Play Music in the Office? You May Need to Pay for the Privilege

Music in the workplace

Given the widespread use of open-plan offices and collaborative workspaces, the question of acoustics is becoming more and more prominent. Add a little background music into the mix and it’s like throwing the cat amongst the pigeons, in more ways than one.

Leaving aside the issue of attitudes towards music in the workplace, your coworking space or business centre could find itself in breach of the law if music is played in a public space.

The Forum of Private Businesses posted this article on Business Matters last week, and it makes interesting reading.

Here’s why: “Many [businesses] think that by purchasing a licence from PRS for Music they are covered. However, this may not be the case. You may also need a licence from the Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL).”

According to the FPB, when music is played publicly, there are two separate licence fees that are payable:

  • A copyright in the musical and lyrical composition
  • A separate copyright in the actual sound recording

In the UK, one payment goes to PPL, which distributes it to record companies and performers. The other payment goes to PRS, which distributes it to composers and publishers. The general rule is that if music is broadcast, businesses should be licensed by either or both organisations. Visit and for more information.

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Read the FPB’s article in full here.

Note that this relates to UK business centres so if you’re based in other locations, be sure to check out the regulations regarding music copyright and licences that are relevant to your nation.

The Forum of Private Businesses states that the cost will depend on factors such as business type, the size of the area in your business in which music can be heard, and how recorded music is used. Ignoring the fees could result in copyright infringement and potential fines for your business. So wherever you’re based, it pays to check out the local rules and regulations and to communicate these clearly to your staff and clients.

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