Happy Birthday

Here’s something you may not have known. Until very recently, it was illegal to sing “Happy Birthday” at your entertainment facility. At least, you would have been required (if caught) to pay royalties due to a copyright on the song. A lot of operators may not have known about this copyright, and even some who knew about it simply didn’t care. But worry no more! According to this article on Yahoo, a judge ruled the copyright on the song to be invalid. While it’s now legal to sing “Happy Birthday” without fear of repercussion, you should continue to avoid the song at your business.

Why? First off, the song is really boring. Seriously, think about the last time someone sang “Happy Birthday” to you. Everyone knows the words but drones through them, creating a lackluster chorus of monotone indifference. When I think of this song, I immediately picture the scene from Office Space in which the entire staff has to sing to their boss, whom they all despise. It’s quite depressing.

Plus, anyone can sing the song. In the entertainment business, it’s important to differentiate yourself from the competition. So rather than drone through that boring song, put your own twist on it. Many restaurants around the country have their own unique version of the birthday song. This was out of necessity since the copyright made it impossible to sing “Happy Birthday.” So businesses created their own unique (and more importantly, upbeat) versions of the song.

If you are planning on reverting back to the original “Happy Birthday” at least make it more fun. If you have party hosts who are in choir or glee club, have them perform for the birthday party. At a facility I used to manage, our more talented vocalists would sing a 4-part harmony while banging a drum beat on the table. Parents absolutely loved this! We were the only place in town that had talented staff who could serenade the party; one of our many differentiating factors.

The story about the “Happy Birthday” copyright being invalid may seem like big news to a lot of operators, but don’t lose sight of what’s important: great experiences. Will being able to sing the classic song create a great experience for your customers? Probably not. Embrace your differentiating factors by singing something different. Something upbeat. Something better.

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