4 Streaming Music Services to Help Create the Right Ambiance

Many types of small businesses — retail shops, restaurants, salons, and gyms, to name a few — rely on music to create the right ambiance for customers. Of course, not everyone’s MP3 collection is large enough to handle eight or more hours a day on rotation.

Streaming music services can give you online access to the tunes you need to set the mood at work. But note that you will need to pay licensing fees for commercial use.

For streaming music services that don’t offer their own commercial licenses, you are legally obligated to pay a licensing fee to the copyright holder, BMI or ASCAP. These fees are often minimal: For instance, a fitness club [PDF] with 400 members that uses music for group exercise classes would pay just $28.40 per year to play music copyrighted by BMI. You can find information about the appropriate licensing fees here and here. If you don’t pay for a commercial license and you’re caught, you could be fined thousands of dollars, depending on the size and nature of your business.

Here are a few of the major players in streaming music.

1. Pandora — Pandora uses custom algorithms to find hundreds of artists “similar” in some way to an artist you like. For example, if you’re looking for smooth jazz to ease your salon customers into their massages, try a Sade station. Want to get your gym customers hyped up for a cardio session? Try Pandora’s custom cardio station, or create your own, using your favorite Black-Eyed Peas song to get the right tempo. A Pandora commercial license is available for $24.95 per month.

2. Spotify – This Swedish startup has one of the largest catalogs of streaming music available online. Best of all, you can stream entire albums as well as individual songs or playlists. Check out the What’s New section to see which recent recordings are available for streaming, or search for your favorite artists by name to add their tunes to your playlist. Spotify has opened its application programming interface (API) to outside developers, so you can also use related apps like ShareMyPlaylists to find and download custom playlists that other Spotify users have created. Like Pandora, Spotify also maintains stations based on certain artists. An “offline mode” lets you download and play music even without an internet connection. You can also import your own collection and access it from the cloud at any time. Commercial licenses are not available.

3. Rdio – Rdio offers many of the same features as Spotify, plus a more intuitive interface. However, there are no third-party apps available to enhance the Rdio experience, and it doesn’t allow you to upload your own files to the cloud. Commercial licenses are not available.

4. Google Play Music All Access — Like Spotify and Pandora, Google’s new music service offers streaming across desktop and mobile devices. Unlike its competitors, however, it does not sync with streaming entertainment players, such as Sonos and Roku, which are important if you want to stream music in a public space. Commercial licenses are not available.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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When I followed the link to the rate schedules, it in fact isn't $28/year for a BMI license, but at least $307.00. The article's author should have read the fine print below the rates per member, that says:


"Pursuant to Sub-paragraph 9(c), the total annual license fee per Licensed Premises shall not be less than $307, shall not be greater than $2,098 and should be rounded to the nearest penny." 


So these fees to simply play music in your business have gone from a trivial fee, to a significant amount of money. Also consider that a business wouldn't need to just pay BMI, they would also need to pay ASCAP, which may actually cost more. So instead of an affordable 28 bucks a year as the author asserts, the owner of a small health club is actually looking at closer to $700/year, about 25 times what the article claims. 


I support the music industry, and think they've really been victimized by Napster, Limewire, and the like, but this is nothing more than a shakedown racket. BMI and ASCAP would certainly find a lot more businesses that would love to come into royalty compliance, if they would charge affordable rates to do such. 

tom jones tribute
tom jones tribute

I love the concept of the 'Pandora' stream, where the software tries to find music of a similar theme or genre that the listener will like.

I often listen to random selections of music on radio shows etc. but sometimes I want to stick with a certain style, so this is when I choose the Pandora option.

Great post, informative and actually useful to the reader. Thanks!


I'd like to add another music streaming site to the list, Torch Music. Have you heard of it? It's really cool you can create playlists and see what your friends are listening to. If you're using their browser you can even control it when you're using other tabs, I totally recommend it!

Ajay Prasad
Ajay Prasad

 Loved your blog! Music is considered a great way to balance your personal and professional life. It is considered the best way to relax your mind and body. It also gives a positive impact to the customers.