Music for retail can be a tricky issue. A silent store can leave shoppers feeling uncomfortable and uninvited, whereas unpleasant or loud music can result in stressed customers.

The aim is to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for staff and customers alike; however, if music is played in your retail outlet through CD, MP3, TV, radio or computer speakers, or at live events, this is treated as a public performance.

Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988 is current UK law and controls the way dramatic, musical, artistic and literary works are used across the country.

Permission must be sought from the holder of the copyright to ‘perform’ the musical piece in public. A music licence grants this permission and can be flexible to cover the majority of commercial music produced from the UK and across the world; however, an additional licence from any relevant copyright owner may be required for certain music.

If you want to play music for business, consult a specialist such as

The duration of rights

The exception to this act is when the author of the work dies. 50 years from when the last author of the work dies, the music can be authorised for performance and made available to the public.

What music is granted under a licence

You can check the music held under licence on the website of the music licence company. Most websites list the repertoire held under their issued licences.

There are some exceptions to this whereby you do not require a licence to broadcast copyrighted music in your retail outlet; for example, your music usage may not dictate that you need a licence to broadcast music. Sometimes members and copyright owners have elected to waive their copyrights. The conditions for these scenarios are:

– There is an exclusion in UK copyright law that permits the usage of copyrighted music beyond the consent of the rightsholder. Information on exceptions is available on the UK government webpage.
– Your music usage is in very specific situations covered by a music non-charging policy.
– If your retail outlet does not play music.
– The music you broadcast in your retail outlet is out of copyright or not currently controlled by a music licence.