Are You Guilty of Starving Musicians?

By Dave Moore

Did you know that a licence is required to play music in your treatment room? Or in your waiting area? Or when we put someone on hold on the phone?

But, Why?

Just like massage therapists, musicians have a right to be paid for their work, but unlike us, they can’t collect payment directly as they work. Musicians are paid by a not-for-profit organisation called APRA AMCOS (who, incidentally, live a couple of doors away from AMT Head Office). APRA AMCOS collect money in the form of licence fees.

“Approximately 85 per cent of your licence fee goes straight back to songwriters, composers and publisher members as royalties.”


Any business using music in any form as part of that business is required under the Copyright Act 1968 to have a licence from APRA AMCOS. This includes background music played in a waiting-room or clinic and includes use of radio broadcasts and streaming services.

This requirement is not well understood by many businesses, who believe that because they have personal rights to music, e.g. because they paid iTunes for it, they can also use it in their business. This is not the case, even if you bought a CD, you only have the right to play that CD for personal use, not in your business, which is considered a ‘public performance’.

What constitutes a ‘Public Performance’?

A “public performance” includes live performances of music in public as well as playing recorded music in public. Any performance of copyright material which is not essentially private or domestic is likely to be regarded as “in public” for the purposes of copyright.

–Australian Copyright Council

We can’t say that we weren’t informed. Take a look at the back of any CD and you’ll see wording similar to:

“All rights of the owner of copyright in this recording reserved. Any copying, renting, diffusion, public performance or broadcast of this record without the authority of the copyright owner is prohibited.

This wording can be found on the rim of the CD (or vinyl disc) itself.

No judgement on Dave’s music tastes.

What about streaming services?

The Australian Copyright Council advises that a “communication to the public” means ‘communicating copyright material electronically to the public. This includes online uses of copyright material – for example, uploading music to the internet, streaming music and emailing files (except to family and friends) – and broadcasting copyright material. Courts have held that transmitting music over the telephone while people are waiting on hold is also a communication to the public. You will need permission to use music in these sorts of ways unless a specific exception to infringement applies.’

That means we require a licence from APRA AMCOS for streaming services too.

One of the largest music streaming services, Spotify, includes the following in its Terms and Conditions of Use:

And goes on to include the following under ‘8 User Guidelines’:

The following is not permitted for any reason whatsoever:

  • Copying, redistributing, reproducing, “ripping”, recording, transferring, performing or displaying to the public, broadcasting, or making available to the public any part of the Spotify Service or the Content, or otherwise making any use of the Spotify Service or the Content which is not expressly permitted under the Agreements or applicable law or which otherwise infringes the intellectual property rights (such as copyright) in the Spotify Service or the Content or any part of it …
What About Radio?

The use of radio broadcast is currently under review, but as things stand (and I’ve extracted this from several pages of government double-speak) you have a right to play the broadcast on your business premises but you need a licence to play any copyrighted contents (such as music) included in it”. So once again, you need a licence.

In a Nutshell

You need an APRA AMCOS licence to play music in your clinic. Massage rooms/clinics come under the “General Business” category. Here’s the information, including costs, to get you started on acquiring a licence.

To keep our musicians fed and viable, please do the right thing and get an APRA AMCOS licence for your clinic if you use any form of music. It’s your legal and ethical responsibility.

About the Author

Dave Moore is a Sydney based massage therapist and a current AMT Director. After working as a theatrical electrician and touring with bands (this could account for his loud voice), Dave progressed into operations and project management roles at both national broadcasters and a Sydney university before taking up massage in 1999. Dave enjoys sharing his experience to help other therapists look at the business side of their practice.

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