Music Licensing For Businesses: Real or Scam?

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Music Licensing For Business: Real or Scam?

frustrated-business-owner-billed-by-ascap-bmi-sesac

You may know that music used in a business must be licensed. ASCAP, BMI and other performance rights organizations (PROs) are tasked with collecting performance rights licensing fees on behalf of music publishers. These organizations have been stepping up their collections activity, sending letters and making phone calls (in some cases showing up in person). But if you receive a collections letter from a music licensing group, how can you tell if it’s real or a scam?

Who Must Pay Music Licensing For Businesses?

If your business facility uses music in any way, you must pay “performance rights” to the organizations that represent the publishers of the music. The only exception is for broadcast radio and tv in businesses under 2000 square feet (3750 square feet for restaurants). There may be additional fees  based on your type of establishment. For example, if you own a restaurant or bar that features live music, if there is a fee for entering your establishment, or if there is a physical activity coordinated with the music (such as a public skating or dancing).

Small Business Music Licensing

In an excellent article published by the Palo Alto Area Bar Association, business owners are informed, “If the music sound is clearly audible in the space designated for customers, the playing most likely infringes the [music] owners’ exclusive public performance rights in the sound recordings.” This means that use of music, even for a small business, creates a copyright infringement and therefore is a liability, both legally and financially.

PROs Request Fees

There are many instances of PROs (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) requesting fees from businesses who are taken by surprise by a collections letter. One business told us, “I am constantly being billed by ASCAP and accruing late charges…” Is it legitimate? Yes, ASCAP and other PROs definitely do ask for licensing fees, whether or not you are using music. They generally make the assumption that you are using music for overhead listening or on your telephone hold button, and send a letter something like this:

Music Licensing Letter Request

The above excerpt is from a real letter from ASCAP to a small business, and is not unusual. In the fall of 2014, the Louisiana Restaurant Association reports they had “fielded a number of calls from members who received bills from ASCAP for playing music.”

San Francisco Chronicle reporter as a young restaurant employee, he received a call from ASCAP asking for licensing fees. He says, “About a week later, our restaurant received a demand notice for payment of fees to ASCAP.”

A New York Times article on music licensing says, “a significant portion of BMI’s business is to “educate” and charge — by phone and in person — the hundreds of thousands of businesses across America that don’t know or don’t care to know that they have to pay for the music they use.”

How To Tell A Real PRO Music Licensing Fee Request From  A Scam

If you have received a letter or email asking for music licensing fees, take some time to do a followup with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.

  • Do not respond to an email or open any attachments to an email that comes from an unfamiliar source.
  • Legitimate PRO licensing requests will come in the mail, in writing
  • You will be given an account number for reference
  • Call ASCAP at 1-800-505-4052, BMI at 800-925-8451, and SESAC at 1-800-826-9996. Provide the account number and your business name as a test
  • If you are in Canada, contact SOCAN at 1 866-944-6210

Recently a friend received an email that appeared to come from PPL, a PRO in the UK:

Dear Customer,
Please find attached your PPL invoice for your licence to use recorded music (whether via CDs, Radio/TV broadcasts, background music systems or other sources) at your premises.
Permission to use PPL repertoire under the terms of the licence will only be effective once payment has been made. Payment of your invoice can be made online at ppluk.com/payonline or you can call us on 020 7534 1070 to pay by credit or debit card. All payment methods can be found on the back of your invoice.
This is an automated email. If you have any queries about the invoice or requirements for a PPL licence, please refer to the contact information below.
Yours faithfully, PPL Customer Services

First of all, he does not do business in the UK and therefore does not have to pay PPL. Secondly, the email included an attachment that looked like a word document. Opening attachments from unknown sources is a bad idea; the PROs know this. They are not likely to send a document in an email unless they have spoken to you in person first.

Decision Time: Pay Now Or Later?

No matter how big or small your company may be, you will need to make a decision regarding music licensing for your phone-on-hold audio as well as music played in your space. The Palo Alto Area Bar Association article mentioned earlier says, “Small mom and pop stores, for whom legal advice may be prohibitively expensive, must then decide whether to pay the PROs or disregard the letter and possibly face a court action for copyright infringement,” and “In view of the potential risks of an infringement lawsuit and the cost associated with litigation, which may run in the tens of thousands of dollars, the better course of action may be to enter into a licensing agreement with the PRO.”

