BMI Hurting Artists, Yet Again

from the making-it-more-expensive dept

For many years, we’ve written about how, for all their talk of “helping” artists, ASCAP and BMI are often harming up-and-coming musicians. That’s because many musicians get their start playing local gigs at coffee shops and restaurants and the like, who often don’t pay ASCAP or BMI. That should be fine, so long as the artists play only original songs, but ASCAP and BMI usually tell venues that they need to pay anyway, just in case someone plays a single covered riff. TorrentFreak has yet another such story, of a restaurant that stopped having a local band perform every Friday night after BMI demanded $3,000:

“I said the hell with it! We only have music on Friday nights. It?s not worth $3000. How is a neighborhood restaurant running on a razor-thin margin in this economy supposed to afford an extra $3000? So I cancelled the band. Net result? Our customers suffered, local music suffered. A complete lose-lose situation.”

The bottom line to BMI and other collective rights organizations? Your customers are not your enemies. Promoting live music is good for BMI and the artists they collect royalties for. Working together with local businesses rather than trying to bully and intimidate them will leave all parties better off.

Of course, BMI and ASCAP don’t really care. In the end, they’re not there to protect the up-and-coming guys, but the huge acts who get the large checks.

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Companies: bmi

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Comments on “BMI Hurting Artists, Yet Again”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wanting to make a profit isn’t a problem; the problem is their incredibly shortsighted business strategy. Threats and bullying might, might make them more money in the short term, but by working against their customers instead of with them, they’re making themselves obsolete, which will eventually drive them out of business.

In other words, they need to be “good” and try to attract customers, instead of being “evil” and driving them away.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

They’re both non- profits, you fucking ignorant freetards.

Pirate Mike really lied his ass off on this one; no doubt due to the stance these agencies have taken regarding music piracy.

The cowardly fatboy who refuses to admit he supports piracy thinks he can declare the real motivations for these agencies, yet the reality is he’s just making things up again.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yes, god forbid someone get paid for doing a job,

I never said they shouldn’t be paid at all what I said was that they should only be paid in proportion to what they actually do. (Basically a minor administrative task). Given the monopoly position of their organisation, their access to all the money that passes through it and the lack of oversight the probability is that they will overpay themselves.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Wow, not only do you lack the intelligence to debate like an adult, you also fail to read stories deeply enough to realise that sometimes the songwriters “represented” by these organisations aren’t even members. A nice racket for the agencies when they can’t “find” the artists in question, huh?

“And who the fuck are *you* to decide what a person should and should not be paid anyway?”

As a paying customer, I decide who my money goes to. Idiots like you don’t get a penny, even if you are an “artist”. You’re white knighting people who are taking money out of artists’ pockets anyway, so that shows the level of reason that enters your skull.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

No, you stupid fucking fool, BMI, ASCAP etc make sure musicians are PAID when their songs are played on the radio, in restaurants, performed in bars, etc.

But you’re an ignorant, sycophantic freetard that believes whatever the talentless computer dweeb Mike Masnick says about the music business.

The fact is the world would be better off if all of you people died in a fire. There’s always hope…

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

Correction: BMI, ASCAP, RIAA, MPAA and their ilk only make sure that a “licensing” fee is paid by the person/business promoting their “client’s” music. And then lie to them about how much was paid, and again about what proportion of even the admitted collection is owed them.
The reason I put client in quotations is, they regularly collect fees for artists who they do NOT represent. And since they are not members, that “royalty” stays in the agency’s pocket. If ANYONE else did that, they would be correctly charged with fraud, and never used again. Since, in any other line of business, falsely representing who you are or represent, especially with regards to money collection, is criminal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, you moronic dolt.

Unless a bar, restaurant, etc. *ONLY* features original, unpublished music by unknowns, THEY HAVE TO PAY to have music there. That’s how artists are PROTECTED from being RIPPED OFF.

Why is that simple fucking concept so hard for your pea brain to grasp?

That’s the way it works. That asshat of an owner is just another freeloader taking advantage of other peoples work, like you freetards do.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

You mean like in the story in this very article? The local bands he used played only original music, but BMI didn’t care.

“He was, ‘James, James you don’t have a choice. I’m leaving this right here. If I don’t get this paperwork from you soon, the next person you see will be an investigator. They’re going to come in and you’re not going to have a choice.’ I said, ‘Prove that we’re violating your laws. Find a song that you own the rights to that we’re playing, it’s not going to happen.’

