Customers and staff are pictured in a busy retail clothes store.
Playing the radio can turn off customers while playing your own playlist can jeopardize you with copyright laws. These services help you create appealing, tailored playlists. — Getty Images/ monkeybusinessimages

Playing background music at your store or restaurant is a great way to create a unique experience and boost employee morale. The right playlist can even boost sales.

However, some business owners are wary — and rightfully so — about playing licensed music. Playing a song without the right license can violate copyright laws and increase the risk of a messy, expensive legal issue.

Business owners need to be aware of three licensing organizations when sourcing background music. The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) are the three largest performing rights organizations that collect royalties for songwriters and publishers. Each organization has its own catalog of songs. For instance, BMI covers country, hip-hop, and Latin music, while ASCAP focuses on pop and rock.

Rather than getting permission from the licensing organization for each song you wish to play, the services listed in this article do the heavy lifting for you. Here are some places to look for unique music to set the tone for your guests and shoppers.

Traditional radio

If you're not confident in selecting a playlist, good news: You can simply choose to play your local radio station and let the experts do the work for you.

"Under the Copyright Act, businesses with small footprints (stores under 2,000 square feet, restaurants or bars under 3,750 square feet—excluding parking lots) are allowed to play music from traditional radio broadcasts without a license provided that customers are not charged for the service," wrote Square.

The downside to simply playing the radio is that you may have to listen to commercials, people talking, and perhaps some static. If that doesn't sound ideal, then there are background music services that will take care of licensing for you.

[Read more: How to Incorporate the 5 Senses Into the Retail Experience]

Soundsuit has an AI tool that uses information such as your target audience (their age, gender, and lifestyle) with your brand’s music genre to create a playlist matching your needs. You’ll end up with a completely unique soundtrack that your customers will love.

Soundtrack Your Brand

Soundtrack Your Brand was founded as Spotify for Business in 2013, and it maintains an easy integration with Spotify's playlists for individual accounts. Choose from the platform's more than 100 million songs to create a unique sound for your business, or simply drag in any Spotify playlist and make it legal for your business.

Users can also create stations that play similar songs to existing favorites to maintain a consistent sound and mood throughout the day. There are dozens of tools to make it easy to keep the music going all workday long.

Soundtrack Your Brand starts at $39/month.


Rockbot offers music as well as video for things like digital signage and video messaging. Rockbot's background music service draws from a catalog of 18 million songs to help you find a song perfectly tuned to your business. Along with tools to help you manage your music throughout the day, Rockbot Request is a nifty feature that lets guests engage with your music and request songs for free.

Rockbot starts at $25/month.


Soundsuit is another great option with 50 million licensed songs in its catalog. Like the other tools on this list, you can create playlists on Soundsuit and organize tracks according to the busiest parts of your workday.

Soundsuit has an AI tool that uses information such as your target audience (their age, gender, and lifestyle) with your brand's music genre to create a playlist matching your needs. You'll end up with a completely unique soundtrack that your customers will love.

Soundsuit starts at $29/month.


SoundMachine is more akin to a curated radio station. Rather than selecting individual songs to build a playlist, you choose from more than 500 curated stations and turn the dial to the right intensity — mellow or energetic.

Mix stations to get different sounds throughout the day, or import your own playlists from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and more. You also have the ability to incorporate promotional messages at different points of the day. For instance, you could remind customers of an ongoing two-for-one deal or highlight a new product line in between songs.

SoundMachine starts at $27/month.

[Read more: 6 Retail Store Layouts That Drive Sales]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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