Is Independent Music a Good Fit for Your Restaurant?

It’s no question that music is important to any restaurant.  It reinforces culture, can produce positive business results (if used correctly), and improves the overall dining experience.  Many restaurants settle with just using popular music released by major record labels; but considering independent music for your restaurant can add more personality to it and develop deeper emotional connections with your customers.  Here are some reasons you should choose independent music over what’s popular:

Indistinguishable from Mainstream

According to an article published by The Week, 50% of the music you hear on Pandora is independent.  Independent artists now have access to the same recording equipment, and even producers, as many artists signed to major labels.  This means that when it comes to sound quality, it’s impossible to tell who is and isn’t signed.

Listen to this song, then this one.  Sound similar, right?  You can only tell which of these songs is by a signed artist because of the number of views the video has, but when listening to the music alone, the recording quality is equal.

Brand Association

If you play popular music in your restaurant, people are less likely to develop brand associations with the songs you’ve chosen because they’ve already heard these songs elsewhere, and have likely connected the music with a different experience.  By playing music your customers have never heard, they’re more likely to associate these songs with your brand.


If you’re playing music from mainstream artists, unless you’re a huge brand, you can say goodbye to a promotional partnership. However, playing music in your restaurant by local, independent artists can open up cross-marketing opportunities.

If the artist has a good following on social media, you can ask them to give a shout out to their followers.  Fans of local music are passionate and close to the musicians themselves, since they’re able to really talk to them on social media and even at shows.  By playing music from these artists in your restaurant, you’ll be seen as helpful and friendly by a passionate community.

If it fits into the culture of your restaurant, make a playlist full of songs by local musicians, play it in your restaurant, and even sell CD’s from these artists in your restaurant and split the money with them for an extra revenue stream.  There are no limits to the promotional possibilities with local musicians.

You’re Supporting a Passionate Community

It’s extremely hard for any business to find customers. Musicians have a hard time building there fan base, and could use any help they can get. By supporting local musicians, you’re supporting a community of extremely passionate and devoted individuals. When word gets out, you’ll be viewed as a brand that cares about the same things your customers do.

Direct Deals

Instead of paying performance rights organizations for the rights to play music in your restaurant, you can pay musicians directly.  This is more supportive of their individual efforts, and it can be easier to negotiate than dealing with large organizations.  Many musicians don’t even know about BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC, and receive no royalties from them, so by paying musicians directly instead, you’re doing them a favor.

There’s Independent Music for All Genres

Many people confuse the term “indie” because, in music, it has two definitions.  Indie music can refer to the independence of the musician, but it’s also a genre.  You can find independent artists in genres such as heavy metal, rock, hip-hop, reggae, acoustic, and yes, indie.

More Music

There is more independent music available than there is major label music.  The radio plays the same 30 songs over and over again, but the fact is that’s only a fraction of all the music that’s out there.  Soundcloud has 10 hours of audio uploaded every minute, a lot of it from independent musicians.  By playing independent music in your restaurant, you have a lot more interesting music to choose from.

To play independent music in your business, make sure you choose a background music service that can support your efforts. Many services that offer background music for restaurants and have the proper licensing structure in place are able to assist you in your efforts to play music from independent musicians.