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.