Music Industry

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
collections, licensing, music, restaurants


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. Itís 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.

Reader Comments

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  1. icon (profile), 15 Oct 2011 @ 6:21am

    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.

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