ASCAP, BMI Demanding Payment For 30 Second Previews At Web Stores

from the are-they-insane? dept

It’s been really stunning to see just how little dignity groups like ASCAP and BMI have in trying to suck every last penny out of any kind of musical usage, without ever once considering the damage they’re actually doing to songwriters. It’s as if the folks who run these groups have no concept of the actual impact of their crazy demands. In just the last few months, we’ve seen them try to squeeze more money out of music video games — apparently not comprehending how much those games help promote musicians and sell more product. Then there was the fancy trick, where they claimed that websites that embedded music videos from YouTube had to pay even though they were already getting paid by YouTube directly. They just wanted to get paid twice. And remember back in the summer when they claimed that the ringtone playing on your phone required a public performance license on top of the royalties already paid? They have no shame.

So, I guess it should come as no surprise at all to find out that their latest target is the 30 second previews that you hear on iTunes or Yes, they’re claiming that those 30 second previews should count as a public performance, and they want to get paid. Now. And they’re asking Congress to make it happen — because, as we’ve been learning recently, if you’re inept at running an actual business, just go to the federal gov’t and ask them to bail you out.

Rick Carnes, the head of the Songwriters Guild of America — and who, we’ve been reliably informed, is a big fan of this site (that’s sarcasm) after our previous articles debunking some of his more absurd claims — explains the situation:

“Yesterday, I received a check for 2 cents. I’m not kidding. People think we’re making a fortune off the Web, but it’s a tiny amount. We need multiple revenue streams or this isn’t going to work.”

Talk about entitlement culture. Because Rick Carnes is unable to structure a smart business model, and thus makes pennies, everyone else needs to just cough up and pay? Yeah… that’s reasonable. How about rather than trying to squeeze every penny out of everyone else (and then funnel it to the top artists instead of the smaller artists, anyway), you spend some time actually understanding basic business models — such as ones where you convince someone that something’s worth paying for, rather than just demanding Congress give you a cut of everything, in a way that harms the very musicians you claim to represent?

And, of course, as the article above notes, it’s a flat-out lie that songwriters aren’t getting paid for a lot of this stuff:

“These guys are afraid that the business model is shifting away from public performances to a model of private performances,” [David] Potter [from the Digital Media Association (DiMA)] said. “This is a turf battle. They are saying, ‘The songwriters aren’t getting paid.’ Baloney. Songwriters are getting paid. They’re paid sync rights and (mechanical) rights. They aren’t getting paid for the public performance in a download because there is no public performance in a download.”

This is a pure money grab by people who don’t want to come up with a business model demanding free cash from those who did come up with a better business model. They’re blaming everyone else for their own unwillingness to adapt.

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Companies: ascap, bmi

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Comments on “ASCAP, BMI Demanding Payment For 30 Second Previews At Web Stores”

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TriZz (profile) says:


I just sent this in to you guy…perhaps I should actually use the Crystal Ball before trying.

This is absolutely ridiculous!! I don’t know how many times that I’ve used the preview to listen to all the songs to make sure the one song I heard wasn’t just a one-off track of the rest of the album.

They should be thanking iTunes (and the like) for this feature.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Or..

“thus forcing the consumers to buy more music they don’t actually want”

When sites stop offering previews, what will occur is people will try before you buy via P2P, through Torrent Sites, or via anonymous P2P networks (ANts P2P, RShare, Freenet, I2P, GNUnet and Entropy) …. then since they have the song already, they forget to go buy the song at the music site.

As I have said before, this is a good thing….
It causes greater losses at the record labels as people migrate to alternate sources for music (P2P, anon P2P, new artists, CC, etc). This forces the labels to seek out other new revenue streams. Its a never ending cycle until a Catastrophic failure occurs. In this case it will be caused by the labels themselves.

Nitole says:

Re: Or..

“I mean, think about it…it further limits a consumer’s exposure to new music, so that seems to go along with their current trends.”
What you call curent trend, already happened since 50s or before and its called payola. Before you think “but we had pink floyd before and the beatles”, yes they decided by some reason pay payola to them at the time and now they decided to pay to those bands. Same thing just different bands.

But, yes limiting the user exposure to new music may be the reason behind that. But not in a way you said, with that they will not force people to buy what they dont want, but making even harder to people find other bands and songs by the samples (a hard thing because people dont usually search on internet about music [payola says “this is all that is happening in music industry, pick what you want, if you want something.”])

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Another brick in the wall (oops, I hope they do not come to me charging for the quote...)

“One more evidence that “We the Consumers of the United States” need bigger and stronger consumer rights lobby in the Congress!”

Or you could go with my “swift slaughter of all lobbying groups and lobbyists, along with their immediate family members” option….

