Oregon psilocybin service centers will be open for business after the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) finalizes regulations and issues licenses early next year. Psilocybin services will be heavily regulated, and business owners are encouraged to pay close attention to OHA rules. But unexpected issues may arise that are unrelated to OHA. For instance, the legal issues involved in playing music for psilocybin service clients.
Music is to psilocybin as chocolate is to coffee
A business owner may open a psilocybin service center without ever contemplating “music” as a feature of its services. While music is not necessary for a service center to operate, it may behoove business owners to offer music to psilocybin clients. Indeed, music can enhance a client’s psilocybin experience.
Music has been a component of psychedelic studies since the 1960s. One study from 2018 analyzed the impact music has on a person’s psychedelic experience. Participants in the study consumed psilocybin, listened to a curated playlist of music, and reported their experiences with the music. In general, the music acted as a guide for participants, leading them to different psychological places. The study found that music plays a central role in psychedelic experiences, and the right music creates positive experiences for individuals.
The scientific community is developing playlists specifically aimed at enhancing the positive effects of psychedelics. Indeed, Johns Hopkins University has developed a playlist to cultivate an elevated experience for people who ingest psilocybin. The playlist is meticulously curated, and even correlates to different segments of the session; i.e., when the participant arrives, ingests psilocybin, ascends, peaks, then returns to ordinary consciousness.
The legal issues of music in a psilocybin service center
Unfortunately, a psilocybin service center cannot merely play music for its clients. These service centers are businesses and operate under the same rules as bars and restaurants. The songs belong to the musical artists who created them (or perhaps a third party, if the artists has sold off any of the rights), and copyright law requires businesses to obtain a license and pay royalties for each song before playing it for their customers. This prevents businesses from using music to draw customers, and thus profit from the music, without compensating the creators.
When a restaurant wants to play music for customers, it can work with a performing rights organization (PRO). These organizations can give licenses for millions of songs, charging businesses an annual fee. Under Oregon law, these organizations are known as “performing rights societies” and must adhere to Chapter 647 of the Oregon Revised Statutes. For example, PROs must provide lists of available music and payment rates before they can contract with businesses, and they must submit a copy of their contract forms to the Secretary of State.
Can a psilocybin service center just pay for a streaming service?
There are several considerations for a business using music, but a prominent concern for business owners is the cost of licensing. One frugal option is paying for a business streaming service such as Pandora for Business, which costs $26.95 per month. However, there are limitations to this option. These streaming services only give licenses for background music, and the service contract is violated if the business uses music for activities like dancing.
In the Pandora for Business Terms of Service, the contract provides that the copyright licenses:
“do not cover any music used by You in the following ways: (a) music used by a DJ or VJ or to displace a live orchestra; (b) music used in areas of a Service location where an admission fee or cover charge is charged; (c) music used to accompany dancing (including ballrooms, discotheques and dance studios), bowling, skating or instructed health club classes; or (d) music included in commercial television programming or digital signage.”
While “psilocybin services” are not contemplated by these streaming contracts, it is clear the intention of the license is for “background” music. If music is used for a type of activity which draws customers, like dancing at a dance club, low-cost streaming is not an option.
Music is a prominent asset in psychedelic culture, and will be a sought-after feature of psilocybin administration sessions. Psilocybin service centers will be subject to the same copyright laws as bars and restaurants, and they have similar options for playing music. Service centers could argue the music they play for clients is mere “background” music and under current Terms of Service that argument may hold water. That is, until streaming services will likely alter the language in their contracts.
Considering music is viewed as a central component of a psilocybin experience, psilocybin service centers will profit from using music for clients. PROs will likely seek royalties from these businesses for the copyrighted songs they play. Business owners should look carefully at options for music for their clients, and ensure they are not violating copyright law or contract terms.