Prisons And Hair Dressers Latest To Push Back On Ridiculous Collection Society Demands

from the pay-to-listen dept

We’ve noticed lately that music collection societies have been going overboard in demanding more and more money from pretty much anyone who listens to music, claiming “public performances” and assuming that they’re worth a lot more than they really are — almost everywhere you turn. mikez sent in two new stories about collection societies — both involving operations pushing back on the demands.

The first involves prisons in the UK who are refusing to pay the licensing fees, and thus are telling prisoners (hey look, real thieves!) that they can’t listen to music any more in any area where multiple people might be (the kitchen, workshops, restrooms, etc.) since others might overhear it. Yes, listening to music in a prison apparently requires a separate performance license.

The second story involves Spanish hairdressers who are similarly refusing to pay and, instead, are telling customers to bring their own MP3 players to listen to their own music, privately.

The really ridiculous thing is that in both cases all this is really doing is harming musicians. When places play music, it actually acts as advertising for that music — and these collection societies are basically demanding to be paid for having people promote the music of various artists. So the artists get less promotion and don’t get money from places like the examples above refusing to pay. Everyone loses!

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Comments on “Prisons And Hair Dressers Latest To Push Back On Ridiculous Collection Society Demands”

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Danny says:

Re: Promotional value of prisoners

But bear in mind that a lot of those prisoners do get out and have to contribute to society. And part of that will purchasing items, listening to music, and watching tv/movies.

I know its anecdotal but I started watching Fringe after my brother recommended to me. He started watching it during the last few months of his prison sentence.

Matthew Cruse (profile) says:

Artist vs. Collection Society

So if an artist is played in a shop, but the collection society isn’t paid, then:
1. The artist gets free advertising
2. the shop gets a “better ambieance” and draws more customers
3. the collection society gets nothing
This, of course, cannot be good for Society as a whole, people are making money and the old legacy players aren’t getting anything, oh No!

Danny says:


I don’t know about most folks but I am one of those people that while out shopping or something and I hear a song on that I like I will try to find out what it is (usually by writing done some of the lyrics and searching when I get home or asking someone that works there).

Willing to bet that a lot of people discover music by means other than what’s on MTV/BET/CMT. Cutting off all those off the beaten path ways of discovering new to you music is a big mistake, unless those agencies really think people are dumb enough to blindly buy music anymore.

Danny says:

Re: Re: Re: Great

Sometimes. During commercials. At 3am. Between “reality tv” reruns.

I recall about 5 years ago I looked at a 24 block of programing on MTV and counted about 8 hours of actual music related material and mind you it wasn’t even 8 unique hours but 4 hours played in the afternoon and again in the wee hours.

I honestly don’t know why they still have the nerve to call themselves MTV because the music left the building ages ago.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Great - MTV

I’m not sure there is music on MTV any longer. I can not recall a single time in the past year that I have seen/heard a single bit of music when I stop on MTV while channel surfing. They mostly have programs with brainless twenty-somethings acting like total douche-bags.

I guess you don’t have to pay royalties for douche-baggery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Great

I don’t know about most folks but I am one of those people that while out shopping or something and I hear a song on that I like I will try to find out what it is (usually by writing done some of the lyrics and searching when I get home or asking someone that works there).

I do the same thing, and I can’t tell you how many stupid songs I’ve bought off Itunes or Amazon MP3 for .99 cents, I’ve become a paying music consumer above and beyond the music I already buy and pay for. Good way to kill the cash cow, dummies! (the music industry and collection societies). My dentist subscribes to some satellite music service in his office, one where they never identify the songs or the artists. I spend a couple of dollars after every visit buying MP3s online.

Tyanna says:

Ok, maybe I’m missing something.

In both those cases I would think that the radio would be where they are getting the music.

If that’s the case, does that mean if you listen to the radio with someone else….it’s a performance? Does that mean we are going to start getting charged performance fees if we listen to the radio in a car with other people?

Cohen (profile) says:

It dates back to a long-lost time

It’s a little easier to understand the reason behind the collection societies demands (I may understand, but I don’t agree with them) when you realize that many, many, MANY years ago, live music was found everywhere.

Fine hotels would have live musicians playing in their lobby restaurants, tea parlors, and ballrooms.

Even the lowly local bar had a live piano player pumping out a lively tune to keep the atmosphere happy and gay (in the older sense of the word).

Then, when recorded music and music systems were installed in these places, musicians were out of jobs. The musicians felt they lost their jobs to recorded music which many places felt could be played for free.

