Music for Restaurants: A Complete Guide

Music for Restaurants

Think back to the last time you ate in a restaurant. Remember the way the food looked, the way it tasted, the way it smelled. Now try to remember the sounds of the restaurant: people talking, food sizzling on a grill, and more likely than not, appropriate mood music playing from the speakers. In a restaurant environment, music combines with other senses to create a positive ambiance and experience for customers. Without it, guests will feel that something is missing, or that something about the experience itself is not quite right. However, there’s more to playing music in your restaurant than just turning on your favorite playlist.

Music Licensing

The first thing to know about choosing music for your restaurant is that the music you play must be properly licensed for business use. Any song you play in your restaurant will be registered with a performance rights organization, and these organizations collect royalties on behalf of the musical artists they represent. In the United States, there are four major collecting agencies: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR. The licensing required to play music in a commercial establishment is different from the licensing needed to play music for personal use. Companies like Spotify are only authorized for personal use and cannot be used in commercial settings, such as in a restaurant. If you don’t have proper licensing, then the performance rights organizations are within their legal rights to give you hefty fines, which can reach as high as $30,000. That’s why, whenever you play music in your restaurant, you need to ensure that you have the correct licensing to play music in that space.

Now, unless you use a music provider that covers the costs of these licenses for you, you will need to pay each different collecting agency separately in order to have access to their unique catalogs. ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR all have their own licensing agreements that you will need to sign. The costs of these agreements can quickly add up, easily costing more than $1,000.

Music’s Impact on Diners

Now that we have the practical aspects covered, let’s touch on how to choose music for your restaurant. The type of music you play can shape a customer’s experience, influence their behavior, and even impact how their food will taste. Here are the top things to consider when picking music for restaurants:

  • VOLUME: Loud music stimulates, while soft music calms. A louder environment often rouses customers and encourages them to crave greasier, fattier foods, while a quieter environment relaxes customers, resulting in healthier foods appearing more appetizing.
  • TEMPO: A fast tempo energizes customers and encourages them to eat quicker, while slower music encourages them to take their time. Thus, fast music is good for busy hours, when you want customers in and out quickly, and slow music is good for off-peak hours when you want to encourage the customer to spend more time in the restaurant and order more food and drinks.
  • GENRE: Make sure the genre fits the environment of the restaurant. For example, rock is generally good for bars, classical or soft jazz is good for high-end restaurants, and ethnic music is good for ethnic restaurants.
  • VARIETY: It’s important to have a wide variety of tracks on the playlist or station that you use. You don’t want your customers or employees to be irritated by listening to the same songs over and over. Irritated employees result in lower employee morale and can decrease the quality of customer service your diners receive.
  • SCHEDULING: You should pay attention to what time of day you play specific songs, then schedule different types of music to play at optimal times of the day.

SoundMachine – Music for Business Made Easy

With all this in mind, it may feel overwhelming to know where to start. Thankfully, SoundMachine has the answer!

With a simple subscription, you’ll have access to a massive catalog of tracks that are legally licensed for business use. Some of the great features that a SoundMachine subscription includes are:

  • A massive catalog of over 60 million tracks, and it’s easy to create stations or import your own playlists. This means you’ll have more than enough tracks to have variety in what you play and to find the perfect genre(s) for your restaurant.
  • An easy-to-use scheduling feature, giving you the flexibility to schedule different types of music throughout the day.
  • Compatibility with many different audio systems, including Sonos, Control4, BluOS, RTI, Crestron, and more.
  • Licensing with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR is included in a single subscription fee, which gives you access to the artists you know and love.
  • The ability to easily manage multiple users, zones, and locations, all from within one account. 
  • Only $26.95/month for the basic subscription, and you get a free 30-day trial.


Music for restaurants isn’t just background noise—it shapes the vibe and influences the dining experience. With SoundMachine, crafting the perfect playlist becomes a breeze. Access a diverse array of tracks and easy-to-use tools to curate an ambiance that enhances every meal. Start your free 30-day trial today!