SOCAN Wants To Charge Buskers Performance Fees

from the you-have-to-be-kidding-me dept

One of the themes of 2009 was that collection societies around the world went nuts trying to charge for anything they possibly could, while also trying to increase the rates they could charge. Remember how one collection society wanted to charge a woman because she put on music for her horses? Or how about the woman who worked in a grocery store, who was told to stop singing while stock the shelves, or the store would have to pay a performance fee. And, of course, we had ASCAP trying to claim that ringtones were performances, and mobile operators needed to pay up — beyond the license fee that was already paid on the recording.

SOCAN, up in Canada, has been no exception, pushing for drastically increased rates that cover new places as well. But the most ridiculous may be the one sent in by a few people (Jesse was the first) about how SOCAN is trying to get buskers — street musicians — to pay a performance fee if they perform in SkyTrain stations in Vancouver. SOCAN is claiming that TransLink, the transit authority for the trains in Vancouver should be paying up to $40,000 in performance fees for all the buskers singing in stations, and TransLink’s response is to pass those fees on to the buskers.

Of course, many musicians actually got their start as buskers, and built up their performance chops that way, but SOCAN is about to put them out of business by making it pretty damn costly to busk where it often makes the most sense. Nice work, SOCAN, in harming the very musicians you’re supposed to be helping.

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Companies: socan

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Comments on “SOCAN Wants To Charge Buskers Performance Fees”

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Anonymous Coward says:


What if the busker is preforming their own songs and art?

How can SOCAN lay claim over them? Do they not need to first prove violations other then ‘because we say so’? Why not just have the Transit Authority only authorize Original Performances or Create Commons expressions to avoid the whole Collection Group extortion act.

TIME TO IMPLEMENT CREATIVE COMMONS ONLY REQUIREMENT! Avoid all Collection Group affiliations trying to shake you down for your fart sounding like one of their tunes.

Anonymous Coward says:

I just don't understand

Why you people put up with this crap.. I have not watched a TV, DVD, or listened to the radio for so long now I can’t even remember. You should do the same.. Best way to fight back is with your wallets.. Let’s let them know how we really feel.. Come on!! You can do it! Thrown that big ass 50″ TV out the window and step up.. It’s all your freedoms that are being pulled away by all these Nazi bastards in charge!

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Illogic

> ven if the buskers play their own music, in SOCAN’s perspective,
> the mere prospect of them playing someone elses song is enough
> to force payment.

Using the dubious logic that they should be paid based on what *might* happen, they should then be able to force every business and venue everywhere to pay them performance fees, even if the venue uses no music at all, on the off-chance that someone might show up with a guitar or a saxophone and play a copyrighted song.

Peter Mandic says:

So who exactly gets this money ($40,000)? Is it like a record label that when all expenses are accounted for, $1.62 is shared by the band? Socan is getting carried away with this. Theoretically if you perform original tunes you could get additional compensation from Socan that is if there was anything left after expenses.

Perry K (profile) says:

FYI these are the items that SOCAN deems to be licensable

from their website. (and yes, I’m breaking copyright law by reproducing the information without prior written consent)

• Background Music on Hold over a Telephone [15B]
• Background Music provided by Audio Tapes / Compact Discs /
Jukeboxes / Radio attached to speakers [15A]
• Fitness / Dance Instruction [19]
• Karaoke [20]
• Live Entertainment Accompanied by Recorded Music [3B]
• Live Music (i.e. Bands / Single Performer) [3A]
• Motion Picture Theatre / Drive-In Theatre [6]
• Receptions, conventions, assemblies and fashion shows [8]
• Recorded Music for Dancing [18]
• Recorded Music in an Adult Entertainment Club [3C]
• Recreational Facilities Operated by Municipality, School, College or University [21]
• Skating Rink (Roller / Ice) [7]

Pirate My Music (profile) says:

Damnit SOCAN, Damnit.

I am a Canadian Musician.

I am a member of SOCAN.

I get royalties from SOCAN (not much, but enough, from CD sales with a couple of songs I co-wrote).

I have this sinking suspicion that being a member of SOCAN is more of a detriment than a benefit. They are just another industry landmine, waiting to maim innocent bystanders or kill the careers of burgeoning artists.

SOCAN is a dinosaur and has no understanding of what musicians need or want. Every year they get worse and worse and I see less and less. This is just another example of SOCAN trying to squeeze every cent from those that don’t deserve the squeeze (“deserve”, is a poor word, but it’s the best I can come up with). They are nothing more than shills for the corporations that leave us struggling artists holding the bag.

I am pulling my membership from SOCAN for 2010. I don’t need them and I don’t want to be a part of the cancer they represent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Do not hum if you do not have the rights to the song.
Do not hum if you did not paid the collection agency first.

Would they charge inmates for singing or performing?

I think all business and venues should stop using music and tell to their patrons exactly why they cannot afford to let any music inside.

Put a sticker on the outside “No Music Inside courtesy of ASCAP(or any other collection agency)”.

Better yet use directional sound to create an ambient with music and another without music and charge absurds amounts of fees from those that want music while eating or exercising 🙂

The Mad Hatter (profile) says:

Guess what happens if you perform your own music?

You still pay. That’s right. You still pay, even if you own the copyrights on all of the songs you perform. And since you are a busker, not a “MUSICIAN”, you aren’t entitled to a payout.

SOCAN is a ripoff organization. At one point I was trying to start a software company, and I called them to ask about buying “levy free” compact discs. I was told that I couldn’t. When I asked them if they wanted me to move to the United States so that I could buy media “levy free” I was told that they didn’t care if I did, but that if I was buying media in Canada, or importing media, and producing software compact discs, I had to pay the music copyright levy. Nice scam, isn’t it?

That was about 20 years ago. Fast forward to this year. I have some good computer equipment, and friends who are singer/song writers. They often play bars, and want media to sell, and heck, the equipment is cheap now, so I bought it, and I’ve been doing recording. Do you think I can buy “levy free” media? Fat chance. To do that I’d have to register a company, and be buying large quantities of discs. The people I’m doing this for can’t afford to buy large quantities of discs from me. Hell, if they could, they’d have a professional record them. So every disc I do for them, which has their copyrighted music on it, has a fee which goes to SOCAN. My friends get nothing back. The big acts sit back and smile.

SOCAN claims it exists for the musicians. Yeah, right.

buskerjames (profile) says:


I’m not sure if Nick Tann who commented on this article is farmiliar with what is going on with Socan as he lives in the UK according to his webpage. The perception of buskers is gaining ground as the internet is an amazing tool to link them together around the world buskers movements are popping up all across Canada and North America, there are some lawsuits also showing up against municipalities who want to dig their heels in and ask buskers to pay more money.
The only difference is buskers don’t usually ask for money like municipal law makers are doing they are paid by donation or gratuity

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