“He said, ‘That’s not how it works, James. It’s going to be too late. By the time we have an investigator come in, we don’t have to prove anything.’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

Here, from the original article on TF, which you obviously can’t be bothered to read:

?Even though we only played original music, she said we should buy the license anyway. Apparently, even if the band members use something as minor as a Led Zeppelin riff while they tune-up their instruments ? that?s a violation.?

Here’s what you said, “That asshat of an owner is just another freeloader taking advantage of other peoples work, like you freetards do.”

In this case, the asshat is you. Why? Because you are making assumptions about something that is clearly stated as not being true, just so you can go on a rant and insult people. THEY WERE PLAYING COMPLETELY ORIGINAL MUSIC, YOU F*CKING MORON.

Try this. Take a pill or have a drink. Relax. Then read EVERYTHING in regards to an article and it’s sources before you comment. Otherwise you come off as a psychotic nutjob.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

“That’s how artists are PROTECTED from being RIPPED OFF.”

Copying someone isn’t ‘ripping them off’. No one is entitled to a monopoly privilege and so preventing someone from being copied isn’t something that should be done to protect them. These monopoly privileges should exist not to protect artists from being ripped off, if they do then that’s even more reason to abolish them, they (should) exist only to promote the progress. They should exist only to the extent that they’re socially beneficial. What BMI did here is not socially beneficial, it only harms the public and it harms restaurants and up and coming artists and the legal system should severely punish BMI for abusing it against the public interest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

If they have a physical copy of said art sure otherwise everybody has the right to play their own versions, to make their own copies, nobody should be able to stop others from doing so, you try to expand the concept of ownership to limits beyond reasonable and want people to accept that?

Right dream on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:14 Re:

So they don’t bought anything they rented it, why say sale that implies something totally different?

To mislead the public to make them think they own something when they do not and lost their rights because they didn’t see what copyright really is, a forced monopoly that harms everybody.

I can’t imagine taxi drivers having to pay Ford for their lifes for the cars they “bought”, I can’t see clothe manufacturer’s trying to extract royalties from every use their clothes might have in public.

So why art needs to be different, the public space is the public space it is out off limits, it is not a commercial space that you can divide and fence it, that is not going to happen how hard is that to understand?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

More no one should gain a monopoly since it is a harmful thing to society, it is a social poison and if it needs to be granted it should be to extraordinary things not every crap that pops out of the woodwork and it should be for a very very short amount of time.

Most works make their return in one year heck movies if they are not profitable in the first 6 months they have no sequels planed, that should be the length of protections 6 months 1 year maximum.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

“Artists have just as much a right to a “monopoly” on their art as you have a right to a “monopoly” on your money.”

(Physical) property rights (should) exist under the belief that society is better off with them than without. If we are worse off with property rights than without them, then we should abolish those rights. (Physical) property rights should exist only to the extent that they are socially beneficial, they should not exist past that extent. If you read what Thomas Jefferson wrote, for example, he did not even believe that anyone has a natural right to a monopoly on physical property. Everything rightfully belongs to everyone. The purpose of having physical property laws should be because society is (allegedly) better off with them than without.

In fact, the whole idea behind implementing free market capitalism, or any economic system or any system of government, is that society is better off with said system than without. IP laws are not exempt from this requirement. IP laws, like physical property laws, should exist only to the extent that society is better off with them than without. They’re not somehow special and different from any other law.

I believe society is worse off with these laws than without and so I think we should abolish them. Certainly what BMI did here is not socially beneficial to anyone (other than maybe BMI) and as a society we should not tolerate this.

indieThing (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

Yes, I totally agree, but then why is this guy still being told he has to pay even if he doesn’t play any collection agency registered music ? It’s pure extortion.

A good analogy is if you own a car that is capable of going over the speed limit, you should pay $60 a week just in case you might break the speed limit. After all, your car is capable of it and you’re probably a dirty lying bastard if you say you don’t speed!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

Your comment is bullsh*t.

This guy HAD music (a live band) playing in his place. However, they only played ORIGINAL music that they made. The problem was BMI went in and said (essentially), “You have to pay us for a license to play music that was done by our artist.” To which he said, “The band doesn’t play covers, just their own stuff. So I’m good.” Their response was, “Pay us. Because they MIGHT one day play a quick note while tuning an instrument. And you’ll be liable for that.”