That’s when the record industry as well as the musicians unions and other guilds came up with the idea that playing a record in a public place was the same as a public performance. So, while the musicians would no longer collect their salary for playing “live” they would still be compensated by getting a public performance fee.

It might not have been as much as a live, paying gig, but considering that the musician actually didn’t have to do any work, the performance fee seemed like a great idea.

Two years ago my father died. At the small family gathering we had in the funeral parlour I played one of his favorite songs as people left the room.

Strictly speaking it was indeed a public performance and I had evaded hiring a live musician. I should have also sent some sort of royalty payment to ASCAP or BMI.

I didn’t.

I think going into prisons is way overboard. But if restaurants and bars have to pay royalties for their jukeboxes and piped-in music, I can see the rationale for the prisons.

And as far as hairdressers go, where do you think we got the phrase “Barbershop Quartet?”

It’s not an outrageous expectation of being paid. But it does sound strange to our 21st Century world.

Danny says:

Re: It dates back to a long-lost time

It’s not an outrageous expectation of being paid. But it does sound strange to our 21st Century world.
Its strange when you expect the same (if not more) pay in the 21st that you were getting in the 18th.

Thing is technology has allowed for music to be circulated much more easily and more cheaply yet these agencies are in a mad rush to figure out how to maintain the same profit margin.

If a business spends 1 billion a year and earns 2 billion but them technology allows that business to spend only 1/2 a billion a year what entitles them to that same 2 billion much less an increase to 3 billion. These companies have concluded that since they are spending less they are somehow entitled to more profit.

Hell if that is the case then where is the agency setup to make sure horsebuggy drivers and horse ranchers are still getting paid the same money they made before the automobile came along? The one to pay door to door milkmen the same they made before tech allowed for milk to be sold in stores more easily? The one to pay elevator operators the same they made before users started using them on their own?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: techdirt t-shirts should be free

Do you really think that prisoners are downloading anything? Probably not.

Every hairdresser or barber shop I’ve ever been to has 1 of 3 things, radio, satellite radio or Musak. No downloads there either. While digital music is easy to copy not all music is ‘downloadable’ – there is not one great repository in the sky that all of the plays/performances originate from.

mikez (profile) says:

on a good note

The money quote in the prison piece is this:

The Tories criticised the ban on the playing of recorded music. Alan Duncan, the shadow prisons minister, said: ” It seems crazy that a prisoner can listen to a radio in their cell but not when they’re doing something useful in the prison estate.”

Some good could come out of this if the members of Parliament become more aware of the absurdities of these things.

wallow-T says:

public performance

The licensing of music played in public establishments (i.e. businesses) is really old, settled law. The hairdresser doesn’t have a case.

The interesting question would be whether a prison would count as such an establishment. The prison isn’t out there to make money. It’s essentially a private residence, similar to a college dorm.

Debunked says:

Slightly Oversimplified

Mike quote:
“The really ridiculous thing is that in both cases all this is really doing is harming musicians.”

The collection societies are for the composers (songwriters), authors and publishers. If the musician is the songwriter and not the performing artist then the above is a stretch because the songwriter would have to give up a sure dollar in hand for some future potential dollar that may never materialize.

If the songwriter is also the performer and not touring or active than the above is also a stretch.

If the songwriter is the performing artist and is planning on touring in the near future or is currently touring, then the playing of music in a hair salon acts as a free promo for you. In this instance Mike’s statement above would be correct.

Alatar says:

Easy ripost

The ripost is easy to set up : as the Australian clubs did (if I remember well, read it in a Techdirt article), these prisons and shops just have to decide : “from now on we will only broadcast music which is under Creative Commons licence, by intelligent artists and producers who won’t come and piss us off with that stupid ad tax”.

Ryan Diederich says:

I will never...

Pay to play music in public. The retail store I work in plays Jimmy Buffet in the background, and we have/will never pay any fees. Paying a fee for such a thing is bull, everyone knows, nobody does anything about it. Its all about money.

Money shouldnt be charged for something with no cost. It didnt cost anyone anything for me to play the music (we bought it on CD). Its not a public performance, and we arent making money off of it. It is f-ing background music.

People should really start ditching music with fees and limitations and using creative commons.

Spanky says:


Personally, I think its wrong to aid and abet piracy in any way. So I wouldn’t want to play music in the car, for example, because someone might overhear and, I don’t know, form a band and copy the song rather than just go buy the album.

In fact, there are so many ways people could overhear the music I play that I just don’t play it anymore. Which means I don’t buy it anymore. This is a small price to pay, I believe, for bailing out the music industry.

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