How ASCAP Takes Money From Successful Indie Artists And Gives It To Giant Rock Stars

from the not-cool dept

Back in 2009, we wrote about the crazy situation in which ASCAP, the giant US collection society will funnel money from indie artists and pay it to big rock stars — which seemed incredibly unfair. It’s just one particular part of the royalties that ASCAP pays, but it’s still clearly a case of taking from independent artists and giving money that they should be paid under the system and giving it to the most successful artists. The short version of the story is basically that, to make its own life easier, ASCAP just pays those performance royalties to the top 200 grossing tours in the US, and every other touring musician is more or less screwed — unless you can convince ASCAP that you play “serious music.”

Very successful independent musician Zoe Keating, who has had multiple run-ins with the unfair practices of collections societies giving money she’s owed to major labels, just came across this same issue and wrote a blog post about her experience:

After a concert, there is this thing called “doing the settlement”. This is where the artist or their representative meets with the promoter, goes over the financial outcome of the night in relation to their contract…and gets paid.

Sometimes the contract is for a percentage of the gross revenues, but more often for me, I get a guarantee and maybe a percentage of “net” if it was a positive number. The line item deductions that go into the calculation of net are things like sound & lights, staff, venue rental, advertising, insurance, etc. There tend to be many line items in the calculation of “net” and I can’t help but notice that one of them is ASCAP.

For example, at one concert I played last month the gross ticket sales for the night were $9336. Of the many expenses deducted that night, one of the items was $86 to ASCAP.

What is this? This is the nightly portion of a license fee that the hall pays to ASCAP for the permission to perform music by ASCAP artists in their venue. My compositions are registered with ASCAP, so I should get this money eventually, right?


I remembered that when I’ve played in the UK I listed all the songs I played on something called a PRS from and gave it to the venue. Six months or so later, I got a check for the percentage of the night’s revenues due to me according to the PRS formula for that venue.

Thinking that maybe instead of placing the burden on the venue, ASCAP puts it on the artist, I called ASCAP to see how I should go about claiming these concert royalties.

The customer service representative on the phone said there was nothing for me to claim. He informed me that ASCAP pays out performing royalties only to the 200 top-grossing concert tours, as determined by Pollstar. They also pay royalties for “Live symphonic and recital concerts”, whatever they are (he said I don’t qualify for those).

In other words….

Every day, thousands of venues are required to pay a percentage of their gross ticket sales to ASCAP who then gives that money to… let’s look here on Pollstar and find the highest-grossing concerts for 2011….U2, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, etc.

Yup. The thing is, I actually would have thought that Keating, whose music is usually classified as “classical” would have qualified for that “serious music” exception — because back in 2009, we were told that applies to classical music. But now it appears they’re limiting that to “live symphonic and recital concerts” and telling her she doesn’t qualify for that either.

But, really, this seems borderline criminal. There is simply no way to describe what’s happening here other than ASCAP taking money that is owed to independent artists and giving it to the most successful artists in the world instead.

Keating then discusses how, in researching this, she came across a separate program which appears to be something of a lottery for independent artists for herself:

Looking online, I found an ASCAP program that I didn’t know about. Perhaps in an attempt to compensate for this incredible distribution of wealth to the wealthy, ASCAP has something called the “ASCAP Plus Cash Awards”. What are these amazing “awards”?

“For over 50 years, these special awards have recognized writer members each year for substantial performance activity in media and venues that are not included in performance surveys, or whose works have unique prestige value. The program has also been an inspiration to members just starting out to persevere in advancing their music careers. More than 4,200 songwriter and composer members of ASCAP received Plus Awards in their January 2012 disbursement…”

You have to submit an application to ASCAP to qualify for consideration (which I just did). The gist of it, as far as I can tell, is that if you are the winner of this black-box calculation ASCAP will make a special award to you of a portion of your own money. Awesome! I’ll let you know if I “win”.

Of course, we’ve written about this “program” too — such as noticing in 2010 how ASCAP was bragging about bringing in more money than ever… at the very same time it announced it was massively cutting payments to those who qualify for this mysterious ASCAP Plus program.

I know that lots of musicians swear that ASCAP isn’t like the RIAA, and that it really is about helping artists, but time and time again, we see that it really just functions to perpetuate the system that only rewards the biggest artists, and causes significant problems for the smaller artists. From examples like the stories above, to ASAP’s aggressive efforts to shut down any and all open mic nights unless coffee shop owners pay up, ASCAP has successfully been screwing over independent artists for quite some time. It’s a real shame and something that organization should work on. As Keating notes, it is possible to do this in a much more fair manner, such as the way PRS handled the exact same situation in the UK (though, obviously, PRS has its own issues).

Perhaps, rather than focusing on attacking Creative Commons, EFF and Public Knowledge — three organizations that have done amazing things for independent artists, ASCAP should focus on actually paying those artists what they’ve earned.

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Comments on “How ASCAP Takes Money From Successful Indie Artists And Gives It To Giant Rock Stars”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I'm pretty sure this is a ponzi scheme...

They bring in a bunch of people, get them to give money, use money from the newer (in this case, ones who aren’t top-200) people to pay the original people (in this case, the top-200) to get credibility that the scheme is working.

So next step is for them to run away with the money they got from the scheme. Lets wait and hope that’s the worst that happens.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: I'm pretty sure this is a ponzi scheme...

It is the definition of a ponzi scheme!

However, knowing how inept the executors of said scheme are; they apparently never figured out the “cut and run” part–or somebody make a drunken dare “I’ll bet you can’t string them along for 50 years!” which was accepted; or something like that.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: I'm pretty sure this is a ponzi scheme...

I have been playing in Rock Bands since 1972 and I will firmly state that any Artist who signs with ASCAP, RIAA, and these other Professional Services will be screwed over.I have personally seen this thru guys I knew who did sign and were in larger Audience Bands than mine.
I am not a fool.I never wanted nor will I ever accept Big Labels, RIAA, ASCAP, BMI, ETC.
They are not there to hhelp out the INDIE Musician but they are there to fleece you of your earnings.
Stay DIY and keep your Money & your Earnings.Hang in there and use the Internet, build a fan base, and the World is Yours.
None of you younger starting out Artists need these Big Assholes any longer in this day and age especially.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ahem. I’d like to give a few possible “troll” like arguments for this one.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN KNOW THAT I AM JOKING. EMPHASIS ON I. But the trolls who would and do say the following are perfectly serious when they say similar things.

“Maybe these “independent” artists should stop sucking and become top performers. It’s not ASCAP’s fault they aren’t part of the top 200, maybe if they had a little talent they’d be receiving royalties as they would if they were good enough to earn them.”

