ASCAP feels like the gift that keeps on giving to those of us covering it. If you're an artist... not so much. We've covered many examples of how ASCAP's aggressive efforts to shut down venues from hosting up-and-coming singers is harming local musicians
. And, we've also pointed out how they use a system to overpay large acts
at the expense of small acts. Now it's getting even worse. Just as ASCAP is attacking
groups like Creative Commons, EFF and Public Knowledge -- who help artists find more ways to take control
over their own careers, it's also cutting back on payments to many of its artists
ASCAP cut payments to some members of it's ASCAPlus program by 20-30%. "Unfortunately, because of the fiscal climate, less money was available this year for the award program," ASCAP said in a letter to those receiving checks.
Ah, right. The tough economic climate. We do know about that. But... wait. Here's an ASCAP press release from just five months ago, claiming it was bringing in more money than ever
"Music is performed more often, in more places, in more ways by more businesses than ever before. That expanded music use, combined with dramatic ASCAP Membership growth, market share increases and effective strategic management have led to stunning revenue and distribution growth for 2009."
Okay, so ASCAP is collecting more money and distributing more money, but it's cutting the amount given to ASCAPlus members by a huge amount. What's ASCAPlus? Ah, right, the smaller artists who can't make a big stink about this:
"writer members of any genre whose performances are primarily in venues not surveyed; and/or writer members whose catalogs have prestige value for which they would not otherwise be compensated."
In other words, ASCAP appears to be taking more money away from small artists, and giving it to their biggest artists. No wonder ASCAP's Paul Williams refuses to debate Larry Lessig
, claiming he'd rather focus on "fair compensation to music creators." Unless you're a smaller, less well known artist. Then ASCAP wants your share to be a little less fair. Actually, quite a bit less fair. Like 20 to 30%.