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Another brick in the wall (oops, I hope they do not come to me charging for the quote...)

“Hmm… sounds good, but what does your option entail exactly? We talking about the guillotine, public stoning, etc, or does Dark Helmet have something more sinister in mind?”

Well, my taste for irony sort of requires that the lobbyists be slaughtered in some way utilizing whatever they are lobbying for. Examples:

1. Cigarette lobbyists: Well, the obvious punishment is to make them smoke constantly until they die of nicotine poisoning, but I’ve never been a fan of the obvious. Instead they are put on public display, naked, and children who have been arrested or otherwise caught smoking underage will be required to put out lit cigarettes and cigars on the lobbyists exposed skin until they die. Doublely(sp?) useful as a deterrent to keep underage kids from smoking!

2. Gun lobbyists: They have their achiles tendons sliced down the middle, forcing them to sort of crawl around on all fours around a special “game park” that is home to all kinds of animals with mounted weaponry that randomly fires for a little HUMAN HUNTING!!! These animal hunters could include the simple (You think a bear is dangerous now? How about one in chain mail with wolverine-type claw extensions?), to the more complicated (bunnies attached to mini helicopter aparati and mounted machine guns, controlled by gamers from home), to the necessarily hysterical (Sharks with fricken laserbeams attached to their heads).

3. Entertainment lobbyists: How does the televised pumping of Britney Spears, Cher, Justin Timberlake, or Gwar directly into the eardrums of lobbyists at the kind of decibals that will shatter a human skull sound?

Now…THOSE are pubic performances, my friends.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Another brick in the wall (oops, I hope they do not come to me charging for the quote...)

“‘Gun Lobbyists’ you say? Kindly elaborate…”

Well, see you have these projectile things called guns, and there are lobbyists on both sides of the debate, pro-gun ownership and anti-gun ownership. Since I stated that ALL lobbyists are getting the treatmen, both sides go into the game park for Human Hunting fun.

Sorry, I’m sure you were itching for a political fight there, but that wasn’t an attempt to pick on either side.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Another brick in the wall (oops, I hope they do not come to me charging for the quote...)

Ah! I’d forgotten the ‘All Lobbyists’ caveat.

Not itching for a fight, was worried suddenly that you and I had diverging opinions about such a divisive subject. (Generally, you’re right there with the comments I’m thinking–only with better witticisms.)

Thanx for the clarify.

Josh - To common a name. This is me. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Another brick in the wall (oops, I hope they do not come to me charging for the quote...)

Damn you DH. I almost lost my lunch laughing. 🙂

Now, I may be in the minority here, but even though I detest Britney Spears music, I still think the woman is so doable. And when I saw the line “pumping of…” All my brain saw was pumping Britney Spears, and I got so freaking excitied…Then I saw the word Cher. *shudder*. Thanks for bringing me up, and then back down, DH.

iNtrigued (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Another brick in the wall (oops, I hope they do not come to me charging for the quote...)

Well I like it! Sign me up!

Since we already know they are void of all humanity and in all likeliness are ROBOTS, maybe a little paradox would cause their circuits to overload & heads to explode. Such as:

What if we sent in lobbyists to lobby against lobbyists?

And if their heads didn’t explode, wouldn’t that at least force them to lobby against our lobbyists which would start a never ending circle(redundant?) of counter-lobbying?

Then vwalla! no more lobbying for special interests.

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Another brick in the wall (oops, I hope they do not come to me charging for the quote...)

What if we sent in lobbyists to lobby against lobbyists?

Which would just be…the status quo. You don’t think all lobbyists are lobbying for the same thing, do you?

A better idea would be to make sweeping tax cuts to deprive politicians of the means to meddle. My favorite scenario is one in which personal federal income taxes have been abolished — all funds have to come directly from state budgets. That would really be fun to watch as bureaucrats squared off against bureaucrats in a true bloodbath.

Or I could see the merits to going DH’s path and just shoot the bastards. Anarchy looks better all the time…

iNtrigued (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Another brick in the wall (oops, I hope they do not come to me charging for the quote...)

First, I got to say I do like your idea and again great fnckin name.

Second, I meant it to be what if we sent lobbyists to the lobbyists to lobby to them about lobbying, or something along that line. I am pretty sure no one does this yet, but its whatever.

Anonymoose says:

I have the solution...

Apple and others should simply remove the 30 second preview for those artists who believe that a consumer listening to a sample of a song to determine if they want to buy it is a public performance of some sort.

We’ll see how that math works in a quarter or so.

