Connecticut Town Tells ASCAP, BMI, SESAC To Get Lost Over Royalty Bills

from the get-lost! dept

Three years ago, the town of New Milford, Connecticut got a bill from ASCAP demanding $280 in licensing fees, because the local town center sometimes will have music playing. Even at that amount, the mayor felt it was ridiculous, since it was a municipality playing music for non-profit community purposes. So the town council voted to ignore the bill, tabling it “indefinitely.” As far as I know nothing else has happened between ASCAP and New Milford, but reader Bill Waggoner recently alerted us to the news that BMI and SESAC — the other two collection societies in the US — sent bills to New Milford as well. BMI’s was a whopping $3,000. SESAC’s was $1,500.

After being asked about it, BMI realized that it had made a “mistake” in calculating the bill, and lowered it to $305 (funny that they don’t make mistakes in the other direction, do they?). However, the town council has told them to go take a hike. “They’re not going to get that either” was the quote from council member Roger Szendy. The town’s mayor, Patricia Murphy, says she’s standing up for the principle of the whole thing, claiming that it’s silly that a municipality should have to pay. BMI apparently says it’s not going to sue, but it hopes that the city will “do the right thing.”

I’m guessing that BMI (and ASCAP) realize it would be a public relations nightmare to sue a municipality, but if other cities start taking similar principled stands, you have to wonder if they’d reconsider.

Side Note: As regular readers know, it’s our common practice to link to our source for information on stories. In this case, however, our main source is The News Times. I had the story about this open in my browser for a few days before getting around to writing it up. Then I discovered that The News Times locks up its content after a few days. So… I can no longer actually get to the article or send any traffic to the newspaper site. Perhaps I don’t quite get the economics of news publishing, but I would imagine ad traffic from a bunch of our readers visiting their site would greatly outweigh the expected value of people actually paying $3 to read the article (yes, that’s what they want). Oh well. I guess it’s just their loss.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: ascap, bmi, sesac

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Connecticut Town Tells ASCAP, BMI, SESAC To Get Lost Over Royalty Bills”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Cheap? No

> For a town with an annual budget in the order
> of $30M+, the mayor comes across as a cheapskate.

No, he comes across as one of those rare politicians who actually realizes that it’s not magic money he’s playing with, but rather the tax money of the town he represents and to spend even $1.00 of it frivously is a violation of his fiduciary duty to the citizenry.

Michael L. Slonecker says:

Re: Re: Cheap? No

In which case he should turn off the music because what the town is doing appears to be illegal.

Strangely, if the state was playing the music instead of the town the state could claim sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment. The amendment does not, however, extend to municipalities.

Anonymous Coward says:

Towns should require licenses to be in the licensing business

Surely these companies need to be licensed by the local municipality to perform this type of business.

Why not legalize and tax Racketeering?

Perhaps The City Council of New Milford will determine that ASCAP/BMI needs to acquire a $750,000 license to do business in New Milford, CT?

After all, it would be the local town’s justice and prison system being abused, should, say a Bob Costas’ Barber Shop (Jimmy’s on Railroad Street) play some tunes, or Joanne Rivers come home to celebrate a bar mitzvah, but the DJ wasn’t licensed either when he played a few tunes from Neil Diamond, “Hava Nageela” by Harry Belafonte, and “Love And Marriage” by Sinatra.

The City-mandated license should be yearly, and cover costs for making the court into a joke.

Dave Barnes (user link) says:

Google cache is your friend

New Milford officials disinclined to pay even an annual royalty fee for music in town venues
By Nanci G. Hutson
staff writer
Updated: 06/05/2009 06:50:03 PM EDT

NEW MILFORD — Town Council member Robert Guendelsberger is not changing his tune about fees to play music in public venues, even now that the quoted cost is lower.

“I loathe to give you the same old song, but I don’t care if the amount of the money is decreased. I still don’t believe they are entitled to extract a fee from the town when we are a not-for-profit municipality,” said Guendelsberger, a local attorney, of a request from BMI Inc., a company that collects royalties for 375,000 songwriters and composers. “It’s like telling a church they have to pay a fee because they use the ‘Pilgrim Hymnal.'”

BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) was seeking $3,000 worth of fees for music performed at the Youth Agency-sponsored teen center, The Maxx. A second group, SESAC (The Society of European Stage Author and Composers) was asking an additional $1,500.

Council members opted two weeks ago to ignore the requests; three years earlier they denied a request from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

BMI and ASCAP represent about 97 percent of all U.S. songwriters and composers who write music for today’s recording artists. SESAC represents the rest.