So he said “f*ck it, no more live band”. End of story.

BMI was trying to get him to pay up for something that wasn’t taking place. That is the story here. As someone up above pointed out, it’d be comparable to everyone paying a yearly fee because they in their vehicles may exceed the speed limit one day. And that’ll cover them if they do.

Oh, and this isn’t a “pirate” blog.

An Anonymous Coward (YOU) spreading FUD about Techdirt and the stories it runs. What a shocker. /s

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:12 Re:

Why do you insist on blatant lies and distortions to get across your “point”? it just makes you look ridiculous.

1. He *had* music till the BMI showed up. Now he doesn’t, as a direct result of their demands. Now you’re using the fact that they no longer have music to pretend the BMI was right? Very circular.

2. The BMI cared because he wasn’t paying their protection money. It doesn’t matter whether he was actually having covers played – the fact that he *could* is enough for them to threaten (and people like you to defend the indefensible).

3. Oh, and of course if you can’t address the facts, attack the source. How predictable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

And here was I thinking they only paid very few a very large amount of money, wasted a lot in enforcement, never build the infra-structure to have more accurate data and told to the little guys that are the lions share to get lost with the phrase “Want to get paid go write a hit song”.


But of course you know better you would never lie because you are not a dishonest, disingenuous prick, no Sir.

By the way how would the artists get paid if everybody died in a fire? do we still need ASCAP then?

Greg G (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I think you must be one of those people at one of those collection agencies that get paid too much. Minimum wage would be too much for you.

Way to draw people to your side. Calling us “stupid fucking fool”‘s, ignorant, sycophant freetard’s, and then wanting us to die in a fire?

I would really like to know what went wrong in your life for you to have so much pent up hatred for people that speak the truth, and why the truth bothers you so much.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

“I just don’t want more idiot lying freetard propaganda spread.”

Then, discuss them and correct the errors like an adult. You’re doing nobody any favours here.

Hmmm… should I side with the intelligent points being presented by one side or the apparently schizoid freak who can’t type 2 sentences without swearing and pulling a hissy fit? Not exactly a tough dilemma for anyone reading this, and you’re losing.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

Well guess what, our “idiot lying freetard propaganda” is spreading, because a hell of a lot of people understand and agree with the very real values that underpin it. Conversely, the audience for your vitriolic, self-serving and rage-driven bullshit begins and ends with the non-artists who pull in fat paycheques for exploiting our culture.

You have already lost. We have already won. We won the first time a caveman banged a stick against a rock three times, and we haven’t lost an inch of ground since, despite your best efforts. You cannot defeat the human desire to create, recreate and share. But you can lose your soul trying.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

There you go again, thinking that your content is so valuable that there would be a net benefit to the world if “freeloading parasites” were literally dead. It’s entertainment, not really up there with things like food and shelter. It’s something we can all live without if circumstances require it. Note how the restaurant owner is simply doing without music.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

You are an ignorant fool, and incapable of making an argument without attacking people, swearing and acting in a way that most 5 year olds I know would be ashamed of.

You’re not worth my effort to point out your errors, sorry. If only there were people on your “side” with some class and intelligence, then maybe the actual issues could be discussed. Alas…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

“But you’re an ignorant, sycophantic freetard that believes whatever the talentless computer dweeb Mike Masnick says about the music business.”

Ah I must have missed this while conversing with grownups.

I’m one thing and one thing only as far as you should be concerned – a paying customer of the entertainment industry. That you can’t even take criticism from paying customers and instead abuse them like a playground bully says a lot more about you than I.

As ever, I’ll over here paying for my music, skipping around the increased barriers your industry is putting in front of me to do so, and hoping to god I haven’t accidentally enabled you to collect a penny. You don’t deserve it, but I see others who do. I’ll certainly try giving to those venues who haven’t been forced out of business by your protection rackets.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

“You don’t pay for shit.”

You see, this is why there’s no level ground here. You make assumptions about me that are 180 degrees from the truth, attack me based on those and attack me again when I try to correct you. You’ll never get anywhere with your arguments, because you’re attacking a fiction.

“then you likely would have paid me without realizing it”

One of my biggest fears. I want to support real working, intelligent, forward-thinking artists, not luddite cavemen like yourself.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is exactly why copyright should last only 5 years.