But there is another, more affordable solution you should consider…

Solution: Use A Music Provider That Pays Fees For You

Easy On Hold enters into a music license agreement with the creators of high-quality music for phone on hold backgrounds. In recent discussions with Chuck Ansel, Vice President of Operations for Universal Publishing Production Music, we confirmed that no PRO is due any music licensing fee whatsoever, as long as the only music being used has come through Easy On Hold as licensed through Universal. In other words, if you use Easy On Hold as the source for your music on hold, and receive a request to pay fees from a PRO, just send the request to us and we will stop any attempt to collect. All Easy On Hold customers are completely covered for performance licenses for the music provided.

For overhead background (in-store) music, Easy On Hold represents Brandi Music, streaming music for business. Brandi Music covers all licenses, and explains on its website that it “is a simple solution that relieves your business of the legal liability of playing copyrighted material.”

Pandora, iTunes And Other Illegal Ideas For Playing Music In Your Business

A quick trip to the Pandora terms of use page will tell you, “…Pandora is for personal use only. That means you can’t play Pandora for the patrons in your bar, coffee shop, etc.”  There is a business version available, but it does not offer many of the most popular Pandora features and requires a proprietary listening device.

Spotify also says it is not for commercial use. They are working on a commercial version, but even then it won’t cover the PRO licenses, saying in a web release, “The performing rights must still be paid”. Besides, the service isn’t available yet and there is no announced launch date.

Audio CDs or mp3s? Not legal, because you are still “performing” the music, for which there is a separate license fee on top of purchasing the audio (in any form).

Satellite radio is also not a legal use of music in your business. Again, the subscription to a satellite (SIRIUS/XM) is typically for personal–not business–use. Like other services, a business-only version is available for a higher price.

Of course, you could simply do nothing. But after reading this article about a business that was fined $30,450 for playing four “illegally played songs” plus $10,700 in legal fees, you’ll probably think again. The local TV News reports in this video: http://www.wral.com/news/local/wral_investigates/video/9988095/

Contact Information

If you’re looking to play music legally in your business, get some helpful details and pricing from Brandi Music first. Contact Brandi Music. Music licensing for businesses is serious business.

For more articles on this topic, please read Blog articles on  Music Licensing by Easy On Hold or view the Learn section of easyonhold.com that refers to music licensing.

Entrepreneur Magazine: What You Need To Know About Music Licensing For Your Business

Streaming MOH For Asterisk: New Custom Streams Available

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Asterisk VOIPThe move to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) for business phones has increased the number of ways phone systems play music on hold (MOH). While currently most hosted VOIP providers play an uploaded audio file as the hold queue audio, new options are opening up for Asterisk-based hosted VOIP systems. Easy On Hold has developed a groundbreaking solution that will provide Asterisk users an opportunity for more robust marketing on hold programming.


Are You An Asterisk Provider?

Asterisk dealer one sheet iconLearn how you can work with Easy On Hold to create a better experience for your customers and their callers.Download the one-sheet on Asterisk Partnerships .

Programming Needs in The MOH Environment

For some companies, the presence of hold music is a mere placeholder; a way to indicate to the caller that they have not dropped the call. Others opt for information on hold as a way of better holding the attention and interest of the caller. Marketing-savvy businesses take the MOH concept a step further, using on hold messaging as a marketing tool to deliver timely call-to-action messages to a captive audience. Such marketing on hold messages have proven to be effective, often prompting a caller to inquire further about something they heard while waiting.

Challenges Of Off-Site VOIP

Producers of phone on hold messages, such as Easy On Hold, have traditionally provided an audio player (external MOH device) that feeds a continuous sound signal into a PBX. VOIP phone systems that are hosted on-site still often provide a sound card input to allow use of an external MOH player. Hosted VOIP phone systems, on the other hand, are “virtual” or entirely “in the cloud”. Since there is no entrance point for an external MOH player in a virtual environment, a single, self-contained audio file has been the norm for MOH playback. Often, these uploaded MOH files play from the start of the file each time the hold button is depressed. This architecture limits the variety of information businesses can convey during customer on-hold time. Further complicating the process is that a qualified administrator is often required to manage on hold audio files.