BMI admitted this week the cited fees were miscalculated on the erroneous premise that The Maxx was an independent nightclub.

The request ought to have been for an annual town license of $305, said Jerry Bailey, the company’s senior media relations director.

“They’re not going to get that either,” said council member Roger Szendy.

Mayor Patricia Murphy said this is more about principle than money. She and the council argue the town is not violating any copyright laws.

“I have no problem, conceptually, with nightclubs and profit-making ventures, but I have a problem with this,” Guendelsberger said.

Town Attorney Randy DiBella told council members towns are not exempt from copyright law, but no lawsuits have been filed against any.

BMI is not intending to sue, either, Bailey said.

Rather, the company wants municipalities educated so they “do the right thing,” Bailey said.

The money collected does not go to lining the pockets of major recording stars or record companies, Bailey said, but protects behind-the-scene songwriters who rely on performance fees for their income.

A million-dollar CD pays songwriters only about $45,000, Bailey explained.

Guendelsberger is still not convinced.

“I’m not going to pay money to sing Christmas carols on the green. It’s not going to happen,” he declared.

Contact Nanci Hutson at or at (860) 354-2274.
BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.), and other music trade companies such as ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and SESAC (Society of European Stage Author and Composers), collect license fees from businesses and public entities that perform music that are then distributed as royalties to their clients. BMI and ASCAP represent 97 percent of the songwriters and composers. Music of such legends as John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra are covered, as well as the songs of stars such as Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Mariah Carey, Britany Spears and Keith Urban. These trade organizations license radio and television stations, hotels, nightclubs, airlines, college and universities, commercial enterprises, concert promoters and Internet Web sites.

AC says:

Re: Google cache is your friend

Hmmm do you realize violating all the rules in the world of copy rights 🙂 copying all the content from somewhere and posting it here… OK.. let me go and sue you for that and GOOGLE for helping you. (Hmm they got a lot of money…) apparently these days i don’t need the ownership.. what the heck!!

Valkor says:

Re: Google cache is your friend

“It’s like telling a church they have to pay a fee”
I hate to break it to Mr. Guendelsberger, but churches do. Look up CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International). 19th century public domain hymns are always fine, but you can’t sing songs that are younger than you are for free.

In other news…
“A million-dollar CD pays songwriters only about $45,000”
Cry me a freakin’ river. One million gross is what, 67,000 copies? I think that happens often enough for the good songwriters who are partnered with good bands to make a comfortable, middle class living. If you suck at songwriting or your band sucks at playing them, that’s a completely different issue…

Matt Dunphy (profile) says:

Ha, newspaper websites.

My first real-ish job was as a webmaster for my local newspaper, the York Daily Record. It was great, the staff in the newsroom were fantastic, and I helped to develop an independent website that destroyed the other local paper in terms of traffic and quality.

Later I took a job with the company that owned both papers, and was in a meeting with the CEO of MediaNewsGroup… this was about a decade ago now. The guy in charge of the company running 50+ newspapers wanted to do everything just about as opposite as our successful independent site could be. It’s as though they intentionally wanted to kill off newspaper’s online presence. It was astonishing how far in the sand that guy had his head.

I’m surprised that ten years later, newspapers still exist, and that they still adhere to the same kind of blockheaded mentality. I’m not at all surprised that they’re all on their deathbed.

They eventually killed off the York Daily Record’s website, and replaced it with a terrible, templated site that was indistinguishable from any other MediaNewsGroup owned newspaper website, and push a lot more wire articles than local content.

The newspaper industry should be completely bulldozed and rebuilt from the ground up. I guess that’s already kind of happening, but folks in the industry don’t realize it.

RD says:


“The money collected does not go to lining the pockets of major recording stars or record companies, Bailey said, but protects behind-the-scene songwriters who rely on performance fees for their income.”

hahahahaha LIE!

Thats the funniest damn thing I’ve heard all week, and this coming in a week of historically idiotic comments here.

josh (profile) says:

Re: HA!

Actually this was the funniest thing in that article:

“BMI and ASCAP represent about 97 percent of all U.S. songwriters and composers who write music for today’s recording artists. SESAC represents the rest.”

According to this reporter 100% of the songwriters and composers who write music belong to one of these associations. That is such a blatent lie it’s funny. For example one of my co-workers, an IT professional by trade, is a musician/songwriter in his off time. One of his greatest accomplishments was getting a song, he wrote, into a movie. He was so proud of the fact that when we were discussing the music industry the other day he made sure to tell me that when his song is listed in the credits…There is no ASCAP or BMI next to his name.

