Playing music from YouTube or Spotify in restaurants, cafes and bars

The complexity of laws and legislation is a known topic in Slovakia, which has already been described enough. The issue of music licenses and the legality of music, including the processes of how the legality of music reproduction in public is ensured, is a very specific area that few people understand, but it worries many novice entrepreneurs in the HoReCa segment.

The right music creates the character of the company

Starting a business involves a lot of diverse activities, while inadequate emphasis is usually placed on sounding the business with a suitable type of music, taking into account the nature of the business and the preferences of the clientele. Properly chosen music and the simplicity and functionality of the music solution proved to increase total revenues and contribute to customer loyalty to the brand. In this article, however, we will not focus on the business and financial side, but on the legal side, i.e. the legality of music solutions that are commonly used in Slovak catering establishments.

Unfamiliarity can cause a lot of inconvenience to an entrepreneur

Surely each of you has experienced a situation when you sit in a restaurant, cafe or bar and you watch the waiter/waitress making multiple side-trips behind the counter to change the music playlist while serving customers, either at the request of the customer or on their own initiative. Something like this is, of course, fine, but every pub owner or manager should consider the fact that the customers can change the music playlist themselves with the help of an appropriately chosen music solution. Running from serving the customers to the music terminal slows down the service and irritates the customers themselves. It is of course up to the owner/manager how to solve the music playback and playlist editing. If you see or hear that in an establishment the music is played using YouTube, Spotify or some foreign online radio, the fact is that the given company is doing it, largely out of ignorance, against the law. The vast majority of online music platforms and websites focus on offering music and videos for private usage, while public reproduction is illegal. It is necessary to say that large platforms will inform you during the registration process and in their terms and conditions of the fact that as a private user you can only use their content for private purposes. They don’t do it, because they don’t want to have theirs content to be reproduced publicly. But for public reproduction they would simply need an appropriate license, which they usually don’t have.

Is it legal to use YouTube ot Spotify in restaurant, café or a pub?

Legislation that is not on the side of the entrepreneur

Companies such as Spotify also offer accounts for commercial use. But costs for such an account are a multiplication of the cost of a private account and as a result we see the tendency of private accounts being used for public reproductions, which is of course illegal. For a better understanding, here is an example: You are an entrepreneur, you buy a minibus and start transporting people for the purpose of profit, without obtaining the appropriate permits for the vehicle in question allowing you to transport people. On one sunny day, the police stop you and you will be fined or end up in jail for not following the law. This is to showcase that if you want to operate a minibus for people transportation, it is not enough to just buy the vehicle, but it’s also necessary to obtain the appropriate permits for this kind of business. Similar rules apply to music licenses. It is not enough to register in SOZA as an entrepreneur and pay an annual fee for the reproduction of music in your company. This would equal only getting license plates for your car. It is also necessary to procure a music solution that has a license for playing in public in Slovakia.

Of course, it is up to the company that operates the music solution to make it clear for what purposes their content can be used. However, they do this, either transparently or hidden in the terms and conditions. It is therefore up to the owner/manager of the restaurant, cafe or bar to check the boundaries of the offered service, since the unauthorized use of such a service transfers the penalty from the operator of the music solution to the person who publicly reproduces such contents. Therefore, owners/managers of businesses where music is reproduced publicly should triple-check when choosing a music supplier, whether what I choose can be used for public playback or not. It goes without saying, YouTube or a private Spotify account certainly do not meet these criteria.

Low detection risk and enforcement of fines

Another part of the process is the enforcement of fines for such violations of the law by owners of businesses where music is reproduced publicly. Relying on the so-called “low detection risk” is a rather large and, above all, unnecessary risk, given the fact that violations can be backdated and fined even several years in the past. People who, until recently, sold apartments and land and did not pay tax from the profits they made could tell stories about it. It was tolerated for many years. Until one day. Everyone who was subject to tax from property sale received the bill for backdated taxes and a hefty fine, not to forget, due to the high amount of the arrears, qualification as a crime.

Choose the right solution

Therefore, it is definitely more advantageous to procure a music supplier who can deliver a legal solution. Ideally a solution that will meet the needs of the given establishment with its functionality and tailored range of playlists. Songoroo is a solution that meets the requirement of legality and can also offer functionality that is interesting for both business operators and their customers. More about the advantages of the Songoroo music solution here.

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