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I regularly recommend to my funeral home clients that they invest in proper music systems (MP3 players, good speaker systems, etc.) and yet I don’t know much about the legality of music played in the funeral home as it relates to copyright infringement.

As I understand it (and here’s the disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, am not offering legal advice and will NOT claim expert status in any court) music licensing fees apply when you use music to sell a product or you sell the music itself. 

Does this mean that you wouldn’t pay a fee for music played in the background during a visitation, but you would for a song sung at the service by a paid singer?  Or should the singer pay copyright fees to the musician?  Does the fee go to the musician who popularized the song or to the writer?

It’s very confusing, to say the least.

But now funeral home owners can indemnify themselves with a yearly music license.

ICCFA (they just added the second C to become “International Cemetery, CREMATION and Funeral Association) offers one for just $232.

You can see the full list of their Frequently Asked Questions here.

I’ve heard the questions and I can imagine that you have them too.  Namely, WHY DO I NEED A LICENSE?

I would suggest that a music license is much like a catastrophic insurance policy.  The odds that you’ll ever have to consult the policy (license) or use it are pretty slim.  But we’ve all heard the stories of parents being sued by the music industry because their kid downloaded songs illegally.  We’ve read the accounts of businesses losing business, time and cash to fight a legal battle against superfluous charges.

So I say get the license.  Maybe not from ICCFA, if you’d rather go through another trade organization.  But for $232, the amount of profit you make off even the cheapest pine box, you can idemnify yourself for the whole year.

The most persistent part of your marketing strategy is your name.  I’d also argue that this is the least expensive marketing choice and the most important.  “What You Call Yourself” is also what your community calls you.  And what your community will have to remember to find you and recommend you to others.

 THE “INSERT NAME HERE” APPROACH:  “Smith Funeral Home” is effective in that it gets the point across.  But it does little more than convey ownership information.  When choosing a funeral home, I would need more information about the Smith who owns the place, to decide if it’s right for me.  Now, if John Smith is well-known in the community and created the “John Smith” brand by his actions in the community, it’ll work.  But he’s done two potentially damaging things by building a personal brand rather than a funeral home brand. 
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I’ve stumbled upon the blog of Carolynn, a woman from Utah who’s started a retail store (mall kiosk) with a single $100 bill.

Her journey is detailed here.

It got me thinking about all the reasons funeral directors don’t try new things:  I don’t have the money, I don’t have time, what if it doesn’t work?

Rubbish!

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