Side thought: I’d love to see an actual arena setup where tickets are sold, and 30 second clips of songs are played for the assembled audience. Just to show how ridiculous this all is…

Designerfx (profile) says:

guys like this

who think they deserve other people’s money, don’t even deserve their own life. These kinds of people are quite literal leeches on society. Do I believe I deserve Mike Masnick’s money? No. So why should in any conceivable way, an industry declare that they deserve other people’s money?

Remember the guy who said “I don’t take a piss if someone’s not paying for it?” (while he goes to the bathroom at one point in the program).

Anonymous Coward says:

You can’t blame them for trying, but it seems to me they run into two problems. First, a fair use argument does appear to have some measure of applicability, though its metes and bounds is not clear. Second, a public performance argument is likely to receive a chilly reception given that even if these 30 second snippets can be viewed as a performance of sorts, there still remains the additional requirement that it be public. It is hard to imagine that a person sitting at the desktop/laptop/cell phone/etc. who listens to the snippet is in a place that can be characterized as public within the definition stated in copyright law.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Rick is a skank

“”We make 9.1 cents off a song sale and that means a whole lot of pennies have to add up before it becomes a bunch of money,” said Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters’ Guild of America. “Yesterday, I received a check for 2 cents…””

So you wrote, what? Thirty seconds of a song?

Now I see why he’s pissed.

anymouse (profile) says:

Consumer Lobby..... great idea..... I'm going to patent it ;)

“One more evidence that “We the Consumers of the United States” need bigger and stronger consumer rights lobby in the Congress!”

Since lobbying is all about the money, we should stand up and make ourselves heard by creating an actual Consumer Lobbying group and buying our own laws. If consumers united and each donated a dollar a year, we would have some significant ‘seed’ money to start bribing, er, lobbying our government officials.

There are a lot more of us (consumers) than there are of them (RIAA, MPAA, etc), even though they appear to have deeper pockets, that’s only due to us buying their products in the first place. Imagine being able to ‘donate’ .05 for each iTunes purchase and have it go to ‘fighting the power’, something at checkout, “Would you like to help fund consumer rights organization in an attempt to ‘buy back’ our culture from the evil MAFIA overlords by contributing .05 per song purchased?” (but worded a little better).

I think I need to patent this idea (collecting money from consumers and buying laws that favor consumers over existing industry monopolies), then I can start suing when someone actually takes the idea and runs with it (this is the new American way, right? Idea, do nothing, Sue, Profit.

Just kidding (or am I????)

GJ (profile) says:

Re: Consumer Lobby..... great idea..... I'm going to patent it ;)

You can’t simply buy politicians with money. You have to offer them a place on the board, with extravagant expense accounts, and an understanding that you will continue this in the future when they get out of politics, and you have to offer the same incentives to their cronies.

So having a reliably revenue stream is necessary to be a lobbyist. It also ensures that the politicians you have in your pocket have a continued interest in working for you, because if you disappear, their network of corrupt folks will frown on the fact that the gravy train has stopped.

If you can’t do that, they will have to depend on avian flu scares to make $5 million (David Rumsfeld), or global warming to become the next messiah (Al Gore), or swine flu (300 people dead from the vaccine, one person dead from the flu itself, this was in 1976, see and that’s a lot more work for them.

See how that works?


roxanneadams (profile) says:

I use the 30 second feature all the time on Amazon and Itunes. Take it away and you, my dear friend Rick Carnes, can go pound sand. I’m the one of those dumb schmucks still paying for the music that I download, and actions like this make pirate music more attractive than ever.

“Yesterday, I received a check for 2 cents. I’m not kidding. People think we’re making a fortune off the Web, but it’s a tiny amount. We need multiple revenue streams or this isn’t going to work.”

For the last ten years I have made it a point never to buy a brand-new music CD, because of jerks like you who claim that you are speaking on behalf of the entire music industry. Used music CD = no royalties for you.

I buy MP3s from Amazon and Itunes because the price is reasonable for me as a consumer. Specifically, the ability to hear that 30-second snippet means that I don’t have to waste money on a song that sucks rotten eggs. Take that listening privilege away and I won’t buy one 99 cent MP3 until I’ve had a chance to first download a pirated copy and listen to it. You and your friends at the MPAA and the RIAA are losing the war by alienating the dwindling ranks of paying customers.

Raybone (profile) says:

Now...THOSE are pubic performances, my friends.

Nice one DH…..

In any case…as a musician, I personally would support an alternative to the current system of royalty collection societies. Could not some smart entrepreneur build a more equitable and efficient system that doesn’t sound like extortion? A system where, oh instead if making people pay to listen or venues to pay to play, the public has an incentive to use and promote music? Insights? Even from the annoying and frustrating AC?