On the bright side maybe technology can come to the rescue, since people could possibly use sexy earphones to create a virtual group inside a public space, so even if the venue doesn’t offer no music people can still find themselves something to be distracted and artists will start using the internet to deliver live gigs to people everywhere.

This maybe still 20 years away but it can happen.

Think Motto iD! Ouchi de Tamagotchi Station Plus + video conferencing + virtual currency.

Claire Ryan (user link) says:

Just wondering...

…how long it’ll be before they realize that this is a downward spiral.

-demand $sillyamount for music
-business can’t afford it, stops playing music, not dependent on music anyway
-fewer businesses playing music/more businesses playing Creative Commons music that doesn’t require them to pay up
-Licensing revenue falls as businesses are effectively priced out of the market
-$sillyamount = $sillyamount + $extra to cover lost revenue
-return to step 1.

They could just reduce the licensing fees to something that a business can afford, but I expect that will happen when I see Satan skating to work.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Just wondering...

-fewer businesses playing music/more businesses playing Creative Commons music that doesn’t require them to pay up

This step doesn’t work, because the licensing agencies demand money whether you’re playing music covered by them or not. Businesses will have to completely stop playing music to be sure to avoid the racket, and even then I’m sure some of them will still get bills in the mail.

Adrian Lopez says:

Somebody should try these assholes under the RICO Act. I mean, how is this not tantamount to extortion? Quoth the article:

“[The guy said] ‘Hey we need to sit down and talk and I’ve got some contracts here for you to sign.’ I was like, ‘Who are you again?’ He told me and said, ‘Yeah, it’s been real difficult to get ahold of you. You’ve been avoiding us. I’m here now and you need to take care of this. You don’t really have a choice in the matter. We need to sit down and you need to sign this paperwork with me.’

“I said I didn’t have time to talk with him then, that he could send me something in the mail or email me but I don’t have time, as far as I was concerned we were in compliance with all of the licensing or copyright laws.

“He was, ‘James, James you don’t have a choice. I’m leaving this right here. If I don’t get this paperwork from you soon, the next person you see will be an investigator. They’re going to come in and you’re not going to have a choice.’ I said, ‘Prove that we’re violating your laws. Find a song that you own the rights to that we’re playing, it’s not going to happen.’

“He said, ‘That’s not how it works, James. It’s going to be too late. By the time we have an investigator come in, we don’t have to prove anything.’

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh boo fucking hoo.

$3000. 50 weeks a year. $60 a week.

Are they suggesting they were paying the bands so little that $60 a week was enough to tip things? Was having live music such a money maker that $60 is enough to stop it?

Fuck me. If that is the state of the business, perhaps they need to just close the doors and give it up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So more people needs to get focked like Beyonce.

The Beach Boys
The Beatles
George Harrison
Led Zepellin
Ray Parker Jr.
Les Paul
Avril Lavigne
Vanilla Ice
Michael Bolton
Bruce Springsteen

They are all freetards LoL

Why do thieves call others thieves?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Was that guy paying the artists whose songs were being played? “

If you actually bothered to read the article, yes he was. BMI were trying to extort money for artists whose music *might* be played, with no evidence that they ever were or ever would be.

Crawl back into your padded cell, or wherever angry idiots like you spend their off time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Richard, the mistake is assuming it is “for nothing” and the that money just gets burned in a furnace.

The reality is the money ends up in part back with the song writers. Their works get used, and they get paid.

It’s like saying their property tax is for nothing, or their phone bill was for nothing.

Just like anything else, music is a raw material, and they have to pay for their raw materials.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Richard… do you honestly think they never played happy birthday, that they never did a cover song ever?

Well – happy birthday was fraudulently brought under copyright – since the melody entered the public domain long ago and the “happy birtday words are/were

1. Too short (bearing in mind the implied “insert name here”) for copyright protection. Song titles cannot be copyrighted – and the title of “Happy Birthday to you” is the entire song.

2. Not the work of the person who claimed the copyright.

3. Were written some years earlier than claimed and not registered at the time (when registration was required).

Also surely it should be up to BMI to prove that they have played cover songs not the restaurant owner to prove that they don’t.

And by the way – stop referring to me by my name in that manner – it is patronising and insulting – especially when you are an anonymous coward!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Okay Dick, I won’t call you Richard any more. Whatever.