“It’s these own artists fault for not being thorough in checking their contracts before THEY WILLINGLY SIGNED THEM, to make sure any royalties collected would go to them. Too fucking bad. Their problem. No one forced them to sign.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever Mike. Making it seem like you care about the artists when all you do day in and day out is promote piracy. You and the rest of these Techdirtdouchebag Freetards. Caring all of a sudden about this one, obviously pathetic and nobody of an artist, when the rest of the time you’re all too busy stealing from them when you pirate those songs. Just another way to deflect from the real issue at hand, piracy.”

“Oh, Mike. Just grasping for any excuse to slam these people who are helping out the artists. I don’t see you putting up any articles about all the good they do for artists, but first chance one makes a small mistake there you go. STOP THE PRESSES! Kind of pathetic, chubby. I guess I can see how you would make a big deal though about this ONLY one time incident. What with your debit Marcus/Leigh on the payroll, another nobody of an artist.”

And so on and so forth.

There, now that I’ve covered all the usual troll points/arguments/etc let’s see what they bring to the table.

And please, for the love of all that is possibly holy, realize that I DID NOT MEAN ANY OF THAT UP ABOVE. I just wanted to beat the trolls to the punch and show That One Guy what their usual comments would be in such an article, if they do show up (in articles like this they tend to stay away… wonder why).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Perhaps it’s tragically funny… Like when a clown dies. Lol. I say this as the guy who wrote that comment up above. But yeah, it’s interesting because as you said, I too have actually run across all those examples being said at one point or another by the TD trolls. I think what’s truly tragic is as much as they claim WE are against the artists and out to hurt them, whenever something like this happens, they are the first ones to lay all the blame for it on the artists. Goes to show their true nature though. And who they really care about.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Why do I get the feeling that this is calling out for a Class action.

To me (not sure if USA is same) this reeks of conversion and fraud.

They are intentionally ONLY giving money taken to top 200, willingly tell everyone who asks that this is the way it is done, and are never dispensing any fees collected to the artist who has payed for the privilege of performing their own Intellectual property in the first place by making it a part of venue contract..

I’d say a class action for Trover and/or Detinue is appropriate. Though Conversion is better since the defenses are a LOT less (and needs no intent).

Why any artist in the USA allows this is beyond me. Oh and the top 200 artists could be held vicariously liable for accepting these monies, though its a stretch!

DandonTRJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The problem is that ASCAP operates under a consent decree with the Justice Department (the result of antitrust wrangling many years ago). The government dictates many of the terms they operate under (from fees charged to licenses available) and presumably already knows about their disbursement methods. It was justified back in the day under technical limitations more than anything. However, new tracking technologies are going to make it possible to actually keep exact data on copyrighted performances (rather than the current “representative sample” nonsense) and send out payments accordingly. Companies like Music Reports are already leading the way on the licensing side. Now the rest of the industry needs to catch up.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

awwwww qualified immunity from committing unlawful acts.. how quaint *eye roll*. Though this still does not disallow any actions that are unconscionable or not based on equity. Especially telling is that they can not and should not collect for foreign performers unless they too are a members and interestingly any foreign performer is not constrained by what the DOJ has agreed to.

I’m intrigued by Part XI B.3.a where a member resigns and shall recieve distribution. Though I think the whole decree rests on what a members classification is defined as. Maybe that needs to be changed, and seeing as this comes from the 1940’s with revisions in 60’s and then in 2001.. well As Dylan states (and prob doesn’t get ASCAP payments fro too) “The times they are a changin”

Interestingly the performer might have an action towards the venue provider in certain circumstances where they are ONLY playing their own IP under the contract for non consideration and also conversion (agency), and lets not talk about those artists, though rare, that are not a part of ASCAP and are getting charged by the venue (and ASCAP) for them they are not a part of the decree and have full standing to recover any monies taken. Now there’s a class action in waiting 😉

Anton Sherwood (profile) says:


Yeah, the stars could be on the hook for unjust enrichment.

I once heard about something similar with respect to radio: rather than collect playlists from stations, even when the stations offered them, ASCAP (or some similar entity, I don’t recall which) would sample what was on the air at some times and pay out for only those songs — and again they didn’t bother keeping track of “small” accounts.

DogBreath says:

Re: dooH niboR

Even if one day the government decided to “investigate” ASCAP’s practice of stealing from the poor artists to give to the rich, the questioning would end like this:

Government Bigshot: Just what made you think you could get away with such practices as taking from the poor and giving only back to the rich? Where did you learn such underhanded and shady tactics?

ASCAP: I learned them from you, OK! I learned it from you!

Knowing in advance the answer to that question, it would be a non-starter of any government “investigation” right there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Mind you that joining ASCAP is the only way that they could possibly see ANY return on what is collected. Even if the artist performing is NOT a member of ASCAP, ASCAP charges the VENUE (not the Artist) these fees for the performance. It’s just that the venue lists the fees charged by ASCAP as an expense that it then passes on to the artist. If you aren’t a registered member of ASCAP you still end up paying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would say that the problems here are that

1. Most of the artists that join ASCAP buy their story and don’t realize that they are being cheated so they go along with it.
2. Most of the small venues (like bars and such) that are likely to hire talent that wouldn’t be ASCAP members still want to hire cover bands that play music that everyone is familiar with.
3. The larger venues that are likely to only have original talent want to hire acts that are likely ASCAP members so they have to agree to the ASCAP terms in order to get acts that will play there.

Otherwise the venues could just not hire ASCAP artists and acts that do original material then tell ASCAP to go screw themselves.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think there is anything legally requiring venues to pay what ASCAP demands unless 1. an artist represented by ASCAP is performing 2. songs written by artists represented by ASCAP are being performed or 3. the venue has a contract with ASCAP to pay per performance.

Unfortunately the system has been rigged in favor of ASCAP/BMI/SESAC and against the venues. I, too, have protested that a venue should not have to pay these organizations if no music written by members of these organizations is being played there. However, any venue that has tried to argue this has run into this response: “We have so many members that if you are playing any music at all, you’re likely playing music by one of our members. Unless you can prove otherwise, you need to pay us a fee.” The burden of proof is on the venue rather than these collection agencies.

That’s where the encouraging indie songwriters to join comes in. ASCAP/BMI/SESAC get their clout by having so many songwriters sign up. If they only represented a handful of songwriters, then it would be much harder for them to tell the venues that chances are member music is being played.

Therefore, once I realized this, I began to suggest that songwriters hold off joining one of these organizations until there is a legitimate reason to think they will get royalty checks in the mail from them. If not, don’t join. That way if you go to a venue to play your original music, you can at least claim ASCAP/BMI/SESAC has no right to make the venue pay a fee when you play. Not that it is going to do any good, because unless the venue can prove that no member music is being played there ever, the venue owners will be taken to court and forced to pay. But it is a start. The fewer songwriters who join, the less power these organizations will have. It isn’t that I am against ASCAP/BMI/SESAC. It’s that most members never get any money, even when they play live shows and their music is played on the radio. The organizations claim to represent them but then don’t pay them their due.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Why is this surprising????

