Music licensing is an important aspect of gaining a music supplier for your business. But it can seem complicated, and you can be unsure what exactly you need to be above board.  So to help everyone out, here’s your need to know, and easy to digest breakdown of licensed music for restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms, retailers, workspaces etc. in the UK, and a bit of history that's fun to share.


Since when was music licensing for businesses a thing?

  In 1914, The Performing Right Society (PRS) was founded by a group of music publishers, to protect the value of copyright and to help provide an income for composers, songwriters and music publishers. At the time, PRS collected fees for live performance from sheet music.

  In 1934, a coffee shop in Bristol became known for entertaining its customers by playing records in its space. At the time this was unique, as live performance was much more common. EMI (Now one of “The Big Four” in music), caught wind of this, arguing it was against the law to play records in public without receiving the appropriate copyright permissions. The case went to court and the judge agreed with EMI, who then created a new body of licensing for music called Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL). 

PRS & PPL now make up The UK’s two music licensing companies. If you play copyrighted music in your business, you have been required by law to purchase a licence via the PRS and PPL.


How has music licensing been disrupted since then? (The short version)

  As times have changed, technology has developed and the needs of music professionals and services have evolved, so have PRS & PPL and the way that licensing works. But it can be damn right confusing if you don’t know what you need to do and how to ensure your business is within the legal terms. To try and make it easier PRS & PPL amalgamated in 2018 to help businesses get set up with something called “TheMusicLicense”.

Licensing companies now represent almost every territory for public performance rights. Check out this list to find the right company for your country:


How does “TheMusicLicense” work?

They collect licence fees from UK businesses and organisations on behalf of the parent companies (PRS & PPL). PPL then distributes these music licence fees for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers, while PRS distributes music licence fees for the use of musical compositions and lyrics on behalf of songwriters, composers and publishers. This ensures that the people who create music are fairly rewarded for their talent and work.

If you play music in your business or organisation in the UK, you will usually need TheMusicLicence. Instead of potentially having to contact many thousands of music rights holders individually for permission to play or perform their music, TheMusicLicence gives you those permissions in a single, simple annual transaction fee. 


If I pay for "TheMusicLicense", does that mean I can use Spotify/ YouTube/ Apple Music in my business?

No. Using Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music and other popular digital music platforms are only licensed for home/personal use. Even if you have TheMusicLicense, you are not permitted to use these platforms in public spaces like shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, gyms etc. 

The reason it is illegal is because playing music from Spotify, doesn’t get reported back to PPL PRS Ltd (TheMusicLicense), and there’s no way to tell which songs were played. This means that the copyright holder of the track, does not get compensated for the fact that you used their copyrighted material, to help set the ambience for your business. You’d be mistaken if you thought purchasing TheMusicLicense covers payments made to the artists. It doesn’t. 

As of August 12, 2021, This is what Spotify have to say on the subject:

Here’s the link to go to the full T’s & C’s:


So what’s the best thing to do moving forward?

Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube are personal, non-commercial music services and not permitted to be used by your business. For our customers in the UK, you will most likely need TheMusicLicense as well as copyright holder for every track held in your Altaura music library, via our Dubbing Licence.

By using Altaura’s Lite and Premium services, you are playing legal, and licensed music. And we curate your music from exactly the same catalogue of music that you can find on Spotify.