If you use an online music-streaming service to soundtrack your business, you could be breaking the law. Playing tunes via streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music in a restaurant, cafe, retail store or any commercial business is illegal.

When you click “agree” to the terms and conditions on Spotify, you’re agreeing to listen for personal use only. So despite paying monthly fees for ad-free music, there’s simply no legal way to use Spotify in a commercial space, and no business is exempt.

But what’s really standing between your business and the beats?

It all comes down to some puzzling laws regarding mechanical rights. These laws grant the license to copy and distribute music, and govern everything from online music streams to CDs, vinyl and even the cassette tapes in your parents’ car. If you don’t own the mechanical rights, you can’t play the music for commercial purposes.

And for those wondering where you can buy these illusive mechanical rights, you can’t.

To legally play music in a commercial space, public performance fees are owed to the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) to cover royalties for the composer, publisher and artist.

Music duplication fees must also be paid annually to the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) and ARIA (via PPCA) when copying music onto a smart device, MP3 player or CD.

To stay within the law, you could employ the services of an independent in-store music provider, such as Marketing Melodies.

“We have commercial background music deals with the record labels that allow us to use the music in a commercial environment,” says Dean Cherny, founder and CEO of Marketing Melodies.

In October 2017, the company signed an Australian exclusive deal with Soundtrack Your Brand (SYB), a Stockholm-based and Spotify-backed music platform, with a library of music specifically licensed for commercial and public spaces. It also allows you to drag your existing playlists from Spotify and filter the songs so any track not correctly licensed is automatically removed from the playlist.

Marketing Melodies doesn’t just give you access to the SYB catalogue, but Cherny and his team can also tailor playlists to fit the vibe of your business, rather than relying on algorithms to generate playlists.

“We don’t use algorithms for the music because it’s so different to personal listening. When someone’s listening on their personal device you can understand every song that they like and that they don’t like. In a retail environment there are so many different variables that come into play, some of those might be weather, location – it’s understanding the customer,” says Cherny.

Finding the right mix is more involved than you might think.

“The research has shown you might want to have a little bit of a mix of that more commercial music in there if that’s what your brand is going for. Having that mixed with different music increases the way people spend. It’s not about someone coming in and knowing every song, it’s not the way music works and it’s not how it has the best impact.”

Using a service provider also means the royalties gathered from the songs you play will go directly to the artists responsible for their creation. The fees you pay to APRA and the PPCA which then distribute them to artists as royalties, do so based on the percentage of total nationwide play time each artist’s song receives. This process naturally favours artists at the top of the charts even if you haven’t played them in your venue. Marketing Melodies can log which artists you play and send that information to APRA and PPCA, ensuring your favourite artists benefit the most.