Hosted VOIP Market Growing

As of the date of this writing, Vonage had just completed their purchase of Vocalocity, one of the fastest growing providers in the SMB hosted VoIP market. A Vonage news release stated:

During the first half of 2013, Vocalocity had revenue of $28 million and growing, implying an annual run rate of greater than $56 million. First half 2013 revenues were 39% higher than the same period in the prior year.

Michael Storella, COO at snomTechnology Inc., the German manuafacturer of IP phones, recently stated that the demand for hosted and cloud-based VoIP systems is also growing, especially among in the small to medium business (SMB) market sector.

One reason VOIP is growing may be that it requires less hardware, which means less energy use. It also offers workers the opportunity to telecommute easily, as noted in a recent Infonetics VoIP and UC Services and Subscribers report.

MOH Industry Response to Hosted VOIP

As an increasing number of businesses opt for off-site or virtual phone systems, the music on hold industry has been slow to respond. On hold equipment providers continue to offer devices that connect via on-site audio inputs, while production companies have been content to offer audio files for upload. The result: hosted VOIP end-users are missing out on the marketing potential of timely messages on hold. Easy On Hold clients using Asterisk-based systems, however, now have access to a full range of hold messaging features via a never-before offered solution.

Streaming MOH For Asterisk

The Asterisk phone system is an open-source software solution that is very popular among I.T. providers such as internet technology integrators. The Asterisk website says:

Asterisk is an open source framework for building communications applications. Asterisk turns an ordinary computer into a communications server. Asterisk powers IP PBX systems, VoIP gateways, conference servers and other custom solutions.

Many Asterisk phone systems are being set up to play a single audio file on hold, but all have vast programming capabilities, including the ability to use an http stream (streaming URL feed) for music on hold.

A New Solution: Custom MOH Streams

Easy On Hold V.P. Tim Brown says his technical team has developed a music and message on hold solution that automatically changes content based on a planned schedule, rotates content to provide a unique caller experience, and makes changing and updating content easy—without the aid of equipment or technicians.

We devised a unique programming technique that encodes playback instructions into each of a series of custom-scripted topical announcements. Then we set a sequence of rules to manage message repetition and customer preferences. A weighting system controls message frequency, so the most important announcements play more often.

 

Examples of the programming in action might be:

  • A restaurant has lunch specials that callers hear about in the morning, and dinner specials in the afternoon.
  • A credit union with a limited-time interest rate that gets more “ear time” than other announcements in the rotation.
  • An automobile dealer promotes weekend hours to callers on Friday.
  • A doctor’s office that uses “good morning” and “good afternoon” phrases to make patients feel welcome.

Modifications to the message rotation are easily and quickly made, with the results being heard immediately.

“Since it is a live stream, customers never have to wait for changes to kick in. There’s no media to handle, no file to transfer. Streams can be monitored live via the customer portal at easyonhold.com,” Brown said.

Techs Respond To Easy On Hold Streaming Option

A call center manager who switched to streaming MOH from Easy On Hold recently remarked at how simple the set up was. The 128k .mp3 stream is a light load on bandwidth, which is already busy streaming video, Pandora personal internet radio, overhead music or other content at many businesses.

IP telephony techs from New York to Honolulu participated in the streaming service rollout, quickly arriving at the same conclusion: The stream is a piece of cake.

Mack Hendricks, Asterisk Support Manager at dOpenSource says,

I like the way the streaming solution is solving the MOH problem.  This year we are focused on partnering with companies that provide complimentary services and Easy On Hold looks like it fits the bill.  80% of our business consists of supporting Asterisk based systems.  So, we can definitely promote the product to our customers.