Actually, it isn’t up to BMI to prove much of anything, beyond that there is live music at the venue (and possibly recorded music as well, but that isn’t part of the story here, I guess). I find it incredibly unlikely (effectively impossible) that in 50+ nights of music, that not a single cover song would be played, not a single piece of recorded music played, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

So what, that music should be free to use, it is not being used by other artists at that place, it is not being performed by other artist at that place. So why pay somebody that never puts his foot in there, do any job in there for something he didn’t do?

Because he wrote a song?

Can hammer manufacturers charge people for every nail their hammers hit?

I find it disturbing that you believe that is the proper way things should work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

People who make hammers for a manufacturer (assuming they are in the US of course) make regular paychecks for ONE company. It does not work like that for a musician…we don’t get regular paychecks from a single company. We get paid on a per project basis. Which is why other income streams like royalties came to be.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“Okay Dick, I won’t call you Richard any more.”

Don’t worry, your kindergarten class will be back in session on Monday, so you can use these lines of argument where they belong.

” it isn’t up to BMI to prove much of anything”

Yeah, well this is your answer to everything, isn’t it? Nobody has to prove that the person being sued actually downloaded anything, that the licences being demanded are actually required or that the content pulled down is actually infringing. Your glorious industry has to get paid, so why bother with evidence of wrongdoing?

Then you wonder why people despise them?

“I find it incredibly unlikely”

Your other problem is that you always reach a subjective position without the aid of evidence, and then pretend it’s a fact. Sadly, you’re often so wrong, you’ve reached the opposite of the truth, but you won’t allow facts to sway you, nor the opinions of others to cast doubt on your assumptions.

“(effectively impossible)”

…and here is one of the other problems. You’re so in love with your industry gods, you can’t conceive that it’s even possible to do things that don’t result in them being owed money. I suppose that since your idea of a cover version that needs to be paid for is for customers to break out into an impromptu verse of Happy Birthday, this makes sense in your world. But, hey, I’m sure the local artists who’ve just lost a venue to gain an audience for their music and the resulting income will thank you.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Actually, it isn’t up to BMI to prove much of anything, beyond that there is live music at the venue (and possibly recorded music as well, but that isn’t part of the story here, I guess). I find it incredibly unlikely (effectively impossible) that in 50+ nights of music, that not a single cover song would be played, not a single piece of recorded music played, etc.

Patronising Coward

The fact that (you claim) BMI doesn’t have to prove anything is exactly our point. Thank you for making the case against your argument loudly and clearly!

Where else can you extract mony on the offchance that something might happen?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

To clarify.

Actually, it isn’t up to BMI to prove much of anything, beyond that there is live music at the venue

1) Does BMI operate on the basis that this statement is true?


2) Is this statement true? Maybe. It has never been really well tested in court because most of BMI’s victims don’t have the resources to pursue it.

3) Is it good business practice for BMI to operate on the basis that this statement is true?

Probably not – it makes them lots of enemies.

4) Is it good for musicians in general for BMI to operate on the basis that this statement is true?
No – because it reduces their opportunities – and very few make enough royalties to cover the loss.

5) Is it morally acceptable for this statement to be true – absolutely not.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Ah, so when you can’t get away with attacking the victim, attack the source. God forbid you should actually address the issues being raised or the meat of the actual argument.

I wonder, would you be so quick to dismiss it if the author’s own blog (where the article was cross-posted) were given as the source, or are you also determined to dismiss him as a pirate for daring to question your corporate gods?

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The reality is the money ends up in part back with the song writers. Their works get used, and they get paid. “

Do you clowns really believe we’re all so stupid that we still believe this BS? Sorry, but we’ve all read story after story after story of how this money does not reach most of the “represented” artists. You’ve had years to earn people’s trust on matters like this and blown it time and time again. We no longer trust the middlemen supposedly divvying up the spoils, and probably never will again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I was assuming that they might miss the week of christmas, and maybe one other week during the year for whatever reasons.

Of course, we should add that if they had a live band twice a week, it would only be $30 a night. You have to wonder what is wrong if adding entertainment doesn’t pad the bottom line enough to support that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 14th, 2011 @ 9:20pm

Here is the really disturbing thing.

The real musician is out of a job, because someone claimed that he owned the music, but apparently he couldn’t be bothered to go down that specific place to play it, or entertain the customers of that establishment so in fact he was asking money without having to work for it and those who work for it can’t because of him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Oh boo fucking hoo.

$3000. 50 weeks a year. $60 a week.

