The title of this email was intended to catch your attention. With such a sue happy world we MUST do everything we can to protect and insulate ourselves from those “particular” types of attorneys. Most operators would agree that music is a key component to creating the atmosphere and experience we want our customers to have. Using high energy and popular music helps keep people entertained and keep them spending money at our locations. I know for myself, before the internet radio became popular, we used Sirius Satellite radio, the personal version, to play music at our location. Our customers could choose whatever station they liked in their private areas although we had ones we would not allow to play as there is NO filter on those stations so the words and content were often questionable.
Interesting fact, one of our customers is friends with Right Said Fred out of the UK. You may recall they had the hit song “I’m too sexy”. While the song was a mega hit internationally and in 1992 hit big on the US charts the internet and smart phones were not even in our normal vocabulary. Once smart phones, and the iPhone in particular, hit the scene, the popularity of custom song ring tones exploded. As you can imagine the hook of the I’m Too Sexy song was just too much for the consumer to resist. Now Right Said Fred makes more in royalties from the ring tone royalties than off the songs rotation when it was popular in the US (according to our source).
Now on to the heart of this email. Being SUED… I’m sure many of you know that artists and musicians make their livings mostly off of royalties from when their songs are played on the radio or on TV. As consumers we can listen to the radio, play our CD or iPods and even play music off the internet for personal use. The businesses that provide those tunes for us to listen to are the ones who are responsible for the royalties. The key to this entire equation, and why so many people are getting sued, is that if you are using a CD, iPod, Internet Radio, Satellite radio (Personal or home subscription) or playing the local radio station in your facility you are BREAKING THE LAW. You are not allowed to play any song or portion of a song requiring a royalty payment in a commercial setting without paying the appropriate organization like ASCAP or BMI. While the chances of someone coming into your center and suing you is remote, it is happening all over the country in other industries. Larger franchise locations or chain stores are being hit with lawsuits for playing local radio stations or using cd or iPods. Some people say “But I paid for the CD or I paid for the song online”. Even if you purchase the CD or music online this does not exempt you from paying a royalty when playing it in your facility in a commercial setting. The reason is that you are granted personal use of that song and can listen in your personal office or car but not in a commercial setting. You need to first check with your attorney on what your government regulations are and then find a service that will pay those royalties for you.
How to protect you and your business….
One such product I found is called ControlPLAY (http://www.ControlPLAY.com). They are also known as Bowling Music Network for those in the bowling business. One of the best features or functions that they have is not just to play the music or music videos for you, but they offer “PARENT APPROVED” stations so that all questionable language and video content is edited out. This is to assure that you can play the hottest music without coming under fire from the parents concerned about the content of the music. Later in the night, you can switch to the regular station when the younger crowd is gone.
Obviously ControlPLAY and the other commercially available music or music video systems will pay any and all royalties that occur while using their service. This allows you a care free and potentially lawsuit free existence when it comes to playing music and music videos in your facility.
The biggest feature that comes in the ControlPLAY suite actually has nothing to do with royalty payments at all. This feature is the personalized marketing feature. You can set audio or even full video marketing commercials inside your own personal radio station. That means you can promote upcoming events or even when a meal time hits you can suggest that they get a mouthwatering burger with gourmet French fries… The customers have no clue they are listening to a personalized station except that all the commercial breaks are focused solely on promoting sales within your own company.
The reason for this article was not to scare you but just to make you aware that you might possibly be violating the law and putting yourself in a situation that is not necessary. Find a solution that will pay your royalties and one that will help you filter the content of what you are delivering to your customers. This will release a burden off of your plate while allowing you to create an amazing atmosphere for your customers.
FYI Similar laws also apply to television and sports games shown in your faciilty. Some people try to save a few dollars by paying for TV or Satellite TV as if they were a home or personal account as often the commercial TV accounts are two times higher than a personal account. Why are they higher? They get charged more and have to pay different royalties when being rebroadcast in a commercial setting.
So I don’t get sued…..I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. This is an opinion and I do not claim any of the above information to be factual or without error. Consult your own attorney and local government for the rules and regulations you must follow in regards to paying royalties or using a service that will pay the royalties for you…