The best part of this…Even though he doesn’t have one of those associations to “get his fair share” for him…The contract he was able to do himself, alows him to still recieve residuals from that song. Now it’s not a lot, but it’s still something.

It’s just amazing how much these associations will blatently lie to get their point across.

Anonymous Howard, Cowering says:

Re: #11 Who do I route for?

Most likely, a shipping company, or anyone you want to get to.

However, if you want to show support for one side or the other, you would “root” for them.

And music was apparently being played at the local youth center, which is highly unlikely to be synonymous with the town green.

Reading comprehension and vocabulary are both skills which can be improved through careful observation and diligent practice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: #11 Who do I route for?

Reading comprehension and vocabulary are both skills which can be improved through careful observation and diligent practice.

Perhaps, but Mothers everywhere are increasingly finding it easier to blame Mike for all the problems in their life rather than your suggestion of observation and diligent practice.

Some examples:
Out of eggs? It was Mike.
Kids doing poorly in school? It was Mike.
Cost of gas going up? It was mike’s fault again.
Out of tampons? Damnit Mike!

reboog711 (profile) says:

Re: Who do I route for?

After reading the article [thanks to the person who posted the text]; I want to modify my above comment.

The Maxx is [or used to be] a community center style venue. They used to get a lot of unknown / indy bands. I’ve actually been to a few shows there but not for many many years. Every show had a cover charge to get through the door. Remember that non-profit does not mean no cash flow. But, I wonder how many of their performers play songs they don’t have the full rights to?

That said, I suspect the societies are still probably in their legal right to go after this money.

Jerry Walter says:

read the law

Section 110 of U.S. Copyright Law says certain charitable performances are not infringements if there is no direct or indirect commercial advantage and without payment of any fee or other compensation for the performance to any of its performers, promoters, or organizers…

If any of the bands or event organizers are being paid at a “charitable” event, there is a legal responsibility to pay the songwriters as well. That’s the gist of the law; you can read the rest at

Jay Greathouse (profile) says:

about time for meaningful government leadership

finally some branch of government does something worth following, we all need to tell ASCAP, BMI, SESAC To Get Lost Over Royalty Bills

they are the blood sucking parasites damaging the music business today, about time someone told the monopolies to take a hike, they had their gravy days when music distrubution technology was in its early days, now there is no need to put up with the pouty spoiled brats

Hephaestus (profile) says:

The real problem here is ....

The real problem with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC from the 30 minutes of research I have done is one line from their web site “” the line is ….

…. (in the future you will be able to “opt out”) ….

How many of these artists opted in?

What I see on the ascap web site is legalese for we did this for your own protection, and no we wont pay you a dime of the money we are making.

What is needed here is an opt in system, not an opt out one ….

Big Ole GRIN …. yet again thanks to mike for bringing this Gem to my attention…

202 entry/note) Create an organization where people can opt in as opposed to out for lyrics/sheet music.

203) Create software/apps/web site for liscence management of Sheet music and and lyrics

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: The real problem here is ....

204) Create a system to allow for auctioning of Sheet music / lyrics to the highest bidder.

205) Create an anon contact area for bargining with the write/author

206) Create chat services (Java Client) based on the IRC server for fans/Authors/etc.

207) create a secure TCPIP phone service for communication

208) Voice chat based on IRC with plug ins for sound

209) Project management software

210) Task management software

211) Distributed project system/library, for collaboration. Used for music, touring, etc

212) oh the boiling point of water …. in degrees f

213) SMS (text) messaging for all software

214) email messaging for all software

Anyone know figure out where I am going with this yet ???

Big Ole GRIN ….

Dan Fries - BMI SONGWRITER (user link) says:

COOL, Now I'll just ignore my plumbing bills "on principle."

BMI represents me, and I have earned through them some very modest money from songs I’ve written, which forms part of my 3 job income. I don’t have the time to collect money from every radio station or venue that plays a song I co-wrote, so BMI does it for me and takes a reasonable percentage (like 3).
All you people who think BMI is out of line get a big middle finger from me. I know none of you would think it was funny if you did a job for government, and when you billed them they ignored it “on principle,” to a chorus of kudos for “finally being responsible.” (Non-superstar) musicians and songwriters tend to work for less pay than almost any other occupation, and now you cheer at taking away what little remains for us.

Don Ho says:

Re: COOL, Now I'll just ignore my plumbing bills "on principle."