Are they suggesting they were paying the bands so little that $60 a week was enough to tip things? Was having live music such a money maker that $60 is enough to stop it?”

Are you an idiot? The $3000 goes to a licensing firm, not to the small artists. And it’s a fee IN CASE the small artist happens to play a cover of your favorite Lady Gaga song. It has nothing to do with the actual money going to the small artist. It goes right to the lawyers and the extortion..err.. management firm.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Damn, you are a dense one.

I didn’t suggest the money was going to the “small artists” appearing at this place. Not in the slightest. My point is only if $60 is enough to suddenly make having the musicians painfully unprofitable, you would have to wonder what little effect it was having to start with.

If $60 was the “breaking point”, there wasn’t much of a business here to start with.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So, you have $240 lying around each month for me if I decide to come round and charge you more for an optional expense? You’d be fine with that extra expense just because I said I wanted it for something you didn’t have to use?

The reasons that a local restaurant would be struggling should be abundantly clear in the current climate, even if it weren’t explained to some degree in the linked article. Itself an optional, luxury expense for many in the middle of a global financial crisis, the restaurant couldn’t afford an additional luxury expense just because a 3rd party came along and demanded it.

I’m sorry if you’re too rich and smug to realise this. Oh well, it’s OK for bands and audiences to miss out because the restaurant owner wasn’t raking in millions, right? Better for another venue to close down than risk an unproven hypothetical situation go without a ransom payment.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: boo f'ing hoo

Oh boo fucking hoo.

Exactly the same should be said about the artists that PRO’s like ASCAP/BMI pay. (Payment from PRO’s are based on commercial radio airtime; none of them collect data on what’s actually being played in the venues.) The PRO’s don’t pay anyone but the established acts, who are already making millions; the rest get screwed.

Are they suggesting they were paying the bands so little that $60 a week was enough to tip things?

In my experience, the venues whom $60 a week is enough to “tip things,” are the ones who give all of their money to the bands that are playing that night. They are the ones who host bands out of pure passion, and profit be damned.

The venues that have enough to pay those fees, are the ones who view music as purely a business – and pay artists out of it; which means, next to nothing. (I’m not criticizing; venues need to make money, and venues are actually more important to a music scene than bands are, if you want to be honest about it.)

If that is the state of the business, perhaps they need to just close the doors and give it up.

And that is exactly what bars, restaurants, and coffee shops are doing.

Just how does closing down venues help artists, exactly?

This is one thing you simply can’t answer. Let’s say the venue was hosting bands that played cover songs, and the songwriters weren’t being paid (something that the venue says is not true, by the way, and given the fact that bands aren’t playing covers so much anymore, I believe the venue). Now, some PRO comes and demands payment, and the venue is shut down. Either way the songwriters aren’t getting paid.

So, not only are the PRO’s preventing their own artists from making money, they’re preventing everyone else from making money as well. And in the process, they’re robbing the community of a venue to hear live music, something that without question harms the public.

It’s a lose-lose situation. I have no idea why you could possibly defend it.

Thank goodness even Top 40 artists don’t share your opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think musicians only will get the message about collection agencies when no one hires any one of them to play anywhere, then maybe, maybe those that can’t find a job start complaining about the more successfully ones that keep hindering their opportunities on the market place.

How many musicians depend on live gigs for a living and how many depend on royalties?

That would be a great comparison LoL

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yup, and they can spend more than $60 a week of their time to try to figure out if the artist is playing only their own music, and risking getting in trouble if one them whips into a wild acoustic version of Black Hole Sun.

If they don’t have $60 to spend for licensing, then they likely don’t have the time to sit and pre-listen to every song a musician might play in a night.

Let’s not forget the risk of Happy Birthday! 🙂

cc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m pretty sure they can’t actually sue anyone until they have some evidence that their music was played. They can make threats, of course, but it’s about time that people start seeing through those!

Small business owners should get together and start a system to fight back. They would need two things:

1) written contracts with the bands, with explicit clauses not to play BMI/ASCAP-licensed music and with penalty of termination if they do. Should the business owner catch a band playing the wrong songs, he must enforce the contract and throw the band out. If things go wrong, the buck should stop with the band and not with the venue.

2) some sort of visible mark at the entrance that warns the BMI types that the venue they are looking at has such contracts in place.

Of course, there’s not much point for the BMI types to go after the bands because the venues have more money. That means they’ll try to fight this tooth and nail at first. I don’t know what precedents there are for this sort of thing, but it sounds like this may be the only way out (and forward).

