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Can I Play Music in my Cafe? (2019 Update)

Can I Play Music in my Cafe? (2019 Update)

Music can be an integral part of a cafe. What do you need to do before hitting the play button?

5th September 2019

Along with your coffee, the broader atmosphere of your cafe is what will attract customers to your business. In creating the ideal atmosphere for your cafe, you may want to play music. Music can be used in many formats, such as background music, live performances, karaoke and even music on your website. Whether it’s cafe music or music with a more upbeat tone, it’s important to also ensure you’re not infringing copyright. In this article, we’ll outline the legal requirements around playing music in your cafe.

Get your licence

In order to have the legal right to play music in your establishment, you must purchase a licence. This licence is purchased Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society Limited (AMCOS). If you don’t play music without having the right licence, you will be infringing copyright. Further, legal action may be taken against you.

Why do I need a licence?

Obtaining the right licence will not only ease your conscience, but it will also ensure that:

  • The rights of songwriters, composers and producers have not been breached
  • You’ll be complying with the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)
  • The artist is rightfully paid for their work
  • You won’t need to contact the copyright holder for every piece of music you play

Type of licence

If you are looking at playing music in your cafe, APRA offers various licences bundled with different formats. This will ensure that you select the right licence for your business. For cafes, the most suitable licence is the dining licence. This type of licence also applies to restaurants, takeaway food shops and bistros.

Regardless of what licence you purchase, you’ll be able to play music that’s been commercially released anywhere in the world.

Background Recorded Music

If you want to just play background music or feature music on your website, APRA offer licences which will let you play any music. This licence will cover you playing music from any digital devices, such as your smartphone or computer. This also includes music from any CDs, radios or televisions that are playing music in your establishment.

Live Music

If you want to provide live entertainment for your patrons, you will need to purchase the appropriate licence. APRA offers licences that allow you to play live music exclusively. You can also combine this with the right to play background music as well. It’s worth noting that these licences only let you do this for 12 nights per year. There is an excess charge for every night after this.

Further, if you charge patrons $20 or more for the admission of a live event, you’ll need to pay a fee to APRA. This equates to 2.2% of the total gross amount paid by patrons.


If you think that obtaining a licence is unfeasible for your business, you do have a range of viable alternatives. These include:

  • Playing only royalty free music
  • Contacting the copyright holder directly

If you want further clarification about music licences, it is wise to consult with a business lawyer.

Don’t know where to start? Contact us on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest lawyer marketplace.

Logan Tennyson

Logan is a Paralegal working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a passion for commercial and media law, his research explores how the law is adapting to emerging technologies and how this affects consumers and businesses alike.