Although the music played in hotel guest rooms does not require a music license, a license might be needed when music is played in the public areas of hotels, such as lobbies, bars, fitness centers, etc. This is because under U.S. copyright law, songwriters, composers and music publishers own the music they create and must give their permission before a business can play it publicly. For those not familiar with this law, details of a business operator’s music licensing responsibilities are outlined at the Better Business Bureau’s website.
What types of music used in the public areas of a hotel always need a license?
- ➲ All live performances
- ➲ CDs, MP3s
- ➲ Streaming music from a website
In addition, radios in public areas must be licensed under any of the following conditions:
- ➲ If all the public areas combined contain more than six loudspeakers
- ➲ If there are more than four loudspeakers in any one public room or adjoining outdoor public space (like a patio)
- ➲ If there is any cover charge to enter the public area where the radio is played
- ➲ If the hotel uses music on their phone lines when callers are on hold
For TVs used in public areas, a license is needed under any of the following conditions:
- ➲ If the hotel uses more than four TVs in all the public areas combined
- ➲ If the hotel uses more than one TV in any one public room
- ➲ If any of the TVs used has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches
- ➲ If the TV uses more than six loudspeakers in all public areas combined
- ➲ If the TV uses more than four loudspeakers in any one public room or adjoining public outdoor space (like a patio)
- ➲ If there is any cover charge where the TV is being used
Fortunately, hotels don’t have to negotiate individual licenses with each songwriter, composer or publisher of the music they play. BMI grants permission, through one music license, to publicly play approximately half of all the music played in the U.S., with other performing rights organizations licensing the rest. The average annual BMI fee for a select-service hotel is $650. To cover your use of BMI music only, the fee structures are based on the type of music played:
- ➲ Live music only is based on entertainment expenses, with a minimum annual BMI fee of $225 for expenses less than $2,000.
- ➲ Recorded music only (CD’s, MP3s, streaming music from a website, etc., without audio-visual accompaniment such as TVs or DVDs) is based on the number of guest rooms, with a minimum annual BMI fee of $364 for up to 100 rooms.
- ➲ Live and recorded music together without audio-visual (such as TVs or DVDs) is based on entertainment expenses and the number of guest rooms, with a minimum annual BMI fee of $436 for up to 100 rooms. Live and recorded music with audio-visual and up to 100 rooms is $546.
- ➲ Radio and TV use that are licensable according to the criteria above are included in the tiered structures for recorded music, also based on the number of guest rooms. The minimum annual BMI fee for TV with up to 100 rooms is $546.
For hotels with more than 100 rooms, please refer to BMI’s hotel license at www.bmi.com/hotel and conveniently stay in compliance with copyright law to play any of the more than 8.5 million musical works that BMI represents.