Ask an ExpertMay/June 2017

Q. How do I know if I’m using music properly?

Music connects people, and many Canadian businesses big and small use the power of music every day to help build relationships with their customers.

But many business owners don’t know whether they’re using music legally, and this can be a problem. In today’s transparent business world, it has become more important than ever to ensure that your organization is on the right side of what has become an important issue to Canadian consumers.

Then there’s the matter of doing music properly. Even once all the legal bases are covered, there are a host of other considerations, including technical difficulties, getting agreement on what type of music is best, and keeping a “sound” for the brand that will complement, but not overpower core brand messaging.

Here are a few statistics on the importance of music and its use in businesses across Canada:

  • Three-quarters of Canadians feel that the music businesses play impacts their brand, and
  • 84 per cent agree that playing the right music can be beneficial to a business (Leger 2015).
  • 87 per cent of Canadians agree that they would prefer to patronize businesses that support musicians by using music legally and ethically (Re:Sound 2015).
  • More than two thirds of Canadians (68 per cent) agree the atmosphere created by music impacts their decision to return to or recommend a restaurant (2015 SOCAN/Leger).

 Now, here are some tips to help you use music in a business setting:

Using the radio, Sirius XM, or a streaming service like Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube.

Regular AM/FM radio is fine, but that’s it. You are not permitted to use other services for your business unless you are specifically paying that company for a “music service for businesses.” With AM/FM radio, remember that each station is geared toward a very broad demographic, which is unlikely to closely match the one in your place of business.

Adding music as a business expense, when customers won’t know whether you’re paying for music.

Think of the small fees of a music service the same way you think of insurance – the cost certainty of a nominal fee that precludes the likelihood of an event much costlier to your business.

Playing your own commercials or existing creative.

This is something you can do, as long as you have a system and a music supply service that facilitates this. With some of the great audio recording technologies available today, in-store radio can be a much richer experience for your customers than it was in the past.

Music’s contribution to the bottom line.

Canada’s two main organizations for licensing music in businesses (SOCAN & Re:Sound) publish regular reports on the value and use of music. The best thing to do is test. With the right tools, it can be quite simple to run some simple A/B testing with different music environments to achieve a mix that delivers demonstrable bottom-line results.

Deciding between hardware-based and internet streaming solutions.

Hardware-based solutions are more traditional, and tend to be considered more reliable than streaming solutions. The downside is that an element of control is given up, and updating content can be more challenging. Internet-based solutions usually have a much broader range of options in terms of both control and measurement/analytics, but require a reliable internet connection. Many solutions are a hybrid of the two systems, using web-based technologies to affect greater control and measurement, but with a “back-up” physical component.

The importance of sound quality in a busy environment.

Broadly speaking, two factors affect the quality of the sound: the sound source (e.g. quality of receiver or stream, bitrate of song files) and the hardware delivering the sound. If you’re considering an upgrade, make sure that you take both into account.

Carrying music over into the existing marketing and/or digital brand initiatives.

There are many creative ways to incorporate music more into your brand, including bringing in live music to your location(s), partnering with artists on brand promotions, and using your social media channels to talk about what’s playing in-store. Because of the powerful emotional connection created by music, the engagement rate with promotional activities can be higher, making the associated campaign that much more effective.

The next time you hear a song you love, think about how it makes you feel. Then, think about the value of each and every one of your customers sharing that feeling while experiencing your brand. It’s worth putting in the time and effort to do it properly.

Greg Nisbet

Founder & CEO