Specifics About How Streaming Music On Hold Works

Here are some specifics about how Streaming MOH improves the on hold experience for callers on hosted VOIP systems such as Asterisk:

  • Audio content is organized into specific topics businesses want callers to hear. Each topic is treated as an individual “spot”. Typically, a company will have between 6 and 10 topics or paragraphs playing at any time.
  • A variety of music backgrounds (30 seconds and 60 seconds) are used. It’s a welcome departure from the old “voice-over-4-minute-music-track” approach.
  • A topic can be quickly deleted, paused or added to the rotation without disturbing other content.
  • Since the stream is live, all changes are noticed immediately.
  • The frequency, days of the week and times of the day can all be programmed into each 30 to 60-second announcement. Callers are likely to have a fresh, unique listening experience with each call.
  • Each spot can be assigned a priority rating, allowing select messages to play with greater frequency than others in the live group.
  • All content is legal and licensed through our agreement with BMG Music, a publisher in the music business for 178 years.
  • Additional custom streams can be added in a matter of minutes, for extra locations, various company departments or extensions, etc.

 

 

 

Easy On Hold, http://www.easyonhold.com, created in 1997, provides professional telephone recordings, music and on hold message productions, auto attendant, IVR, voice mail greetings, and web audio to companies around the world.

Easy On Hold Named OnSIP Music On Hold Channel Partner

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Easy On Hold and OnSIPEasy On Hold has been named exclusive custom music and message on hold channel partner by OnSIP, a leading provider of business VoIP services to businesses.

Easy On Hold developed the technology to stream custom announcements for the OnSIP platform. The OnSIP music on hold solution delivers multiple 30- and 60-second promotional spots, mixed with music, to inform and educate callers, while adding to branding and sales efforts.

“It’s like designing your own custom message and music on hold channel,” says Easy On Hold President Julie Cook. “Now you can have a robust phone system and an on hold marketing program all in one solution.”

As a channel partner, Easy On Hold will provide exceptional service to OnSIP users in search of custom message on hold programming. OnSIP users will receive a custom URL (web address) to use as the source for Enhanced Music On Hold. Easy On Hold has 16 years of experience providing businesses with properly licensed music, custom scripting and voice talent. Customer admin tools to help businesses use telephone on hold time to improve customer relations and company image.

A video has been released to inform OnSIP users of the availability of the new streaming music on hold service.

Unique New Service: Custom OnSIP Music On Hold Streams

No other professional messages on hold production company has offered multiple streaming music and message on hold delivery until now. Easy On Hold has truly added a new category to the message on hold marketplace.

Easy On Hold V.P. Tim Brown, who led the development and testing phases of the new service says, “OnSIP users have only a live streaming URL as an option for music and messages on hold. Our system can generate a unique customer streaming channel instantly, and populate it with content delivered live.”

Since its inception in the fall of 2013, the Easy On Hold streaming music on hold system has streamed over 1.1 million audio files. “Bandwidth is no longer an issue in today’s business environment and serving streams is quite commonplace,” Brown commented.

Advanced Scheduling

With advanced scheduling features, the Easy On Hold streaming solution delivers timely content to callers on hold based on the day and time of day. “Announcements can be focused on a call-to-action for greater impact, then stop playing automatically,” explained Julie Cook.

Since callers hear the stream live, content changes can take place immediately. No audio files or equipment needs to be handled in order to change content. Features include:

  • Content can change automatically, based on a schedule of your choosing.
  • Spanish, French and other languages and translations are available.
  • Multiple streams can be applied to various users on an OnSIP account.
  • New message productions are created in 3 business days or less.

OnSIP

Hosted PBX is continuing to grow as an affordable, flexible solution for small and medium-sized businesses, and the OnSIP platform is built to be user-friendly and robust. Many businesses are switching from on-site PBX phone systems to hosted PBX from OnSIP to reduce costs while taking advantages of a wide range of solutions previously unavailable from their on-site PBX.

Companies with tele-workers or employees who travel will find OnSIP a seamless solution. Phones can be deployed and moved anywhere that a high-speed Internet connection is available. Companies experiencing rapid growth are able to easily add users to the system, each with customized feature sets, including automated attendant, integration of Android devices, iPhone and third-party applications, free on-network calling, video conferencing and much more.

OnSIP was created by Junction Networks, founded in 2004 and delivers communications services to over 22,000 small, medium, and large businesses.

Free Trial Offer Available

Taking a cue from OnSIP, which offers a free 30-day trial of its services, Easy On Hold is also offering customers a 30-day trial of the new OnSIP streaming MOH service.