I’m really not sure how any of this is surprising. If the ASCAP is only paying the top 200 touring artists and Live symphonic and recital concerts, that means that they are collecting A LOT of money from all the other tours and bars and coffee shops.

That means that the ASCAP management is rolling in cash for which they did absolutely nothing to earn. So let’s think about this for a minute. The top 200 artists are only looking for the compensation due to them, they are not looking for the other money. The ASCAP “says” they pay the money from indie tours to the biggest artist, but with the recording industry’s track record, I sincerely doubt that money is going to the top 200 touring artists.

More likely than not, all of that “extra” money is going into ASCAP management bank accounts. If you had a “free money machine”, would you want anyone messing with it?????

Griffdog (profile) says:


I’m new to this game, so thought I’d hop on over to ASCAP’s site to see what they have to say for themselves. On 15 March, ASCAP President and CEO testified before the US Senate to gripe about the horrors that would occur if we should allow Russia to become part of the World Trade Organization. The press release reads:

“Williams? testimony served to highlight the challenges American songwriters, composers and publishers face in securing fair compensation from the public performances of their music in Russia and urged the U.S. Government to address these challenges as they consider Russia?s entry to the World Trade Organization. Williams pointed out that American music creators are grossly underpaid for the public performances of their works in Russia.

American music creators depend on the efficiencies of performing rights organizations (PROs), like ASCAP and its reciprocal relationships with a network of foreign societies around the world, to license their public performance rights and collect and distribute royalties. Williams pointed out that RAO, ASCAP?s Russian counterpart, is handicapped in its efforts to collect on behalf of American music creators through an ineffective legal system and threats to its authority to collect royalties for music used in films and shown in Russian theaters.”

Seems to me that, in the US, our artists are handicapped in their efforts to collect monies captured on their behalf by ASCAP, the organization doing the collecting.

BentFranklin (profile) says:

He informed me that ASCAP pays out performing royalties only to the 200 top-grossing concert tours, as determined by Pollstar.

I see nothing here that says ASCAP gives indies’ money to stars. They said they give the stars back their own money and keep the indies’ money.

Is their justification the fact that it’s too hard to do all the paperwork? It obviously isn’t too much paperwork to take the money!

Also, let’s start calling them ASCAAP and GEMAA.

Casey says:

No one can defend...

No one can defend what Ascap is doing. But this article is misleading. Ascap doesn’t simply pay artists, they pay song writers and publishers. If you are not the writer or publisher, you don’t get paid. This needs to be made more clear. It has little to do with the article, as Zoe to my knowledge is a song writer, but in the future….

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why should ASCAP collect anything when an artist is playing their own music, and it doesn’t matter if it is an indie or a top 100. They should be collecting when a performer is playing someone else’s music to get the fee to the someone else.

It should be this way. If an artist is playing his own music, he/she should have the option to wave having the venue pay a fee for that music. But the venues end up playing a blanket fee to ASCAP, which covers all the music played at the venue, and then in theory it is divvied up among all the ASCAP members whose music is being played there. However, monitoring systems being what they were, ASCAP decided only to pay a small percentage of members because it couldn’t track what songs were actually being played.

Now with digital monitoring that problem should be corrected (not that it will be, however) and each member paid according to how often his/her songs are on the radio, in venues, on TV, in film, and on YouTube.

aleks eva (user link) says:


Spotify is worse. They have no set standards of what they pay per play and they don’t disclose a formula. Most independent artists get fractions of franctions of a penny (if anything) for a decent presence but the artists that have leverage, like Lady Gaga (who also complained that for more than a million plays she got $100), those artists DO get paid to keep them on board. Everyone else is paid with the opportunity for exposure on Spotify. It’s a favor they are doing YOU. On top of it they got all the labels on board (including a business representing the small labels as one entity), by offering them shares in Spotify. So if the artists get paid less, Spotify makes more money, the labels make more money on the shares. So there is no motivation to get more money out of Spotify to pay the artists, whereas usually the labels benefit if the artists do more, it’s tied in with a percentage. So if you’re bummed about this, don’t use Spotify, and get out of Ascap. Hey everyone what’s that other one? I thought one is better for independent artists.

Tonsotunez says:

This Isn't About Indie Artists and Rock Stars

ASCAP is about songwriters.

Not all performing artists write their own songs. In fact, about 60% of the songs you hear are not written by the artists that perform them.

About 90% of the venues that feature indie artists demand that those artists do ‘cover’ songs because audiences, in general, are their to get laid not listen to some unknown artist sing unknown songs. Familiar songs breed, as it were, more intimate familiarity among customers.

Those that write the songs the artists sing deserve to get paid.

But let’s say you are an unknown independent artists singing songs your written in some little club.

That club owner has paid about the cost of a glass of beer to ASCAP … say $4.00 .. to let you perform there for that evening.

If you are a member of ASCAP – as you (Mike) point out… ASCAP has its ASCAP Plus program that lets the writer of the songs apply for payment… which will probably be more than you would get if you received $4.00 for every night you performed your songs in a licensed facility in any given year.

If you are a cover band, the $4.00 goes into a pot to be distributed via a very carefully designed and constantly reviewed survey of public performances to insure as fair and equitable distribution of funds in the most cost effective way possible.

But, the most important thing to remember about ASCAP is that is is about songwriters and their SONGS… not about those who perform them like Indie Artists and Rock Stars.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: This Isn't About Indie Artists and Rock Stars

Those that write the songs the artists sing deserve to get paid.

ASCAP needs to improve how it monitors songs so that more songwriters can be paid. I read about a situation where two songwriters co-wrote a song. One was a member of ASCAP or BMI and the other was a member of SESAC. Every time the song was played somewhere, the two songwriters should have shared equally in the performance royalty payments. However, the SESAC writer got considerably more money than the ASCAP/BMI writer.

So that’s my complaint. I understand why the performance rights organizations were created, but many people join and never see any money even though their songs are on the radio, are performed in clubs, etc. If songwriters only earn tiny amounts of money, they should at least be able to see a record of that. It’s time for a better monitoring system so that every song performance is recorded and every member songwriter gets credit for it.

Tonsotunez says:

Re: Re: This Isn't About Indie Artists and Rock Stars

Each society handles surveys and distributions differently… so, in all likelihood, there will be anomalies… which generally work themselves out over a period of time. If there are huge differences, the society paying less should be questioned.

Re: monitoring: the US is a gigantic country. To monitor everything would cost more than the moneys that get collected. Think about it … if you hired people to visit and survey each of the thousands of clubs that pay $4.00 a night in license fees it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that the numbers just won’t work.