Fantastic Dan Fries, just tell us who you write for so we can launch a national campaign to PROTEST your fleecing of America. pffft you and the rest of the world know that the way your music MAJORITY wise gets to the masses is by people listening to it. Why you’d want to a$$ fook bar’s and cover bands PROMOTING your songs is totally self defeating and WHY you have 3 jobs.

It’s so easy to limit fees to Media: Radio, SAT, TV/Cable.

Jerry Walter says:

PRO membership

Songwriters “opt-in” if they want to be represented by a performing right organization. The have non-exclusive agreements with the PROs, which means they can direct license their music at any time even if they belong to a PRO. They are not required to belong to a PRO, but they usually choose one of three in the U.S. if they want to be paid for the public performances of their work, as they are entitled under copyright law. BMI and ASCAP do not earn a profit, but operate on a non-profit basis, paying out more than 88% of royalties they collect from businesses that use music. BMI charges songwriters nothing to join. More than 80 countries around the world have similar organizations to represent their songwriters and composers. This is how most successful songwriters earn a living.

1DandyTroll says:

Concerning Hobbits err BMI

Six and a half million works tracked for 375 000 writers, composers, et cetera, comes down to about 17 works per head. Wow, imagine that a work load.

For the fiscal year 2007/2008 BMI collected over 900 million dollars, which was an 8% increase over 2006/2007, which had an increase of 8% over the previous fiscal period.

2007 BMI ‘paid out’ about, heh, 87.2%.
2008 BMI ‘paid out’ about, oh lol, 87.7%.

Hmm, I guess those about .5% represented that 8% increase.

During the fiscal year of 2006/2007 BMI’s scrapped over 12% of its overhead, crist imagine that, a not for profit (percentage stealing) organization ‘having’ to rationalize its own organization. (Guess it’s a bitch when estates wants their own friggin money.)

Oh I almost forgot, not, that BMI kept a bit more (actually about seven million more) then a hundred mill for the fiscal year 2006/2007. For 2007/2008 I guess they felt entitled to oh what looks to be quite close to an 8% increase, if you ask me (but of course there’s a reason for why no one ever does).

I dunno, mayb’ they’re just a bunch of good people in a very very bad place, because I didn’t know the definition of modest, was, well, not so modest.

It’s a really interesting scheme though, especially considered where all that money, who lacks an recipient, ends up, that dough also got ‘paid out’ to a numbered account.

And not to forget all the other organizations, IFPI wants it’s 9 something percent (and you prolly guessed who that cash comes from in reality right), RIAA, DIMA, SESAC, NSAI, NMPA, SGA (I just put SGA in for a laugh, but if you walk all the way you’ll get the point), and on it friggin goes, and don’t forget the flat-rate monopolies, err, kind (sub) organizations that ya have to pay so they can let ya press yer shite on a CD, and of course they are kind enough to inform you that you really really really should register with their mother company, err not for profit organization, for a modest percentage fee, of course.

Any one knows who collects and distribute all them protection money from pubs, clubs, and barber shops? (Oh, sorry, I ment the licensing fees.)

It’s quite astonishing how modest a profit is needed to administer a few million works, but I guess it’s expensive to manage so many databases for the same crap.

Consider CCC, and for the computer literate it’s not that CCC, who kindly takes care of collecting fees for over 300 million works, or rights as they write. They only generate some 130 million dollars a year, since of last year, to the rights holders (for those that pay their homage that is), but still manage to take a ‘modest” fee for ’em self, but, and this is the point it’s not music not for profit kinda modest. And they operate planet wide. However, they of course think it is still a horrid situation, what with since not all authors seem to understand their kindness that they do, nor all the friggin companies, organizations, and governmental bodies, which would be most, that seem to not understand why they need to pay the protection charges, wooops, I mean license fees. According to CCC, like of course all the nice organizations surrounding music, it’s because not everyone is yet educated, i.e. there’s a shit load of us, per de facto, pirates, who still do not understand the import of coughing up money with every whim a certain industry get because you might use royally fucked peoples work. Oh crap, their I go again, I ment royalty based work. (Discalimer: I do not understand why, the above mentioned, CCC think they need to exist in a world where “their” kind of information is supposed to be free, nor do I condone their, however kind, administration.)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the biggest argument that it would be much more easier, simpler, and cheaper if the federal state, and in some not so democratic countries, the state, didn’t take care of the registration and database management, and collection?

Another argument, if my memory serves me right, was that state governed registration and collection process, was like state monopoly, socialism, and people are supposed to have a choice, and ’em self can manage their own money. And besides, what if the state goes ape shit, then what, who’s to protect these poor sods from the state, eh?

