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The Rules of Music Licensing
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Information courtesy of the National Restaurant Association 


You Play Music In Your Restaurant,
Now What Do You Do?

ASCAP: 1-800-99-ASCAP
BMI (NY): 212-220-3000 (BMI discount for NYSRA members!)
SESAC (NY): 212-586-3450 (SESAC discount for NYSRA members!)


  • Determine what kind(s) of music you play
  • Determine how often you play music. Do you have a singer perform at your establishment once a week? Do you allow dancing on holidays such as St. Patrick's Day? Do you set up for Karaoke on Sundays or any other day? These are just some questions you must consider when determining the frequency you play music.
  • Contact ASCAP, BMI and SESAC to determine if you need to sign a music license agreement. Make sure you cover your bases by calling ALL THREE societies.
  • Copyright law says that an infringer of a copyright may be liable for: the copyright owner's actual damages as a result of the violation and any profits of the infringer attributable to the infringement; statutory damages of $750-$50,000 per copyrighted work (if the infringement was willful, the court may increase the damages to $100,000). The law also adds a possible new penalty: two times the amount of the license fee if the proprietor did not have reasonable grounds to believe that he/she was exempt.
  • In addition to these damages, the court may award reasonable attorneys' fees to the prevailing party.

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