That’s why scientifically designed sample surveys are employed when they are the most cost effective.

Where financially feasible the societies do track 100% of the performances … and that’s generally where the big money is found.

Every time ASCAP can employ a complete census survey that produces more income for its members (meaning the complete census costs less than a sample survey) they employ it. As the world goes more and more digital the number of complete census surveys expands.

One of ASCAP’s main objectives is to drive costs down so its members receive more in royalties. Every dime over and above the cost of running ASCAP is paid to its member owners.

And remember, ASCAP is the only society in the US where its owners are its members.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This Isn't About Indie Artists and Rock Stars

Re: monitoring: the US is a gigantic country. To monitor everything would cost more than the moneys that get collected. Think about it … if you hired people to visit and survey each of the thousands of clubs that pay $4.00 a night in license fees it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that the numbers just won’t work.

Eventually there will likely be a monitoring device that goes to each venue that pays a blanket license to ASCAP/BMI/SESAC so that every song played on the premises is recorded and royalties can be assigned to each member according to plays.

What I have been pointing out to singer/songwriters is that telling a venue you play only original music isn’t enough if you are a member of ASCAP/BMI/SESAC. By becoming a member, you have given these organizations permission to collect from venues on your behalf. You don’t get a say on who has to pay royalties for your songs and who doesn’t have to pay if you have signed up as a member of a collection agency. If you don’t want them to collect money on your songs, don’t join. (You may still be docked the money the venue pays to ASCAP/BMI/SESAC if that’s something they bill all performers, but then that’s something you’ll have to try to negotiate with the venue owner.)

In other words, ASCAP/BMI/SESAC are collection agencies. If you join one of them, you have given them permission to act as your agent. That might be to your benefit and it might not depending on how often your songs are being played and where, and what other perks you can get from ASCAP/BMI/SESAC.

Chad Cassady (user link) says:

This Isn't About Indie Artists and Rock Stars

Re:re:monitoring: The vast majority of the distribution of music ASCAP claims to take responsibility for ensuring songwriters get paid on happens in a digital space – even radio stations have IT infrastructures which track, tally, and in many cases control what you hear on the radio. That stuff EAAASSYY to track. Blindingly easy, and not that expensive, and in this day and age, there’s no excuse to not do it. Auditing distribution is decidedly not as murky as it was when ASCAP’s procedures were put in place, and yet they still hide behind that excuse.

Live performances are a tiny piece of the pie here, which makes it even more inexcusable to bully every single little venue that even has a TV in it, making it so that although there are 10 beautiful rooms with sound in a depressed midsized city, only one of those rooms belongs to a music venue which will let you throw a show there.

My personal opinion is that these methods serve not only to steal money, but to protect the vertical integration on music production, distribution, sales, marketing, performance, etc which the music industry has. It’s the same type of thing as signing all the bands from a genre and shelving all but a few of them. If you make it illegal for all the Metallica sound-alikes to perform, Metallica becomes more profitable…. If you make it so that most small venues can’t afford to risk having live music, musical/cultural movements you don’t control have a harder time forming. Get it?

Anonymous Coward says:

As an employee of one of the US Performing Rights Organizations, I feel obligated to clear this up, as this is simply not accurate.

Venues have to pay a relatively nominal licensing fee to all of the PROs, generally for what is called a blanket license (mentioned above somewhere) from each of the societies. This license allows the venue to perform all songs represented by ASCAP, BMI and SESAC respectively.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of venues/promoters who decide to recoup that cost from the artists who perform at said venues. In this case, ASCAP is not charging the artist (the PROs pay their songwriters when their music is publicly performed, why would we charge them for it?), ASCAP is charging the venue, and the venue is chosing to essentially recoup that cost from the arist, which is an awful practice that is unfortunately becoming more popular.

Further, live performances are not the only thing that the societies pay out for. Licensing fees are also collected from terrestrial and internet radio, TV stations, hotels, nightclubs etc. Operational costs are deducted from the total pool collected, which is then distributed to all songwriters whose songs have been performed in the quarter being paid on.

In this case, the venue is requiring this artist to reimburse them for the fee that they have to pay ASCAP, which goes into that distribution pool, then out to all songwriters with performances recorded across all platforms mentioned above and more. While ASCAP only pays on the top 200 tours for live shows, those are not by any means the only performances being paid out for – dont think of the word “performance” to mean only live.

As of a year or two ago, BMI launched a program called BMI Live, in which songwriters, regardless of caliber, can register their songs/setlists/venues for payment on their live performances of their work. More info here SESAC does the same, and ASCAP is working towards it.

Feel free to ask questions. This world is admittedly very confusing but the whole purpose is to ensure that songwriters get paid when their music is publicly played. If we took money from them, then paid it right back to them, what would be the point?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Further, live performances are not the only thing that the societies pay out for. Licensing fees are also collected from terrestrial and internet radio, TV stations, hotels, nightclubs etc. Operational costs are deducted from the total pool collected, which is then distributed to all songwriters whose songs have been performed in the quarter being paid on.

The reason the live performance issue comes up is that singer/songwriters have run into coffee shops that used to offer open mic and acoustic nights and then decided to stop those to avoid paying the blanket licenses to the PROs. Now it may seem like a small fee to the PROs, but if the venue is barely getting by and has to pay fees to three different PROs, they often decide not to bother.

I am glad exceptions have been made for house concerts and I would like to see a similar arrangement for small venues that don’t make most (if any) money from live music. To encourage a music industry, having these small places for indie artists (particularly those just starting out) is a good thing.

Tonsotunez says:

Re: ASCAP Plus Awards

“As of a year or two ago, BMI launched a program called BMI Live, in which songwriters, regardless of caliber, can register their songs/setlists/venues for payment on their live performances of their work. More info here SESAC does the same, and ASCAP is working towards it.”

In checking the ASCAP website … I see that the ASCAP Plus Awards which the BMI and SESAC programs you mention attempt to emulate has been in existence for 50 years.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: ASCAP Plus Awards

I have a friend who is a member of BMI, so BMI Live is of interest to me. It seems pretty straight forward. You play your gig, you send in your setlist, and you get paid based on how many people in the audience and how many original songs you played.

Could BMI Live Help Local Musicians Get Paid? | Ear Bud

Someone commented about how much his band got for such a gig:

“As the publishing admin for a band that played Austin Music Hall last NYE to a sold out crowd (4400 paid), I can attest that BMI Live paid out about $1.50 per original song they played.”

So I ran the math for that. It would work out to about $.00034 per audience member per song.

That’s not a lot of money, but at least the process seems transparent, which is a good thing. So based how many shows you play a year, how many people are in the audience, and how many songs you normally play, you should be able to estimate what your live show royalty payment might be at the end of the year and decide whether or not it’s worth it to you to send BMI your setlist for each show you play.

