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Music to my ears

There are many people who work hard to ensure that local, state and national policies and laws benefit and protect the restaurant and hospitality industry. One such group is the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

Not long ago the NRA was instrumental in passing a music licensing reform bill that will benefit many restaurants and other small businesses. The bill, which took effect on January 25, 1999, allows some restaurants that play only television and radio music to be exempt from music licensing fees. The bill also make it easier for restaurateurs and retailers to challenge music licensing fees they believe are unfair. If your operation plays music for the enjoyment of your customers, it is important that you know and understand your obligations.

For example, if you operate a restaurant with under 3,750 gross square feet (not counting the parking lot), you are exempt from paying royalties on radio and television music only. Exemptions for restaurants over 3,750 gross square feet depend on the number and size of the televisions, radios and speakers installed in the operation.

The NRA has published a brochure that explains the rules and helps you to determine whether or not you are obligated to pay music licensing fees. The brochure also provides information on how to contact the three music licensing agencies—ASCAP, BMI and SESAC—to determine whether you need to sign a licensing agreement. Some issues to consider are:

  • The kind(s) of music you play
  • How often you play music
  • The size of your operation
  • Whether you feature live and/or recorded music

You can download a copy of the brochure from the the NRA at http://www.restaurant.org/legal/topics.cfm

For additional information and Frequently Asked Questions about music licensing, you can also visit the ASCAP web site at http://www.ascap.com/licensing/licensingfaq.html#general.

And finally, attached is a downloadable copy of an article, "Stop the Music," that appeared in one of our local Chico News & Review. It tells the story of a restaurateur here in town who is involved in his own struggle with ASCAP. It's a good example of how even the "little guys" must play by the rules.

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