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Maybe the answer is to create and enforce a new logo that goes on the front window next to the “Visa accepted here” logo and says “Only free/original music played here”.

AS220 in Providence has this policy. It’s posted over their front door, in big letters.

Coincidentally, AS220 is one of the best places I’ve performed. They pay artists above average and consistently, have awesome underground music (all of which is original of course), and sell good beer for cheap (e.g. La Fin Du Monde for $6.00).

In fact, I’ve seen a couple of venues that have this policy, and ALL of them treat artists better than other venues. I know this from personal experience; I’ve performed at many of them.

Beezwax says:

Good sense

This is not about protecting artists, it is a great business model.

These rights organisations have absolutely nothing to do with protecting the interests of artists, but they are savvy businessmen with a revenue stream to protect. The only fools are the artists who allow their works to be locked by these guys.

Nice job if you can get, you are answerable to no-one and have a revenue stream protected by law with no corresponding duties to fulfill.

Where do I sign up for that gig? (profile) says:

PROs screwing the little guy

It is more insidious than you realize. The PROs (Professional Rights Organizations) have been extorting money from club owners for years. They use a formula based on the total square footage of the facility, so Borders and Barnes and Nobel no longer have live music because the fees were too great.

If a club pays the money to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc., the PROs do not demand play lists, so they do not know what songs were played and who to send the money to. Instead, the PROs use a formula based on the highest grossing touring acts. The top 20% of these acts get the money collected from clubs. Play a Neil Young song and the money goes to the Eagles, or Brittany Spears, or, whomever.

More importantly, the agent gets a large share of the monthly extortion money, so they have incentives to enforce.

I believe that the PROs in Canada and Europe are forced to collect play lists and dole out the money accordingly. I have songwriter friends who get checks from the Canadian PROs, but never from the US PROs.

Anonymous Coward says:

BMI, ASCAP and other similar agencies each represent specific muscicians and are tasked via contracts with the musicians to collect royalties on their behalf in accordance with “sliding scale” contracts. The “sliding scale” encompasses much more than just square footage of an establishment, i.e., number of customers, number of performances, etc.

A business who signs a contract with one of the agencies is authorized to have publicly performed in its establishment any song contained in an agency’s inventory.

The linked article leaves many questions unanswered. Are those performing in the establishments represented by the agency? An original song by a performer may very well be included in a contract, so to distinguish only on the basis of “original” may create an inaccurate impression of what the performer/agency contract embraces.

I have dealt with such agencies many, many times, and find it highly unusual that an attorney would be the one making first contact with a business, and even if an attorney was brought into the picture it would not be in the stated manner. Perhaps the business confused who it was it actually dealt withm Most likely it was an agency employee, and not an attorney.

Based upon my experience, there seems to be here a lot of information that is not answered, information that is important to determine if the agency here was or was not overreaching.

If this “bugs” you, then I can only begin to imagine your reaction to telephonic “music on hold” and “secondary transmission” licenses, licenses that are manifestly legitimate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What bugs everyone is a monopoly that extends life + 95 years or 125 years, that is what bugs people, those people don’t want to get paid they want to be social parasites.

Further that same people keep coming up with laws that erodes civil rights and due process, those people don’t respect the rule of law they want to dismantle the legal system so it operates in grey areas that they can exploit.

Further the article doesn’t need to say anything, anyone who has a musician friends knows they don’t get to receive no payments ever from collection agencies, everybody knows the horror stories is common knowledge well maybe not for you apparently.

Schuyler King (profile) says:


“BMI usually tell venues that they need to pay anyway, just in case someone plays a single covered riff.”

Under the law, this is “Prior Restraint” and is illegal. You cannot be compelled to pay a license fee because you *might*–at some fuzzy point in the future–use copyrighted material.

Reminds me of Al Capone’s “protection” racket. I agree that prosecution of ASCAP and BMI under the RICO Act seems appropriate.

caviaremptor (profile) says:

The restaurant owner should get a lawyer to write them a sweet buzz-off letter.

If there’s ever doubt about whether a local band really owns a copyright, the restaurant could have a policy of only allowing public domain music to be played. That should make it harder for the music industry to descend on them, and if they continued to harass, go after them with a lawyer and seek punitive damages.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well there may be, with so much cases of plagiarism and the ridiculous interpretation of what constitutes plagiarism that came entirely from the courts and not the law nobody will know ever for certain if something is infringing or not.