Zoe Keating says:

in response to Tonsotunez

@ Tonsotunez: not sure if you read my blog, but I used one of my concerts in February as an example. The percentage of ticket sales paid to ASCAP that evening was $86. I had another concert that week where $101 was paid to ASCAP. If you extrapolate this out to a conservative figure of 30 concerts per year, that would be $2580 per year…..taken off my ticket sales and given to ASCAP.

Not sure where you got the $4 figure but I hope ASCAP’s overhead is not so high that a payment of $86 would net the copyright holders $4 😉

Yes, you’re right not every artist owns their material. I do though, so for me “artist” is synonymous with “copyright holder”. I have composer and publisher accounts with ASCAP.

Tonsotunez says:

Re: in response to Tonsotunez

Have you ever questioned on what basis they feel they have the right to charge part of their overhead to you? Do they charge you for the lights, your dressing room, the cost of advertising … opps, let’s not give them any ideas…

In the big cities some scumbag venue owners actually change (rather than pay) new artists to play their rooms.

It the venue owners that are the creeps … not ASCAP.

And, have you applied for ASCAP Plus … With the schedule I see on your website … It is more than likely that you would receive more than you are allowing venue owners to steal from you.

Again, from what I see on your website, you are an exciting, extremely talented and very unique artist.

My wish for you is that in the very near future you will be so successful that you will no longer be afraid to tell venue owners to shove it if even suggest that they are going to reduce your earnings by an amount they claim to be paying ASCAP.

Zoe Keating says:

Thanks for replying PRO-employee! What you wrote isn’t entirely accurate either though:

You said: “Further, live performances are not the only thing that the societies pay out for. Licensing fees are also collected from terrestrial and internet radio, TV stations, hotels, nightclubs etc. Operational costs are deducted from the total pool collected, which is then distributed to all songwriters whose songs have been performed in the quarter being paid on.”

I only know about ASCAP, so I don’t know if this is the case with BMI, but they do not actually distribute money to ” all songwriters whose songs have been performed in the quarter being paid on. “

For entities like the major networks NBC, ABC and CBS, ASCAP distributes to the artist’s who’s works were logged in cue sheets filed by the production company (no cue sheet, no logging at ASCAP, no distribution). In my experience its up to the copyright holder to follow through and make sure cue sheets are filed. For other entities, like MSNBC, ASCAP only pays to the songwriters who’s songs were performed on the two days that ASCAP chose as “sample days”. Here’s an example: if a songwriter has 30 minutes of music in a documentary that aired on MSNBC in July and December of 2011 (as I did), they will not get a distribution from ASCAP for that because the random 2 sample days for all of 2011 were in May. The same is true for radio, the distribution doesn’t go to ” all songwriters whose songs have been performed in the quarter being paid on. ” it goes to songwriters who’s works were logged during ASCAP’s sample periods.

Just thought I’d clear that up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, this isn’t quite a matter of inaccuracy, though I suppose I could have been a little more specific with my wording. The PROs vary in the specifics of how they track and pay, so I didn’t get into it. In your case, I believe that BMI for example would have picked up those performances as a network such as MSNBC is recorded on a census not a sample (at least from what I have been told). As for the rest, unfortunately, yes there will be some performances that get missed, but with 500,000 songwriters and 15,000 terrestrial radio stations, we certainly get the bulk of it by a long shot. Further, most of the time when perofrmances are missed by our samples, the amount of money that they would be gaining is less than the cost of the PRO sending the payment out. Not necessarily always, but most of the time.

The larger point of my original post was to clear up that no, the PROs are not charging the artist for licensing fees, and no, the top 200 tours are not the only performances that we are paying out. This article makes it seem like the PROs are organizations that exist to rob artists earlier in their careers to pay the 1% so to speak which is simply not true at all.

TracyS (profile) says:

I’m sure that BMI is not without sin, but I will say that they do pay me very small royalty amounts regularly. My royalty payment for the 3rd quarter of 2011, paid to me this month, was $2.74 for about 150 plays on commercial radio for a song that was released in 2006. Nothing to write home about, and certainly not a big money maker anymore, but they do track and pay those small royalties to small time songwriters. I have no idea what radio station(s) is playing the song, but someone is and it’s being tracked by BMI. Perhaps ASCAP would change it’s ways if more artists switched to BMI or another collection org.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Nothing to write home about, and certainly not a big money maker anymore, but they do track and pay those small royalties to small time songwriters.

Yes, I think that is a big issue. If you are a songwriter and you know you are getting radio play yet see no acknowledgment from your PRO, then you get suspicious. I have heard that SESAC is better at tracking radio play for DIY artists, but I have no personal knowledge of this, so I don’t know for sure if it is true.

Zoe Keating says:

The licensing rates in concert halls are calculated by percentage of ticket sales per concert….so it *is* a deduction from the night’s revenue, is it not?

I didn’t make this up, the rates and how they are calculated are listed in ASCAP’s concert licensing agreement which you can find online at:

I also play in bars and clubs, how it works for them is an annual lump sum based on amount of live concerts per week and venue capacity:

Regarding the ASCAP Plus Awards: The idea of your own money being an “award” is Orwellian.

Tonsotunez says:

Re: It IS Your Money

“Regarding the ASCAP Plus Awards: The idea of your own money being an “award” is Orwellian.”

Zoe … Irrespective of the fact that you don’t like the term ‘award’ – it IS your money! Why not collect it? Apparently you play venues that are currently uneconomical to survey. Basic economics says it’s irrational to pay more to survey, collect and process fees than the fees themselves.

According to the ASCAP website, for 50 years ASCAP Plus has given songwriters, such as yourself, a way to participate in the income generated by the performances of their works in unsurveyed situations.

If you have refused to participate feeling the program was “Orwellian” – what is “Orwellian” about a program that tries to be as cost effectively fare as possible?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: It IS Your Money

According to the ASCAP website, for 50 years ASCAP Plus has given songwriters, such as yourself, a way to participate in the income generated by the performances of their works in unsurveyed situations.

How many members get to participate in this program? Does everyone who “qualifies” get to be part of it, or are there quotas limiting the number of participants?

JG says:

Re: Re: It IS Your Money

If the organisations consider it uneconomical to survey these venues then how is it morally justifiable to collect a fee on the assumption that they know what’s going on?

While it’s not totally absurd, I dislike this trend towards predictive economics. Especially when involving smaller artists who by their very nature are going to have varying plays based on the whims and vagaries inherent at the lower end of the scale.

Zoe Keating says:

Sorry to post again, but I think now we’re getting radio mixed up with TV.

