The Business Cost Of Bad Music Choices: Lawsuits and Lost Customers

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"A business should sound as good as it looks," advises On Hold Company blog post.

On Hold Company - Custom On Hold Music and Messages

Businesses that use music to establish identity and set a mood may in fact be setting themselves up for a lawsuit, warns On Hold Company CEO Bryant Wilson in a recent blog post. "Background music provides important cues about the personality of a business, but it can also can get a business owner in big trouble," said Wilson.

Recently, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) filed suit against a dozen bars and restaurants, alleging that the owners have failed to pay the appropriate licensing fees for music played in their establishments.

It's not an idle threat: in 2011, a Raleigh, N.C., restaurant closed after being ordered to pay BMI $30,450 in damages for playing four copyrighted songs. In its current legal filing, the company says that it "could" recover as much as $150,000 in damages per song, and that's a cost that few small bars and restaurants could readily absorb. "Some business owners complain about the record-keeping required and the penalties imposed, but the truth is, businesses should all play by the same rules," Wilson explained. "The way to enforce that is to make the penalties costly."

The wrong music can cost a business in other ways as well. "Many small retail businesses avoid licensing fees by playing local radio stations, but what happens when shoppers hear ads for your competitors while shopping in your store?" Wilson asked. Another issue with radio is the lack of control a business has over the music selections heard by customers.

"There's an entire industry devoted to retail store design and layout. Business owners obsess over every detail of how the store looks to customers, so it's amazing how little thought is given to how the store sounds to customers," he noted.

Ideally, the layout of a store or restaurant/bar encourages customers to linger, in the hopes that they'll spend more. Music complements this strategy because it can trigger strong emotions in people. A British consumer survey found that half of all people surveyed said they'd left a store due to annoying music, but 40% of shoppers said they would stay in the store longer if they liked the music played in the background.

Appropriate music helps reinforce an establishment's brand with auditory cues that subtly create customer expectations. "At On Hold Company, we work with clients to develop custom overhead music that's fully licensed and appropriate to the products and clientele. Musical Mayhem sounds like the name of an up-and-coming punk rock group," concluded Wilson. "It shouldn't be part a company's marketing strategy - and it certainly shouldn't land you in court."

About On Hold Company
On Hold Company ( is a leading provider of custom telephone on-hold music and messages. The company has been in business since 1994 and provides on-hold marketing for more than 13,000 clients across North America. On Hold Company also provides digital signage solutions, telephone voice prompts and overhead music and messaging services.

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Scott Anderson
On Hold Company
(800) 492-9030 119
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