John Mitchell, partner at law firm Blake Morgan, looks at the legal implications of playing music or videos in the workplace.


There are several food-related licences to consider if you run a retail bakery business. However, a less obvious consideration are the licences required to legally play music or show entertainment on your premises.

As World Cup fever descended on the nation earlier this summer, I suspect so did the realisation for many business owners that they didn’t know the ins and outs about what they are allowed to show and stream legally in offices, retail units or factories. 

Providing background music, screening sports games or creating the right ambience for customers and employees is not quite as simple as investing in a speaker system.

With huge music libraries and TV available at our fingertips like never before, it is easy to take for granted the legal differences that apply the moment you unplug your headphones and plug your device into an AV system.

If you’re providing background music from a smartphone, tablet or laptop you are likely to be using a streaming service. But because you are broadcasting this music in your premises, and therefore the public domain, you are no longer streaming for ‘personal use’ and your personal streaming subscriptions are not legal.

For example, your usual Spotify account is only for personal use and Spotify does not yet offer a commercial subscription in the UK. Instead, you will need to look at a ‘Soundtrack Your Brand’ subscription, backed by Spotify.

As with music sourced through a radio or television station you would still require a PRS (Performing Rights Society) for Music licence and a Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) licence when using such commercial streaming services.  Since February 2018 these licences have been offered as a single licence, called TheMusicLicence, which is issued on behalf of both PRS for Music and PPL.

While this makes it easier to put in place the legal prerequisite for playing music at your establishment, complications may still arise as to the exact tariff you will pay for TheMusicLicence. This is because tariffs are calculated based on your business type (ie retail bakery versus café) and the size of the area where music will be audible. In the case of production facilities or factories, the number of workers listening to it will also determine your tariff.

The licensing laws surrounding showing TV are more familiar.  As with domestic televisions, a TV licence is required if you wish to view BBC channels on free-to-air TV. If you wish to provide a TV screen in multiple premises under the same ownership, a Company Group TV Licence should be purchased rather than multiple individual licences. The TV Licence website provides a tool for you to create a tailormade ‘workplace viewing guide’ for you to issue
to employees.

With pay-to-view TV, such as Sky, a commercial subscription acts as a licence, meaning no further action is required to be compliant. 

Once you have found the ideal licensing recipe for your retail bakery site or factory it is easy to renew these and ensure you, your employees and your customers can enjoy legal entertainment.

Topics