Network TV is census. Some cable stations like MTV are census. MSNBC is sample (music is paid for on 2 sample days per year) even though you’d think it was network since NBC and MSNBC produce their shows from the same building.

It’s important to know this info as a copyright holder, because if a producer tries to give you a low sync fee or no fee because you’ll get “backend from the PROS”, it is useful to know that actually isn’t always true.

For example: 30 seconds of my music on NBC (census) Dateline (who doesn’t directly license my music, I only get the PRO fee) nets aroujnd $240 ($120 composer + $120 publisher)

30 seconds of my music in Teen Wolf on MTV (census) = $100 ($50 compoesr + $50 publisher)

30 MINUTES of my music in a documentary on MSNBC (survey) = $0

But you’re right, this is all outside the scope of this post, which is about live concert reporting.

NumbTongue says:

Way Wrong!

Zoe clearly stated that the fee she paid was really a fee from ASCAP to the concert hall. She simply was the victim of a passthrough expense from the hall (most likely a negotiated point between the hall and her manager). Trying to twist it into sounding like Zoe was taking a hit so that the top 200 can get paid is total malarky and not at all how ASCAP works.

Primi Timpano says:

They Jack Up the Club Owners, Too

Not only do they screw the artist, but they screw the club owner. Every club with any live music–and juke boxes too–gets a visit Godfather style from ASCAP. They either sign and pay or ASCAP threatens to get them closed down. They are relic using stupid pre-computer/internet methods. Metalica may like them but no musician without a hit cares a wit about them.

Anonymous Coward says:


a good idea for the venues would be to record all performances on a low resolution security camera with sound capabilities. They would also need to time and date code it.The next step would be to store these shows on monthly Hard drives, once the month is up the drive goes into a secured safe and a new drive is used for the next month. So when the big boys show up with a court summons the venue will have all the documentation needed to prove that the artists are not doing cover songs and that the artists are not signed to any of the PROs. Buying hard drives would be a lot cheaper than paying the Pros

Sorry about the caps, don’t know how to switch out this font.

Folk music fan (profile) says:

ASCAP bullying

My friend owns a VERY small art store in a small town where she sells her own paintings and the artwork of half a dozen local artists on a consignment basis. She’s been open a couple of years and, after paying rent, utilities, insurance, etc., she just about breaks even. Fortunately her husband earns a good living so she can afford to continue to indulge her “hobby.” My friend’s store is in an old house that has a little garden on the side with a deck.
About a year ago, she decided it would be fun and would provide some support to local musicians if she started hosting concerts in the garden on Saturday evenings a couple of times a month in the spring and fall when the weather is nice…maybe 10 shows per year.

The performers use the deck as a stage and either play acoustically or provide their own sound systems. The audience sits in folding chairs in the garden. Tickets are $10… every penny of which goes directly to the performers. Typically there’ll be 15 or so people in the audience so the performer can count on taking home around $150 bucks. Not too shabby for a couple of hours work – even if you’re dividing it between 3 or 4 band members.

My friend pays to advertize the shows out of her own pocket and she also puts out free chips and dips and sodas and iced tea for the performers and for the audience. Performers are all local singer/songwriters who mostly sing their own compositions but who occasionally sing a cover tune in response to a request from the audience. Some of the singer/songwriters have registered their own works with ASCAP or BMI. Others are totally independent artists. None are close to being among the 200 top touring acts in the U.S.

My friend isn’t even trying to make any money off of the shows. She is SPENDING her own money (well, actually her husband’s money) to support local musicians. At one time she would probably have been lauded as a patron of the arts.

But, my friend just got a letter from ASCAP demanding that she purchase a license to the tune of $300 per year plus a percentage of the ticket price…or cease and desist holding public performances immediately. Given the number of shows she holds per year, the basic license alone comes out to $30/show and, with tickets set at $10 only about 15 people in the audience, that is 20% of the gross revenue.

I’m an IP lawyer so she came to me asking “what should I do?”

Basically I had to tell her she had three options:

1) IF she could be absolutely certain that no one would ever again play an ASCAP registered song unless it was their own copyrighted song, she could tell ASCAP to take a flying leap. Problem is, as we all know, once a performer is on-stage, there is no possible way for the venue operator to control what he/she plays. Even asking for a play list prior to the performance AND insisting on iron-clad language in a contract that the performer will play only his/her own music or music in the public domain, won’t help. The law puts liability for infringement on the venue operator…NOT on the performer.

2) She can purchase “protection” by paying the ASCAP licensing fee. She could then take this money out of the gross door before paying the remainder to the performer. Worse, once ASCAP gets its hooks into her, you can bet that BMI and SESAC won’t be far behind. Their demands together will probably about equal ASCAP’s so figure $600/year total for the three licenses. That means my friend will need to take $60 out of the gross door to pay for licenses, leaving the musicians with $90 instead of $150.

3) My friend can stop putting on musical shows.

I strongly recommended the third course of action. Believe it or not tho, my friend has actually decided to purchase the licenses out of her own pocket and will continue hosting concerts and giving the entire door to the performers. Like I said tho, her husband has a very well- paying job so she can afford to do this.

Most people would not be able to.

If ASCAP really wanted to be fair and truly support all songwriters (instead of just the big names), they would institute a policy whereby any songwriter who registered his/her music with ASCAP automatically received a license from ASCAP that allowed him/her to play any other ASCAP musician’s music in any venue that was below a certain size WITHOUT the venue operator being required to have a license. This blanket free-use license would continue to be good until the songwriter reached that magical “top 200 songwriter status” at which point any venue that wanted to hire him would have to pay a licensing fee. Coffeehouses and other small venues would proliferate and venue operators would LOOK for ASCAP registered songwriters to perform at their venues. Then, if the ASCAP performing songwriter screwed up and sang a BMI registered song, the onus should be on the songwriter, not the venue.

BMI and SESAC should do the same thing. Then they would actually be offering something real to new songwriters who would want to join whichever PRO already had the largest stable of other songwriters whose works the performing songwriter might want to cover in his shows.

Just my 2 cents

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

ASCAP bullying

She might trying setting it up as a private event. No advertising, “inviting” people rather than making it open to the public, and passing the hat (she can let people know what an appropriate “donation” might be, but they don’t “have” to pay) rather than selling tickets.

I wonder if it might also be possible for a group of friends to agree in advance that they will each chip in $10 per person to be given to the performer, but they would still treat it as a private party because it isn’t billed as a public event.

ben says:

It all comes down to percentages and viewership. The reason an indie artist won’t get royalties from a live gig and a megastar will is that, of the overall revenue pie of which they collect money for by administering blanket licenses to music venues, radio stations, and for video synchronization licenses, an indie artist’s viewership at some tiny podunk bar is so minuscule compared to the viewership of a Katy Perry song which as performed in front of arena’s of people, being constantly played and repeatedly played to millions across the nation on terrestrial radio, and included in many popular movies. They pay based on what percentage of the overall viewership a song/artist has, out of the pool of all of ASCAP’s artists, across all of the previously mentioned mediums. So the reason it appears that all your royalties are going to them is because you are a tiny drop in an ocean, and they are a entire bay.

