Customer experience is an integral part of the relationship between brands and their customers. When brands provide solid experiences to their customers, they are investing in their customers’ emotional connections and loyalty to those brands.
In the age of online shopping, solid customer experiences have become even more vital to the success of the retail store, where customers may need an incentive to visit a store instead of just hopping online to order what they need. While there are a number of stimuli to consider when crafting an effective and engaging retail store experience for customers, one often overlooked stimuli is the music played in stores. Thankfully, as suggested by a recently filed trademark registration application, Apple may be stepping in to provide a tool to help provide the perfect soundtrack to the customer experience.
Apple Music for Business
On November 29, 2018, Apple filed a trademark registration application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for “Apple Music for Business” in International Classes 038 and 041, for a number of services, including the “[b]roadcast and transmission of streamed music, audio, video, and multimedia content by means of radio, television, internet, and satellite for business use,” and “specially programmed background music for retail establishments, public areas, and commercial establishments.” The filing for the mark was made on an intent-to-use basis, meaning that while Apple isn’t currently using the mark, it has a bona fide intent to do so in the future.
Some may wonder why Apple would need to launch a music streaming service dedicated to businesses, especially when it already offers Apple Music as a service. Well, a common belief amongst businessowners is that they can play music without restriction in their place of business. Retail workers sometimes just plug in their iPhones and play music, and some businesses may even invest in a paid streaming service like Spotify Premium, just to be extra safe. If they’re paying for the music they’re playing, they should be able to play it at their place of business, right?
Unfortunately, this is not the case, and it is an issue that can be credited to a number of misconceptions about the way music and copyright protections work. In order for a business to legally be able to play copyrighted music at their retail store locations, they are required to obtain permission from the owners of each of the copyrighted songs they want to play in their stores. Without permission, they are committing copyright infringement, and may have to pay out thousands of dollars per song. To avoid this, many business owners pay performing rights organizations like American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) or Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) for blanket music licenses that allow them to play songs that are represented by those organizations.
Paid Streaming Services
But what about paid streaming services? This is another misconception, partly due to the confusion between B2C and B2B services. Even if you’re paying for a music streaming subscription service like Spotify Premium, a quick look at the Spotify Terms and Conditions of Use will tell you that Spotify is only granting permission for “personal, non-commercial, entertainment use” of their service, which means businesses should not be using standard Spotify subscription services to play music in their stores.
Instead, Spotify offers businesses a B2B music streaming platform called Soundtrack. Not only does the service provide customized options like curated playlists and scheduled soundtracks, but it also incorporates performing rights organization fees into the subscription fees.
Although only time will tell if “Apple Music for Business” will be an offering that competes with Spotify’s Soundtrack service, the “music streaming and curated playlists” services noted in the application makes it fairly clear that its offerings will be similar. If this is indeed the case, Apple would be moving into relatively unexplored territory with a somewhat unique offering—one that helps businesses refine and strengthen their customer experiences through music, all while helping them stay out of trouble on the copyright end.