Aussie restaurateurs have been getting away with paying too little, too long for the music they use to create ambience. That's the basis of an argument presented by the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia, which has begun targeting cafes and restaurants with a new, raised tariff.

The labels licensing organization has proposed replacing the flat annual fee with a licensing scheme system that takes into account a host of factors, including seating capacity, the venue's alcohol, the number of number of meal sessions offered, the days of operation and the average price charged for a single main meal.

The proposed tariff R1 is "fairer," "more flexible" and one "which will better reflect the value music contributes to the restaurant and café industry," according to the PPCA, which intends to introduce the scheme from Oct. 1. A consultation process with its licensees is underway.

The organization, however, should be braced for a backlash. The Australian Hotels Association is furious with the measures, and has urged its member to boycott the tariff. In a letter to its members, the AHA wrote that it was "alarmed about the magnitude of the proposed increases and understands that it could not come at a worse time." The letter continues, "We are committed to do everything in our power to fight them."

The PPCA, which is separately challenging gymnasiums for a better licensing tariff, has fleshed out some figures to support its new proposals. Currently, a restaurant or café with a seating capacity of 60 pays just $62.04 Australian ($49) a year for its license to play music, the organization notes. If that venue attracts 30 customers each day for 200 days of the year, the fee amounts to a paltry 1 cent per person each day.

Under one tier of the proposed system, an unlicensed restaurant or café with a capacity of 50 seats, open for two sessions a day would pay a rate of $4.50 Australian ($3.50) for each day of operation. A moderately-priced licensed restaurant with a 120 capacity, open for three sessions a day would pay a music license fee of $43.20 Australian ($34) for each day of operation, a figure which works out to $0.36 Australian ($0.28) per customer, per day based on capacity.

The PPCA will take confidence that it has a solid case after winning the Copyright Tribunal's approval in 2007 to dramatically hike nightclub owners' licensing costs for sound recordings.