Hurrah, hurrah. For we are liberals, yes? And did it not became easier, simpler, and cheaper, being forced to register with God only seem to know who, getting your money collected, manage, and later, hopefully, distributed to you? And of course it’s always nice when someone else bothers with the whole stuff of protecting your rights, right, I mean other then the (federal) state. And all, and only, for a modest percentage, you know pretty damn like that evil little word spelled T, A, and X, hmm, wait a moment, per definition it is just that — imposed charge, or levy, and you being a tax payer and all.

Any who who knows who collect, manage, and, far from all the time, distribute all ’em greens from mp3 players, USB memory sticks, et cetera in ad absurdum?

If your not such a, hmm how to put this in a nice way, crap I can’t, let just say, if you blow at kissing arses, or just want a couple of cents too much, I can fully understand why you don’t understand where all those hundreds of millions of dollars go. It’s truly a wonder how fast money really can go … poof.

Ooops, I did it again, I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to, I only saw that obnoxious comment by the, apparently, self proclaimed genius who think he gets paid fair and square for what he pay homage to. Friggin donkey’s rump (not too shabby eh).

Oh, yes, by the way, you still have to register with the federal state, or like in retarded democratic countries called kingdoms, the state, to actually get adequate protection for your works. It is actually true, for you know why there’s a lot of dead presidents in numbered accounts, manage by all these ponze scheme organizations? (Claimer: and this is not just because it is crazy hard to find people when your not looking, but it is in their best interest. Literally. Neither is it like they go looking for your heirs, it’s the other way around, which is kind of a paradox, you know like that modest administrative fee and what it is supposed to give you in return, when you think about it.

Ok last note. Concerning SESAC, which is a for profit organization, which is strange, ’cause compared to all them not for profit organizations, shouldn’t they make more profit?

(And PS, of me BS. But what exactly was that form of socialism used in Italy way back when, when the state outsourced state functions to private organizations and companies, to make everything so much better?)

Dan Fries - BMI SONGWRITER (user link) says:

responding to the anonymous chicken shits

Hephaestus – I am self-affiliated. Go ahead with your research. You can find me.

Dandy1 – you should really go back to grade school and learn how percentages differ from amounts. It is hard to take any of the rest of what you say seriously if you can’t even get that right.

I don’t care if BMI or government admins my few songwriting royalties, I’ll take them either way. If the mayor doesn’t want to pay for music, he should stop listening to it in public.

Sheogorath (user link) says:

Where licence fees go

“The money collected does not go to lining the pockets of major recording stars or record companies, Bailey said, but protects behind-the-scene songwriters who rely on performance fees for their income.”
The money collected goes to lining the pockets of major recording stars and record companies, rather than protecting behind-the-scene songwriters who rely on the fees for their income.
Fixed that for you.

Sheogorath (user link) says:

The four fair use factors

“1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work”
So what real purpose does the CCC have, exactly?

Roshan (user link) says:

Body Mass Index, What is it ?

A person?s body mass index is a number calculated based on their height and weight. It is used for a comparative analysis of people with similar heights. The body mass index is a brainchild of a Belgian statistician and mathematician named Adolphe Quatelet who created the BMI sometime from1830 to 1850. To calculate the BMI, divide the person?s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared.

History of Body Mass Index
The Body Mass Index has been in use as a medical benchmark for obesity and is the statistical estimate for Adiposity. It is also the standard employed by the WHO (World Health Organization) for its obesity statistics.

This number was introduced to the public through the government?s efforts to promote sanguinity, nutritional knowledge, and healthy eating habits. This simple statistic has rendered itself very important since it can adapt itself to continuous changes inherent in a community and can indicate the economic development on a nutritional basis.

The BMI was promoted as a simple rule of thumb that any individual of a particular height can calculate at home. It might not be the best possible indicator with regard to weight and health, as it can be unreliable in children, athletes, and the elderly.

It?s quite simple to get an idea for the approximate type of body weight using the BMI. Roughly, an individual with BMI of 19 or less can be classified as underweight and is liable to suffer from malnutrition and other such eating disorders. A BMI of 25 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 would classify as extremely obese.

The US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported that about 59 % of American men and 49% of American women are overweight and over 2% of men and 4% of women were reported to be extremely obese.

These alarming reports only prove the BMI to be a more critical in America today rather than just an easy index for a self- check. It is to be noted that the BMI is not a fully reliable statistic by itself and hence health and nutrition recommendations to an individual cannot be made using just the BMI.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...