You know the one I mean

el raybonious

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Now...THOSE are pubic performances, my friends.

el raybonious …. read all the note/entry xxx) in my profile they bullet points that show where we are going, and what we want to implement in the system you also seem to want. If you want to hop on and help this is a community project all are welcome to voice their wants, needs, and opinions. Ask one of the admins here for my e-mail and point them to this comment.

kyle clements (profile) says:


So, lets think about this for a minute.

I like to try before they buy, and the 30 second preview is a very reasonable compromise between letting me hear the song before hand, and still have a good reason to buy (for the other 3 minutes of music)

so, if they get rid of these previews, I will leave your legit site, go to the pirate sites, download the full album and listen to it a few times; then you expect me to go back to your site and pay for something I already have? Is that the plan?

roxanneadams (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I didn’t see any foolish comments. ASCAP, BMI, independent music royalty societies, the RIAA and their partners in crime over at the MPAA have all worked hard to create an ugly experience for the end-user of the product, the music and movie consumer. Most of us – the end-user, the paying consumer, know that the artists have little say in these matters. They are simply the visible face of a dying music industry that is solely responsible for its own slow and painful death.

Classic and much-loved TV shows aren’t available on DVD because of the greed of ASCAP, BMI and the record labels, who want to squeeze every last penny out of every second of music played in the background. Some of this music can’t be edited out. It’s part of what made those shows unique and meaningful, so the rights-holders to the TV shows are giving up and walking away after protracted and expensive legal battles with the trifecta of music-industry bimbos whose greed is holding an entire industry hostage, keeping back innovation and killing new streams of revenue. They don’t just want a share of the pie – the bimbos want it all, killing the profit margins for everyone involved in bringing these projects to DVD.

Jared Jones (user link) says:

I see both sides

On the one hand, as a songwriter, it would be nice to get paid every time someone listens to a song. Be it part of a song, or a song attached to video. Yes, this does serve as promotion, but with all the P2P and BitTorrents around, that “promotion” isn’t always translating into sales.

On the other hand, if the song is hot, people will buy it. Restaurants, Retail stores, and other businesses all give customers “previews” before they buy. I just had a piece of bourbon chicken that they offered me…a free sample, and since I enjoyed it, I bought a whole plate. But I can’t blame ASCAP and BMI for trying though. I continue to collect royalty checks off of television placements I’ve had thus far. 🙂

Griffon (profile) says:

game music

It’s really unfortunate how short sighted this can be.

I really dug the music in the new game demo WET, so off to amazon I went. I checked out the preview clips (thought they where to short) but since I had heard a lot more in the game I downloaded the CD.

The label got paid (probable multiple times already for the same music. The band got paid for the music for the game, they got paid by me for buying the music.. .Maybe if I buy the game I will get to pay everybody again for the same music in a less useful format, or maybe they will give it to me again on the DVD (that would be nice).

WTF is the problem now the want to get paid for 30 second clip I listened to make sure it was the same track? Great dose not even begin to describe this mentality.

Thomas (profile) says:

How is it a performance?

I really like the way Amazon allows you to play the short section from a song before you buy it. If they stop doing this because the greedy songwriters demand a performance fee, then people will buy a lot less music. I never buy something on Amazon or iTunes if I can’t listen to a sample of it. Maybe the **AA and Songwriters would PREFER that people go to illegal torrents?

deadzone (profile) says:

Apple should go nuclear

I think Apple should just remove all music previews and put up a big notice explaining the ASCAP/BMI position and subsequently explaining why they don’t agree with it.

It’s always so amusing to see these organizations do these things under the mistaken impression that they have some sort of leverage. They don’t, not with Apple/Itunes.

Seriously. I think that is the best position to take with these unreasonable and clueless dinosaurs of the business. Just give them whatever they want and watch them squirm as they realize the truth – THEY DID IT TO THEMSELVES.

lux (profile) says:

Think Positive!

I think this is actually a good sign…

If organizations like the ASCAP are trying to squeeze pennies out of a 30 second music clip, then we are winning and have backed them into a corner. If these businesses were making a decent profit, then why bother with this?

First rule of business is fry the bigger fish, and 30 second clips are small fish. Their business is in a death rattle and they are just thrashing around. But don’t worry, it’ll soon die.

1DandyTroll says:

The future

seems to be all likable. Just imagin’ the day when the retailers actually pay the manufacturers for using their equipment in store to sell more, and of course paying someone else for playing previews, aka trailers. Or why shouldn’t the car dealer pay every time someone test drive it, after all, it most probably contains software anyway, oh, and not to forget, that the test driver might potentially use the radio or try that mp3 function, i a semi public environment…. Oooh no the horror, of lost income.

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