Using Music in Your Business, Legally

Music is one of the truly universal things that make people feel good all over the world. It also sells – ideas, services, products. The value of music to business owners is obvious and, in some cases, integral to their success. Imagine a dance club or an aerobics program without music. In restaurants, music helps create the desired atmosphere. At hockey games and other sporting events, songs are used to pump up the crowd and the home team. When music is performed or communicated to the public, the people who write and publish these songs must be compensated for it. In Canada, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), is the organization that makes sure customers acquire the correct licence when music is publicly performed.

“The BCRFA appreciates the opportunity to work closely with SOCAN. Through proactive communication and industry events, our partnership is able to keep BC restaurants better informed and up-to-date on music licensing.” (Sharron Tulk, Director of Marketing & Member Relations, BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association)

SOCAN provides music users, or customers, with a “one-stop-shop.” For the applicable license fee, we offer access to virtually the world’s entire repertoire of copyright-protected music. We also support many associations across Canada through education outreach initiatives, attending trade shows, sponsorships and holding memberships. As well, SOCAN is a not-for-profit organization, and more than 80% of all monies collected from SOCAN customers are distributed back to the writers and publishers who are entitled to it.

“Many people don’t realize that SOCAN is a not-for-profit organization owned and controlled by the actual songwriters and publishers. We receive money when our songs are played during live performances, on the radio and TV, but I know people also enjoy dancing and listening to music while eating and socializing so collecting money for that is equally as important. We love to be able to make music for a living and part of that is continuing to write great songs. SOCAN actually gets us paid for working! Now who doesn’t want that and think it’s fair?!” (Jacob Hoggard, lead singer, Hedley)

SOCAN helps music creators – songwriters, composers, lyricists and their publishers, as well as members of affiliated international performing rights organizations – by selling access to their music based on licence fees set out by the Copyright Board of Canada in tariffs published in the Canada Gazette. By paying their licence fees, SOCAN customers also have a hand in the success of SOCAN members.

“I am attached to SOCAN for survival. No matter what goes wrong within the industry, SOCAN is right there every 3 months with my performing rights cheque. For many years, the March SOCAN cheque was how I paid my income tax. The assistance they’ve given me over the years has been invaluable. SOCAN is there for the new up-and-coming writer as well as the established ones. I am proud to be a member of SOCAN.” (Randy Bachman, founder of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive)

In the end, not only does music bring value to business, but securing a licence is the right thing to do… so, if it feels good, do it! Obtain the appropriate SOCAN licence(s) for your business and know you play a part in supporting the music creators of the world.


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