Music, Your Business and SOCAN

Music is one of the truly universal things that make people feel good all over the world. It sells ideas, it sells services, and it sells products. The value of music to business owners is obvious and, in some cases, integral to their success. In restaurants, music helps create the desired atmosphere. At sporting events, songs are used to pump up the crowd and the home team. And can you imagine an aerobics class without music?

But did you know that in order to broadcast music in your business you must obtain a license? Under the Copyright Act you are required to pay a license for broadcasting that music, whether it is: as background music in your retail store, a live act in your bar, hold music on your phone, or as part of an advertising campaign. So what does this all mean?

Why do I Need a License to Broadcast Music? 

Licenses have been put in place to compensate the artists who write and publish the songs that we broadcast. In Canada, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), are responsible for granting these licenses. This non-profit organization represents both the creators and the producers of music to ensure that they are paid for the use of their product.

What Types of Music are covered by these Licensing Laws?

Under the Copyright Act any CDs, tapes or background music should be licensed. However the radio is excluded from this act and you will not require a license. The exception to this rule is if your business is a venue that is used for entertainment and for which an admission charge is made, for example a theatre; in this instance you must still obtain a license.

Another consideration should be the hold music on your phone line.  If you use generic library music then it is likely that your supplier will pay, however if you use music from CDs, DVDs or the radio then you will be required to pay for a license.  This license will need to be granted for each of your incoming phone lines.

SOCAN is not limited to granting licenses for Canadian music. They are able to license your business for music from around the world, through reciprocal agreements with the other international performing rights organizations.

How Much does the License Cost? 

There are over 20 different licenses offered by SOCAN, each are tailored to the amount the music broadcast and the type of music used by your business. For example if music is integral to your business, like a night club, you will pay a larger fee than if you use background music in a restaurant. 

If you neglect to obtain a license you are liable for copyright infringement and you may be pursued through legal channels.

To find out more about the Copyright Act and how it applies to musical recordings contact SOCAN at 1-866-944-6210 or at

For more information on the types of license available and the tariffs applied to those licenses, visit the SOCAN website.