The Music Licensing Blues

Does your craft brewery play the radio for the enjoyment of your customers? Do you ever have an opportunity to invite local bands to perform live in your tasting room?

A recent lawsuit may help brewery owners realize that these seemingly innocuous acts could be cause for concern.

In May, an Ohio brewery was among several organizations across the country named in a lawsuit brought by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. This group collects royalties whenever its members’ music is performed in public (whether live or recorded).

According to an AP story about the lawsuit, the brewery is confident that it has paid all necessary music licensing fees. But the fact is, a lawsuit like this could have a negative impact on your brewery’s budget.

We recommend checking with your insurance agent to be sure you have the coverage necessary to protect your craft brewery in the event that it incurs legal expenses in a lawsuit like this. We also recommend ensuring that your brewery is following all laws and regulations pertaining to music performance.

Protect Your Brewery from Music Licensing Problems

The National Restaurant Association offers a very helpful FAQ that could provide you with the music licensing information you need. Here’s a few points that might be important for your brewery:

  • If your brewery is smaller than 3750 gross square feet, and does not charge patrons to listen to the music it plays on the radio, your business is exempt from federal copyright law. (This law does not apply to music played live or on CD, however.)
  • What about a streaming or satellite music system? In this case, you will need to check the terms and conditions of the service provider. And they’re likely to prohibit playing music in a commercial setting (without a commercial account).
  • Don’t imagine that you can evade licensing fees by playing only music that you have purchased for your personal use. Once you play that music in a place of business, it is a “public performance” and licensing fee regulations apply.

For more than 25 years, Beall Financial and Insurance Services, Inc., has been helping corporations and individuals protect their most important assets. The agency’s client base covers a spectrum of niche businesses, such as craft breweries, that require specialized insurance packages and knowledge. With California offices in Redlands and Newport Beach, Beall Financial and Insurance Services serves clients nationwide.