Qsic offer solution to hairy music-licensing problem

What is now an industry-leading automated and intelligent audio system was, in the beginning, something simpler. Qsic launchedin 2012 on the premise that some business owners playing music in their shops and restaurants would be doing so illegally due to an innocent unawareness of the licensing and copyright regulations involved. Their idea was to offer a legal solution. Fast forward six years – and to a six-figure fine levied on a Melbourne bar – and it looks like their premise was right and their solution more relevant than ever.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen[1]earlier this month, the majority of business owners incorrectly believe that a personal account can be used to play background music in say a café, and only 17 percent of small businesses have the correct licences to play music at all. The study encompassed 5,000 in-store interviews with businesses in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Spain, Italy, France and Germany and revealed that 83 per cent of businesses are using personal music subscriptions and free music services to play songs in a public setting, costing the global music industry $2.65 billion annually and artists over $100 million a month.

So, how do you get your venue licensed appropriately here in Australia? With great difficulty. Intellectual property law, which creates copyrights to safeguard inventors of music, is a minefield and no exception is made when it comes to playing background music – including radio – in stores, restaurants or other venues constituting a “public performance.” To do it legally, you’ll need to navigate laws regarding mechanical rights which not only grant the licence to copy and distribute music but govern everything from online music streaming to playing CDs, vinyl and even those cassette-tape vestiges in the box under your bed.  If you don’t own the mechanical rights to these devices, you can’t play them.

Where can you buy these rights? You can’t. Not directly anyway – and this is where things get more complicated. Businesses playing background music are required to obtain a licence under the Copyright Act 1968. These range from $80 AUD to over $2,000 AUD annually depending on the size of venue and number of devices used to play the music. Fees are paid to the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) to cover royalties for the composer, publisher and artist and it doesn’t stop there. Music duplication fees must also be paid annually to the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) and Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) via PPCA when copying music onto a smart device, MP3 player or CD.

If this all read like “blah blah blah,” then you’re not alone. Businesses everywhere are up in arms not only about the myriad bodies to which fees are owed and the convoluted pricing structures involved, but because of the lack of guidance – who knew that an APRA licence was necessary when a personal subscription had already been paid? But, as the saying goes, ignorance of the law excuses not and continuing to play personal music in your venue this way will leave you with repeated cease and desist notices at best or –  at worst – a hefty fine as was the case for the owner of Melbourne café-come-bar Hairy Little Sista earlier this month who was ordered to pay a staggering $185,000 AUD for infringements.

In response to the growing concern from businesses, a solution has been proffered by APRA, AMCOS and the PPCA: OneMusic Australia. To paraphrase the website spiel, set to launch in 2019 the combined body will hold more than 140,000 public performance music licences currently held by Australian businesses and will see new licences developed with new fee structures. The aim is to simplify the current model by removing the reporting requirements around the number of devices and different types of spaces used, but overall fees will increase with what appears to be little or no value add.

Cue the QSIC platform, which offers a cost-effective resolution. Not only does the platform keep you on the right side of the law, taking care of all of the above and therefore removing the nuisance from your business administration, but the platform also has the capability to deliver branded curation to subscribers which can be distributed to Australia-wide subsidiaries, giving businesses visibility across their entire network. There are a number of other features for businesses included in the service such as API access, music scheduling, consumer analytics, digital-signage integration, head-office control, audio-advertising functionality, multi-zone audio and much more making Qsic the obvious choice for punters wanting bang for their buck in this messy space.

“It seems obvious that you can’t play Netflix to a large audience but for some reason people don’t apply the same logic to music streaming,” says Matt Elsley, Qsic CEO and Founder.

“Education is necessary but what small businesses want is life to be made easy and that’s at the heart of what we do.

“The case of Hairy Little Sista has been a wake-up call for businesses all over Melbourne and we’re happy to chat to concerned venue owners about their needs,” he says.

Business owners know that music has profound effects on the way customers engage with and enjoy their spaces. What they have been slower to realise is that laws governing playing music in these spaces are complex and purchasing a personal subscription to Spotify or buying a CD to play for your patrons can land you in strife. Who knew an act as seemingly innocuous as a playing “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers could leave you Bay-City-Rolling in a six-figure fine. No doubt, most companies would gladly pay if they knew they were doing something wrong and, hopefully, Hairy Little Sistawill be enough to raise the red flag for businesses wanting to ethically and legally source their music so musicians are getting the money they’re entitled too.

To speak with one of Qsic’s friendly tech team: 1300 113 279

[1]Published on Monday 15 October 2018 by fellow licensing service Soundtrack Your Brand

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