 

Easy On Hold is not responsible for the performance, installation or operation of equipment we do not sell. Articles about equipment are for educational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any make or brand. Easy On Hold makes no claims or warranties regarding telephone equipment of any kind.

The 4 Things Your Customers Want to Know About You and Your Small Business

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Guest author Tom Borg, a business consultant in Canton, Michigan,  provides tips on how your business can build lifetime customer satisfaction.

Among the many things that people want to know about the people who serve them, research shows that four specific items are at the top of the list. Here is what the studies have identified.  Your small business customers want to know the answers to four questions. They are:

1. Do you like me?

2. Do you care about me?

3. Can I trust you?

4. Do you know what you are talking about?

The first thing they want to know is if they are sincerely liked by the person serving them. Your customers will know this from how the representative interacts with them. Does your employee use their name, does he or she really listen, and do they have sincere empathy in their voice?

The second thing your customers want to know about your employee who serves them is, does the representative really care about them. The customer can sense this from the questions they are asked, the tone of their voice, how helpful they are and all the little things your employee says or does that shows they really do care.

The third question your customer wants to know the answer to is, can they trust your employee. Indications of trust can be seen in how confident the representative is and does he or she follow through as promised. One example of how trust can be lost by a small business owner or employee is by how promptly a phone call or email is returned to the customer. When there is a long period of time that elapses between the time the customer contacts your small business and is followed up with, or worse yet, not followed up, trust diminishes rapidly. A good rule of thumb is to have all phone calls and emails returned within 24 hours or less.

Finally, the fourth thing people want to know about the employee who serves them is whether or not the person serving them is knowledgeable and competent. Indications of these qualities are demonstrated by how familiar your employee is with the particular situation the customer is experiencing or the product or service they are purchasing. Customers want to know if this employee has solved similar types of problems for other customers in the past. If they have, it builds confidence in their  buying experience.

In summary, to build lifetime customer satisfaction with the customers you serve, make sure your small business is able to provide the right kind of customer service training that teaches the proper customer service skills. These skills should empower all of your managers and staff to treat your customers in such a way that consistently answers their four most common questions they have about your small business.

Tom Borg is president of Tom Borg Consulting, LLC. He is a business consultant, trainer and author of the book Making Service Count-Leveraging Customer Satisfaction to Make Your Small Business More Profitable. He can be reached at 734.404-5909 or tomborg@tomborgconsulting.comt, or visit his website, www.tomborgconsulting.com.

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Tierzero VOIP Phone Service Chooses Easy On Hold Music and Messages On Hold

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VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is the biggest buzz in telephony since the dial tone. The increasing speed and bandwidth of Internet connections has allowed businesses of every size to take advantage of upscale business telephone service options. One leader in the VOIP telephony industry is Tierzero, based in Los Angeles, California.

Easy On Hold is now working with Tierzero, the largest owner-operated commercial Internet and VoIP provider in Southern California. With a menu of high-tech business-class communications services, Teirzero is upgrading caller-on-hold messaging to better inform customers.

For Tierzero clients, Easy On Hold can provide custom-created voiced announcements for on hold messaging and auto attendant (IVR) prompts. Since on hold music and voice audio is delivered via the Cloud, Easy On Hold provides audio files that are conveniently uploaded by the Tierzero customer.

As legacy phone systems fade away, many businesses are choosing to upgrade to Cloud-based, or hosted PBX service. The appeal is strong: a multitude of flexible features, flat rate or all-inclusive plans, relief from owning phone equipment. Review Hosted PBX Service Video from Tierzero.

As in Internet provider, Tierzero provides service across most of the U.S. One area of expertise is construction and management of private and secure  MPLS networks.

Tierzero serves all industries including manufacturing, printing and graphics, defense, aerospace, accounting, legal,  PR, music, fashion, education, government, health care, electronics, IT Services, Software, transportation,  and on and on. In the entertainment field, clients include Dick Clark Productions, Relativity Media, The Motion Picture Association of America Dr. Phil, Technicolor and more.

Easy On Hold is not responsible for the performance, installation or operation of equipment we do not sell. Articles about equipment are for educational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any make or brand. Easy On Hold makes no claims or warranties regarding telephone equipment of any kind.

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