month.

For several years I tried to let employees bring music to that store as well, but it never worked out, they just played crap that the tourists hated. It is worth the money to have that under control.

In this whole iTunes revolution and change-over, is it practical or legal to mix one’s own? Is there an option out there for licensing songs for use in commercial setting like retaurants? I know about the BMI and ASCAP programs/requirements. I am curious if the “per song” thing can be used and MP3 player to set mixes and various groupings of musc based on day and shift. That would be super flexible.

Nick, even if you purchase the song on iTunes you will still need the appropriate BMI or ASCAP license to play it in your restaurant. Other than negotiating with the copyright holder directly, BMI and ASCAP are the only options for licensing for commercial use. Remember there’s also SESAC, which manages the copyrights for mostly more obscure artists, but some mainstream too.

However, it is fairly inexpensive and indeed super flexible. I have a computer dedicated to the dining room music. I purchase new songs on a regular basis to keep the music fresh. iTunes has made that possible - there’s no way I’d be buying entire CD’s to get one “hit” to play in the store.

So yeah, I’d say it’s both practical and legal if you purchase the license.

Stebby, that’s actually my advice on this. Get the license and make your own mixes. Play what you like or what fits your restaurant perfectly.

Here’s an interesting tidbit that came from an ASCAP promotional paper:

“In a field study by Ronald Milliman, restaurant patrons were exposed to either fast or slow tempo music. Fast music caused diners to finish faster (45 minutes vs. 56 minutes), but a medium tempo resulted in patrons ordering more drinks.”

Edited to add: I just read Dox47’s post. I absolutely can not stand 80’s music! But the majority of my clientele are families with parents around their late 30’s. Because of that I have a lot of 80’s music in my mix. People love listening to music from their youth, so think about your clientele when making song selections. You may even be working on a subconscious level to make people happier when they are in your restaurant.

I also agree that you should have separate music in your kitchen as long as it can’t be heard by customers. It’s good for morale to let the employees listen to whatever they like, and I find that they vary their music selections based on how busy it is. There’s a whole different dynamic in the kitchen when Pantera is on versus Pink Floyd.

I don’t think my high school aged cooks would be able to hammer out a rush while listening to “Hungry Like The Wolf.”

I’m not sure what the licensing situation was, but one of the gourmet shops I worked for had an XM setup in the store, and that worked fairly well due to the massive variety and specialization of all of those channels. They had what appeared to be some sort of commercial receiver, I’d imagine that the satellite provider has some sort of commercial package that covers the licensing, so that might make it an easy way to add a wide variety of music in your shop.

I know this forum is filled with people that absolutely love to abide the law and such. But who and what are the chances of someone actually going into your store and asking if you have a license for the music???

Very good actually. ASCAP and BMI pay what amounts to a bounty to people to find those without licenses. They also peruse business listings and compare to their licensee lists so they can call on the ones that have not paid. They also go after you for on-hold music. It really is a racket. I am all for musicians getting their due, but they are ridiculous in my opinion.

We’ve actually had this discussion before. Check here: … fe314295fa

He was threatened with a $150,000 fine. I’d say it’s worth the $300 per year to be compliant.

When they ask do they psychically check? Seems like a waste of money to have people go to all the restaurants and ask to just find out they’re using xm or sirius radio.


Holy cow! I would imagine there are TONS of places that just use the radio or cds…

What about music on hold? Do you need licenses for that too?

Yep, need a license for that too. But it’s covered under the same license for dining room play. If you don’t have a dining room I would imagine the annual fee would be less for MOH only. I can’t say for certain though.

As for being a waste of money to check restaurants… The entire purpose of ASCAP and BMI is to manage and protect their member’s copyrights, so no, it’s not really a waste of money for them. Their artists are essentially paying them for the service.

They won’t hesitate to sue. John Fogerty got sued by a record company for plagiarizing himself.

Radio and CD’s are license/copyright restricted for commercial use i a restaurant. I know of a place in a nearby county who got a visit from ASCAP for doing just that. The radio station paid for its use to improve or solicit business, but you didn’t. CD’s are straight line private use licenses only.

I asked the station manager from a local radio station about playing their music in our restaurant and licensing etc. He said that he’d never heard of having to pay a licensing fee to play FM radio in a business.

I know sirius has a business package that pays the licensing fees. its like $20 a month, not too bad compared to their regular package prices.

The main problem we have here is that noise carries too well from the kitchen to the dining room, so they have to both be playing the same thing. We’ve listened to rock show and roadhouse on muzak, but are getting way too tired of it.

One thing i’m pondering, if we kept the muzak service, but also had our own mixes and used my sirius receiver out of my truck, would the licensing issue be covered by the muzak service?

The station manager has just not heard of it. Which amazes me.

Muzak licensing pays for that right. Sirius has licensing programs that you would need to purchase. And your mixes, if compiled from other sources such as mp3s or CDs, would need to be licensed.

Even higher education gets billed:

just found this on the BMI site:

"The Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1999 created new copyright exemptions for businesses that perform music over radio, television, cable and satellite. Under this law, businesses that meet the following conditions are exempt from the requirement that such performance be licensed from the copyright owners of the performed works:

a) All restaurants, bars and grills that contain fewer than 3,750 gross square feet (excluding space used for customer parking and for no other purpose) are exempt;

b) Those restaurants, bars and grills that contain 3,750 or more gross square feet (excluding space used for customer parking and for no other purpose) are exempt if (i) their audio use is via 6 or fewer speakers with no more than 4 in any one room or adjoining outdoor space, or (ii) their audio/visual use is via not more than 4 TVs, of which no more than 1 TV is in any room and no TV has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches, and the above speaker/room requirements are met.

c) All non-food service and beverage establishments that contain fewer than 2,000 gross square feet (excluding space used for customer parking and for no other purpose) are exempt, as are those non-food service and beverage establishments that contain 2,000 or more gross square feet (excluding space used for customer parking and for no other purpose) if they meet the above speaker and television screen requirements.

In order to qualify for this exemption, in addition to the above conditions, no direct charge may be made to see or hear the transmission, the transmission may not be further transmitted beyond the establishment and the incoming transmission must itself be licensed by the copyright owner.

In addition to these exemptions, Congress created a system for owners and operators of fewer than 7 non-publicly traded businesses to contest the reasonableness of the license fee offered to them by the United States performing rights organizations. Such proprietors can file this proceeding in the established performing rights organization rate court in New York or in a federal district court in one of 11 other specific locations around the country. While the proceeding is pending, the owner has the right to perform music by paying an interim fee into the court. The decision of the local judge is to be reviewed by the presiding rate court judge and applies only to that owner. An owner is limited to one proceeding per license agreement."

Nice, Stebby. Had not heard that!

So does that say you can only play radio or tv? (music that is transmitted)…I am going to guess that playing cds is excluded because they are not licenced for commercial use and/or they are not transmitted…

from the way i read it, you can have both radio and TV. I cant get in under that exclusion because i have 2 tv’s in my dining room, and to be excluded from the fees, you can only have one per room.