Remember 3 notes have been proven in court that it is enough to win.

Also there is a bias in favor of collection agencies, they are seen as unions for artists and so are given special treatment even when they screw up, if an small business owner is found with anything wrong he will be severely punished in some cases even if it is not that clear and those collections agencies don’t appear to have to prove nothing, apparently only the word of their investigator is proof enough I never heard of them showing hard evidence, but maybe someone can show what kind of evidence they show in court, for what I know it is the word of a guy against the other and collection agencies win everytime.

CJ (profile) says:

Fight them back?

Clearly you can’t stop their damage done to artist suing the consumers, and businesses. These companies are too big. The only way to fight them is to create a company that works with artist. That is fair, and without the restraints of companies such as like BMI. I bet artist would eat it up if they knew it meant more money for them for their hard work, and the public would eat it up because there would be less restrictions. Artist would be hesitant to sign with one of those big companies knowing someone is looking out for them, and their fan base.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is anti-competitive behavior. Where is the DOJ in all this? Shouldn’t they be filing an anti-trust suite against them?

Oh, that’s right, they’re too busy going after Google and those who actually innovate.

and why is the mainstream media ignoring this? Shouldn’t politicians be flocking at the opportunity to help create more jobs by correcting these broken laws that only result in parasites, like BMI, abusing the legal system to take away jobs from hard working Americans?

Jesse Townley (profile) says:

BMI from an artist & a venue's standpoint

Back when I was the head booker for a local punk club, ASCAP hunted us down and we had one face-to-face meeting with them.

We basically said all of the things that the restaurant owner (and many of you have said) and ASCAP’s response was, “It doesn’t matter what songs you actually play, it’s based on the square footage. All of this has been legally proven in court so you cannot fight the precedent we’ve won over the years.”

We ended up filing all future letters (some VERY scary legal ones included) in the circular file and stopped returning their phone calls. Since they don’t work at night, we never saw them again and we never paid them a cent. About 10 years later, BMI tried a similar campaign and never even got as far as a face-to-face.

As a BMI artist for many years, I personally have never seen a cent from them. Of course, I have nothing in a commercial or on a major label. The most I’ve sold of a particular record is around 30,000, which is GREAT for punk rock but generally avoided the stores that use Soundscan, commercial radio, and other methods that BMI & the other performing rights organizations use to get their payout information.

As a college radio DJ for almost 20 years, we have an annual BMI week where we write down publishing information for all of the songs we play during that week. BMI allegedly factors that information into their payouts too. Another DJ’s friend was at BMI for years and swears that they don’t pay attention to their college radio surveys, but that’s second-hand so take it with a grain of salt.

So yeah- if you’ve got a song that’s in a commercial situation, you may get paid from BMI. If not, it’s only good “just in case” and to lay claim to your own creation (or shared creation, in the case of most rock bands) for whatever the publishing term is.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: BMI from an artist & a venue's standpoint

If you didn’t make any money from BMI, try blaming yourself for not writing something worthy of airplay, not BMI.

Yep, that is what the PROs tell small artists: “if you want to get paid, try writing a hit song.” That’s almost a word for word quote but I don’t remember which organization’s representative said it.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: BMI from an artist & a venue's standpoint

BMI and ASCAP pay you for airplay, not record sales

…and not for bands covering your songs in live venues.

Oh, sure they take money from venues. But the amount that is paid out to artists is based on radio airplay.

So, if you’re an artist who doesn’t get played on Top 40 radio in the venue’s area, it doesn’t matter how many people cover your songs in that venue – you’re not getting paid.

Chris Mosteller says:

BMI working against new artists

My band wrote and recorded a song a couple years ago. Last year the lead guitarist in our band heard our song being played on US Airways. I thought this was quite a step for the band and called BMI to tell them about it and see when we should expect a royalty payment. I was told to wait about 9 months. I have waited now for about 14 months and have been trying to get an answer from BMI about the royalties. Today I just learned some shocking news. They said that if the amount of royalty is under $250 they don’t bother sending out a check. This means that US Airways paid BMI for playing our song but BMI is keeping 100% of the royalties. This explains why they never return their phone calls and avoid all small artists. Sure you can register your song but when it gets played chances are the only people who will see any money will be BMI. BMI is a parasite which profits on artist’s creations.

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