SOCAN Background Music Licensing: What You Need to Know

Are you looking for ways to enhance the atmosphere of your business? Playing music is a great way to enrich customer experiences and create a more vibrant environment. But, it’s essential to ensure you have proper music licensing from the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

Explore this guide to find out more about SOCAN music licensing.

What is a SOCAN Music License?

This licence, certified by the Copyright Board of Canada, permits you to use copyright-protected musical works. Members of SOCAN who are songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers get royalties from the fees you pay.

How Do I Get a License?

There are two ways of getting your licence. The first is by going through SOCAN and getting a Background Music Licence under Tariff 15A. Or, you could go through a subscription with a Background Music Supplier under Tariff 16.

What Kind of Licensing Will I Need?

Tariff 15A

Tariff 15A is an annual blanket license that allows you to play background music for the public. Licensees must buy their own music, including digital downloads, CDs, Internet-based radio, or TV. A SOCAN license isn’t needed for playing AM/FM radio on four or fewer speakers at your establishment.

Tariff 16

Tariff 16 covers background music and hold music provided by a music supplier. Suppliers usually offer subscription-based packages with music suited to your customers and brand. You pay SOCAN license fees through your subscription to the supplier instead of directly to the organization, as with Tariff 15A.

What About Non-Subscription Hold Music?

As noted, Tariff 16 covers both background and hold music. But if your phone system plays copyright-protected music not provided by a licensed music supplier, you’ll need a separate license under Tariff 15B.

Tariff 15B, like 15A, is an annual blanket license and is based on the number of lines on which music can be heard at any given time.

How Much Do SOCAN Licenses Cost?

SOCAN licenses aren’t based on frequency of use. Once you’ve paid the required annual fee, you can play as much music as you like from any genre.

  • Tariff 15A – The annual royalty is $2.32 per square metre (21.58¢ per square foot),  plus tax, for the area of your business accessible to the public. The fee is halved for businesses operating less than six months of the year, but a minimum fee of $177.99 will apply.
  • Tariff 15B – The annual royalty for telephone hold music is $177.99 for the main line plus $3.94 for each additional line.
  • Tariff 16 – Fees will vary depending on your contract if you purchase a subscription through a music supplier. Contact suppliers for more information on the cost and to find out more about the usage the license covers.

Are Other Licenses Required to Play Music at My Business?

You may need to obtain other licenses from Re:Sound to play music legally in your place of business.

SOCAN represents the rights of composers and music publishers, while Re:Sound represents the rights of artists and record companies. Each organization has its tariffs certified by the Copyright Board of Canada. Re:Sound has a similar but slightly more efficient tariff structure for retail, hospitality, and similar businesses. 

If any of the above SOCAN licenses apply to your business, you should look into Re:Sound’s Background Music Tariff. They provide a fee calculator to help you estimate what your annual license will cost.

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