Last weekend my family and I went into an ice cream parlor. We enjoyed the music coming over the stereo — a great mix of 70s funk and soul — almost as much as the ice cream. Then the music was interrupted by a commercial. I didn’t notice what it was a commercial for, but I did notice that the ad copy started with, “Hey Pandora listeners!”
Oops. It turns out that playing Pandora in a public space, like a cafe, bar, or restaurant, is a violation of Pandora’s terms of service.
The folks in Pandora-land (a/k/a Oakland, CA) ought to view this as an opportunity. I’m sure many stores do what this ice cream shop did and wouldn’t mind paying a nominal fee for the performance rights required. This can only be a plus for both Pandora and music licensors.
Wait a minute: doesn’t Muzak already do that? Yes, they have for decades — and they see the threat coming. The company declared bankruptcy last year. It has been trying to diversify into other areas, such as store signage, sound systems, and in-store announcements.Muzak offers a few dozen music channels, a pittance compared to satellite radio, let alone the infinite variety and serendipity of Pandora (or Slacker, etc.).
In fact, Sirius XM satellite radio already offers this type of license. XM for Business partners with PlayNetwork, a Muzak competitor, to deliver its offering to stores, including some major retail chains.
Muzak is, perhaps, a dark corner of the music industry about which few people think seriously. Maybe it’s about to get darker yet.