Cracker Pack 2019

Let the Music Play

Music can play a key role in a business. Whether it is background music in a restaurant, the radio playing in a cafe or a DJ playing in a bar, it helps to lift the mood, set the atmosphere, and of course bring in trade.

But it comes at a price if you don’t play by the rules – a nightclub owner were arrested in May and ordered to pay £20,000 for illegally playing music at their Lancashire venue. Take Stock spoke to PPL’s head of Public Performance, Sarah Mitchell about music licences, and why operators need to have one.

What is PPL?

PPL is the music licensing company which works on behalf of its performer and record company members to license recorded music played in public (at pubs, nightclubs, restaurants, shops, offices and many other business types) and broadcast (on TV, radio and online) across the UK. Our members include major record labels and independents as well as globally successful  performers and session musicians, ranging from orchestral players to percussionists and singers.

Why do operators need a music licence?

If you play recorded music in public, including playing a radio, TV, CD, downloaded music or mp3 player on your premises for either staff or customers, you will usually be legally required to have a music licence from both PPL and PRS for Music. Buying a CD or music download only allows you to use it for domestic purposes (listening at home). PPL collects and distributes money for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers. PRS for Music collects and distributes for the use of musical compositions and lyrics on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers. After the deduction of running costs, all licence fee income is distributed to PPL’s and/or PRS for Music’s respective members, many of whom rely on these royalties to continue to create music.

Does one licence cover all music played?

PPL has a number of licences to cover the use of recorded music. This includes background music, a radio, DJ sets, as well as onhold music on telephone lines or music played via a jukebox. For live performances by bands, a PPL licence will not be required unless recorded music is being played in public alongside it but a PRS for Music licence will be.

How do you pay?

PPL licences are available to purchase online at online or by calling 020 7534 1070 between the hours of 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. There are several ways you can pay for your PPL licence including via direct debit, BACS, credit or debit card, cheque or over the phone. If you choose to pay by direct debit, you can spread your payment over up to four months.

How long does the licence last for?

PPL licences must be renewed annually and you will receive a renewal invoice 28 days prior to the expiry of your licence. The cost depends on several factors, such as business type, size and activity, and how you use recorded music in your premises. For example, the fee for a restaurant with an audible area of up to 400 square metres is currently £130.51 per annum. If your restaurant has an audible area of 50 square metres or less and only uses traditional radio or television broadcasts you may be eligible for a concessionary fee of 50% of the above.

What are the consequences of not having a licence?

A court can order you to pay your outstanding music licence fees plus PPL’s legal costs and issue a court order banning you from playing recorded music until all outstanding amounts have been paid in full. However, PPL will only take this action as a last resort. They communicate with businesses by email, post, telephone and face to face to inform them of their legal obligation and they will always give businesses a reasonable opportunity to obtain a licence, or to resolve any queries or concerns regarding their licence or their need for a licence, before considering legal proceedings.

Can you play music as a one-off, for a Christmas party?

If you don’t already hold a music licence you can apply for a one-off music licence via PPL and PRS for Music, who will be able to arrange for the necessary licences to be put in place. If you are selling tickets for an event then you will be obliged to declare the box office figures to to make sure that you are charged the correct fee for your event.

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