And by the way ASCAP just launched a new program to address this issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Overseas Live Performances

To add on to what the PRO employee explained, there’s a difference at the PROs between US live performances and overseas live performances.

For the overseas live performances, while you may fill out a form at the venue for the local PRO, you still need to notify your PRO of those performances. There’s a chance the form might not be sent to the PRO and then there would be no way for your PRO to know that you were supposed to be paid for those performances if they didn’t know about them.

If you’re a BMI member, BMI has a form for notifying them. If you’re an ASCAP member, ASCAP either has a form or should take some sort of notification to them, probably by accessing your account online.

Unfortunately, what ASCAP or BMI needs from the songwriters about these live performances isn’t exactly easily found on their websites, if it’s even there. The PROs do have departments that specifically work with the foreign PROs to notify of performances and track down those royalties.

The BMI explanation on that is kind of buried in their International section but it’s there:

I couldn’t find it mentioned anywhere on ASCAP’s website, but as the songwriter, you should be able to let them know you performed overseas so they can go after your royalties from the appropriate foreign PRO. I’m not sure how helpful their Member Services would be but you can try them. If they tell you that you don’t need to do anything, tell them about the overseas concerts anyway.

Hope this helps in some way but you CAN and SHOULD get paid for those overseas live performances. The foreign PROs collected the fees from the venue, they just need to know where to send the royalties.

Anonymous Coward says:

ASCAP bullying

A suggestion about your friend who is putting on the live performances to support local musicians. If she and the songwriters who perform there enter into an agreement that the songwriter is performing only their music and waiving their rights to public performance royalties, then ASCAP (or BMI) shouldn’t have to harass her about license fees for those live performances because the songwriters waived those rights and can provide those agreements.

Amy says:

They want smaller artists so they can bulky venues into fees

They want as many bands as possible signed up on their roster so they can go to venues and force them to pay a “blanket fee” with the threat of “you never know when some band is gonna get on your stage and play some obscure cover song or even their own or friends music that is signed up with us, so you better pay this $5,000 a year fee to cover you!” Then they don’t even pay out to these smaller artists! You are just shooting yourself in the foot when you sign up with these guys. They aren’t paying you money and causing many indie venues to go under…the type of venues that WOULD HAVE BOOKED YOU. And when the smaller venues complain that they don’t bring in enough revenue for this kind of fee, the rep’s response is: “well you shouldnt book those artists that don’t bring in the big bucks!” That is what the ASCAP rep is saying about YOU! Don’t book your band or give unprofitable bands stage time! Every venue should be an arena with Taylor Swift performing and that’s it! Lol!

Smallcafeowner says:

in response to Tonsotunez

You SOB. ” A” venue owner in NYC does NOT make all venue owners “creeps.” What is creepy and quite frankly mafia-esque, is when some 20+ year old kid in Nashville, calls me up at my plase of business, identifying himself as a representitive of ASCAP, and proceeds to 1) accuse me of stealing from their members (“poor songwriters”) 2) threatens me, in the style of a debit collector, that if I don’t pay up, ASCAP’ s stable of lawyers will sue me for $10,000 per “incident” (aka each time a song from their list is played) and 3) after listening to his explanation as to why
“I,” the venue (aka 1,500 sf coffee shop) owner should have to pay ASCAP, $1,200 to cover copy write licensing for the 15 songs that the once a week struggling singer plays for FREE for my 12 customers to hear after purchasing their $3 lattes. I say “we’ll, that doesn’t seem fair.” He begins to rant to me how “life” isn’t fair and wouldn’t I rather pay him $1200 and not the $150,000+ that Ill be sued for?

This lovely phone call is of course followed up by a barrage of threatening letters and more threatening phone calls each escalating in their level of threat. It gets better, because then they send some kid into my store to threaten me in person. I feel like the hole-n-the-wall bar owner in the Bronx that gets shaken down weekly by the local mafia thug. Real Professional!!!
The songwriting community really should find a higher class of representation.

I do have a question, why is it that the small cafe owner is shaken down for the licensing fees for the tools of the musician. Is it not the musician that is responsible for bringing their tools to a gig. Their instruments, speakers, voice etc. The songs they choose to preform are part of their toolbox. The cafe should not be responsible for the tools. Even if it is inconvenient for the PRO…It’s just wrong.

Clightbo says:

Not perfect, but...

As an ASCAP member, I’ve had more than a few conflicts with them. It seems like there is an error on my statement every distribution. But it is completely foolish not to be a part of this (or BMI or SESAC) if you are a songwriter or music publisher in the US. The PRO system is the only realistic way of getting paid anything for the work you write or publish when it is “performed”. A performance may be an actual, literal performance of your material, or it may be that material’s broadcast on television or radio. It may be technically possible for you to track down and collect these royalties owed to you from radio stations and television networks, but I’m almost positive most of us wouldn’t be able to devote the time or energy to do it, not to mention that locating all the places your music has appeared is next to impossible.

ASCAP and the other PROs have a lot of faults, and I have worked with them enough to know they mean well and certainly make attempts to correct any problems. I think OnStage is a good start. I don’t think it absolves them of their Gestapo-like vice grip on venues and probably doesn’t pay much more than a few dollars per performance, but it definitely is a move in the right direction. Having had music performed in one of the top 200 grossing tours, I can say it feels unfairly weighted when factored against the hundreds of thousands of lesser known, independent artists that perform at licensed venues yearly.

But I strongly caution people against ignorantly avoiding membership with a PRO, because you are only going to hurt yourself. I’ve known too many people who have missed (sometimes significant) royalty revenues by simply not signing up. That is a sure-fire way to have your money handed out to the top songwriters and publishers.

classicalbro says:

You know, I’m surprised this is causing such a fuss. If you want to be a member of the American Society of COMPOSERS, Authors, and Publishers, maybe you’ll want to BE a composer, author, or work with a real publisher, before signing the contract?

ASCAP functions on two basic principles:

Popular music is a popularity contest. If you’re playing it and you aren’t popular, why are you doing it at all? If you like popular music a lot, maybe you should just listen to it a lot.

Serious music is taken seriously by society. Governments will fund programs for it, people will dedicate their lives to studying it; musicologists, theorists, historians, etc. No matter HOW MUCH you want your music to be worthy of study and scrutiny on a serious level, it will not be unless you are serious enough about it to let people who ALSO dedicate their entire lives to playing the toughest, deepest music out there play it, convince people who are experts of its worth in study, and/or make your mark on history. “Serious music” is simply a matter of how much there is for passionate people to involve themselves in your music. If all a theorist can do is point to I, IV, V, maybe vi, or all a historian can do is say ‘well, he or she’s toured in a lot of places–he or she hasn’t really been recognized with a Pulitzer, or been given a prestigious grant or fellowship… or if people who can play Bartok like Row, Row, Row Your Boat can master a cover of your song in 5 minutes or even on the first read… why the h$%# should people do more than dance to it? And why should ASCAP award you with money for conforming to the format of the popularity contest of pop genres and expecting to be taken seriously when you’re not popular, no offense, and not instead taking your music to more serious organizations which are less interested in your crowd and more interested in the content of what you’re creating?

I’m sorry, but I find this outrage from you all to be a confusion of popularity with seriousness. Serious music is music which is judged to be at the cutting edge of style, sophistication and complexity, and technique. It is not what a bunch of non-musicians judge to be ‘neat to listen to’ or ‘deep’ or ‘whoa, man, how did you do that?!’ I don’t feel sorry for you if you’ve discovered how to belt your notes out like Bon Jovi or put a rasp on it like so and so… but I would respect you if you studied what was actually possible for your voice to do, over a lifetime, or how fast or with what kind of embouchure the articulations on a wind instrument can be achieved… etc.

Sorry, ASCAP has priorities, and I think they’re absolutely savvy to be doing what they’re doing. Unpopular pop bands, as expected, are NOT very savvy, by definition.

Music Guy (user link) says:


ASScrap is really no different than the companies who reward there managers, supervisors, etc. The workers work there asses off and get no rewards for there hard work, because those rewards go to management. Just like the rock stars are the only ones who matter. If Asscrap doesn’t make sure the big boys get paid, the big boys will bring down there high paid lawyers on Asscrap and that’s why Asscrap makes sure they get there royalty payments! The little indie artist does not have the means to sue Asscrap and they know this, so it’s easy to stomp on them~ + they have political backing! The best thing to do, is avoid Asscrap, RIAA and all the other recording (so called rights societies)Even the musicians union is crap. They use to get work for musicians, but all they do is take the musicians dues and run for the hills! We live in a cater to the wealthy, greedy, selfish society now! You have to watch out for yourself or get eaten alive!

Music Guy (user link) says:


Ah, more stupidity from the ignorant. The only TROLL I see here is this idiot, as well as any other ones right up his alley! He doesn’t know the Forrest for the trees, when it comes to music and the hard work involved and all the ripping off that goes on! He’s to busy thinking the only artists that matter are those wayyyyyy over paid major artists, who he thinks are all who matter!LMAO Like the saying goes, “stupid is that stupid says”
And so on and so forth.

Anonymous Coward says:


You know, I’m surprised this is causing such a fuss. If you want to be a member of the American Society of COMPOSERS, Authors, and Publishers, maybe you’ll want to BE a composer, author, or work with a real publisher, before signing the contract?

You know, most of this discussion is about performers like Zoe Keating who COMPOSE their own music being shafted by ASCAP et al. Join and you give them control over the rights to your music, including giving up the right to waive your rights — meaning you can’t even perform your own music at a public venue without that venue having bought a blanket license for all ASCAP music. Don’t join and you’re still going to get a chunk of your revenue taken, either as a direct percentage of the take, or some fractional cost of that license passed on to you by the people running the place.

Popular music is a popularity contest. If you’re playing it and you aren’t popular, why are you doing it at all? If you like popular music a lot, maybe you should just listen to it a lot.

So, unless you’re popular, you shouldn’t even try playing music in the pop genre? This is patently ridiculous. Not everyone wants to listen to the same top 50 songs. Yes, there is no shortage of people who can’t play very well, but there are plenty of good independent artists. Whether or not a song will have lasting historical significance, if it is composed and performed well, some people — even if not millions — will appreciate it and want to listen to it. And they should get something for their efforts.

Besides, if nobody played popular music unless they’re already popular, how would one become popular in that genre?

[serious music rant]

Yes, yes, classical’s great and all. More skill involved, cultural significance, government grants because it’s not a billion dollar business, etc. Yes, it deserves funding, but that’s not the point here.

This is about struggling artists writing their own songs having a portion of what they make turned over to an organization that’s supposed to protect their rights. Then even when someone uses their song somewhere else, they most often don’t even get a penny. Some protection. Instead, money generated by their performance is used to pad the pockets of the top 200 most popular touring groups or the labels representing them. Oh, and a little goes to funding classical too.

It’s not all crummy artists either, as you seem to assume. There are plenty of small-time indie groups playing music that’s a lot more involved and interesting than the top-played hits on the radio.

Alex Yazdani says:

ASCAP an out dated system

Like many other outdated companies and organizations out there ASCAP is also outdated and needs to completely change its system.

A- All artists, composers and authors must be compensated according to how much revenue is generated from their work. Tracking revenue in this digitally age is much easier than before. Percentage of total revenue should go to ASCAP and ASCAP must distribute accordingly.

B- ASCAP needs to be more transparent and needs to be more simplified. They need to make their operation web base. Reports need to be accessible for every one to see. Artists, composers and authors need to set up accounts and profiles on ASCAP website and need to be able to track and see how much royalties they receive.

C- ASCAP need to reduce the size of their company. Righ now, they have a large army like employee base that collects and gets out there to license businesses and venues. Maintaining that many employees cost a lot of money. By eliminating this style of operation, most of the money can go to the artists, composers and authors.

D- Licensing should be eliminated and pay per play fees should be adopted. This method is more fair, cost less, and will generate more revenue. It is also doable in our time because of the digital capabilities.

There are many other companies that need to be changed such as ASCAP that have effects on our day to day lives. And there are many out dated Government departments that need to be changed as well such as IRS and Immigration.

They can make so many changes to make their operation more effective and efficient. I think the main problem is that most of these organizations are ran by people over 50 to 60 years old. They either don’t know much about the new technologies available or they just don’t have enough information. I thinks the CEOs should not serve for more than 5 to 10 years and should not be older than 40.

God Bless

M. Spence says:


Boy, are some people on here just flat-out STUPID!!!! ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or any PRO, does not pay the artists royalties for their music…UNLESS they are the writer(s) and/or publisher(s) of said works. For instance, let’s say Selena Gomez does a recording of of “Beautiful”, written by Charlotte Caffey and Gina Schock of the Go-Go’s, and it get tons of airplay, placements on TV, film, and what-not…ASCAP would be collecting and paying royalties to Charlotte and Gina, along with their publishing companies; Selena wouldn’t see a dime of that. Hope this clears this about…..Oh and lest I forget, the ASCAP Onstage program does work. Used it myself of late for some performances and got paid writer and publisher royalties.

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