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Old 09-08-2019, 10:09 AM
DaveKell DaveKell is offline
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Default BUSTED BY ASCAP

Every other Thursday I attend a songwriter circle/open mic at a small local coffee shop. Average attendance is about a dozen people. The mix of what's played is around 50/50 of originals and covers.

At the last one we were informed ASCAP heard about us and is going to shut us down unless we pay $350 a year to do the covers. That's nearly right at $30 apiece for the regulars to cough up. Not to mention the fact that usually BMI is right behind with an identical demand.

I objected to paying because I only ever play originals. Somebody remarked "that only means the rest of us will be paying for the venue you get to play your originals in".

Right now I'm thinking that no matter how much I like this group, it looks like I'm done participating there. My advice was to stipulate everybody had to play originals and tell ASCAP to buzz off. I've been implored to come to a songwriter circle in Dallas (20 miles away, rush hour traffic to get there). The Dallas event is held in a historic, very famous old venue from 1910. A person who has seen several of my videos online of my songs keeps inviting me over. I'm certain a music venue such as this would have their licensing issues taken care of.
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Old 09-08-2019, 10:34 AM
6L6 6L6 is offline
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Several of the O/M's I used to attend in San Francisco were shuttered because of ASCAP/BMI demands. These places went to "originals only" and the attendance died quickly.

Fact is, most people going out to fun want to hear songs they know and love, not someone's originals which are mostly boring and always too long.

Of course, every song out there was at one time an original!

My main O/M plays a hefty fee to ASCAP/BMI and someone else to allow covers. We are very fortunate.
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Old 09-08-2019, 10:46 AM
H165 H165 is offline
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Quote:
"that only means the rest of us will be paying for the venue you get to play your originals in".
The place I play (open mic every Sunday) pays ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Players pay $1.00 per session if they are performing. Spectators remain free. The $1 per performer pretty much covers the payments.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:50 AM
frankmcr frankmcr is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKell View Post
Every other Thursday I attend a songwriter circle/open mic at a small local coffee shop. Average attendance is about a dozen people. The mix of what's played is around 50/50 of originals and covers.

At the last one we were informed ASCAP heard about us and is going to shut us down unless we pay $350 a year to do the covers. That's nearly right at $30 apiece for the regulars to cough up. Not to mention the fact that usually BMI is right behind with an identical demand.

I objected to paying because I only ever play originals. Somebody remarked "that only means the rest of us will be paying for the venue you get to play your originals in".

Right now I'm thinking that no matter how much I like this group, it looks like I'm done participating there. My advice was to stipulate everybody had to play originals and tell ASCAP to buzz off. I've been implored to come to a songwriter circle in Dallas (20 miles away, rush hour traffic to get there). The Dallas event is held in a historic, very famous old venue from 1910. A person who has seen several of my videos online of my songs keeps inviting me over. I'm certain a music venue such as this would have their licensing issues taken care of.
ASCAP, BMI, SESAC payment is the responsibility of the venue, not the performers.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:57 AM
jseth jseth is offline
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It's actually "on the venue" to pay the licensing fees, not the performers; certainly the folks playing there could be a part of that payment, but it's incumbent on the site, first and foremost.

A local place I play here in town has a sizeable chunk to pay all the licensing companies; one way they help with that is to have fundraisers to support the payment. A silent auction, food and music... they usually raise half of the yearly fee, and then they keep a "tip jar" out in plain view for folks to donate for support.

So many places around here complain about the licensing fees, saying, "We had music here since the 70's and never had to pay any of these fees...". My usual comment is "You know you were supposed to be paying the licensing companies all those years, right?"

That usually falls on deaf ears...
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Old 09-08-2019, 12:34 PM
Earl49 Earl49 is online now
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The PRO's (performing rights organizations) basically killed the open mic & coffee shop circuit in Anchorage years ago, and are now doing a good job of it here in the Boise area too. We have one venue left that supports live music and pays the fees. Everyone else has been shut down by legal threats or shaken down for seemingly disproportionate fees. It is easier for the venue to go "originals only" (but they still get hassled anyway) or to simply stop having live music.

I would not object to the licensing fees if the money collected actually went to the songwriters whose intellectual property we are covering, but it all seems to go to big fancy HQ buildings in Nashville. Artists never see a penny, at least as far as I can tell - or have been told by working professional musicians.
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Old 09-08-2019, 12:45 PM
H165 H165 is offline
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Quote:
Artists never see a penny, at least as far as I can tell
Actually (and unfortuantely) they DO see a penny.
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Old 09-08-2019, 01:43 PM
DaveKell DaveKell is offline
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Originally Posted by jseth View Post
It's actually "on the venue" to pay the licensing fees, not the performers; certainly the folks playing there could be a part of that payment, but it's incumbent on the site, first and foremost.
We realized that. However, this place stays open on our night three hours longer just for us. It's a small business that's barely hanging on and couldn't afford the fees on their own. So, if the dozen regulars want to continue it's up to us to cover the cost.

My objection is it's been over a year since I've played anything other than originals. However, like someone pointed out to me, everybody else will be paying to provide the venue for me if I don't contribute. I can see the reasoning behind that, despite the undercurrent of unfairness.

That of course raises the issue of what do we do with new people who show up? I'm thinking of proposing writing up a letter to give them on the second time they show up. It would explain the licensing fees and ask them for a contribution towards maintaining the license fee if they want to continue coming. This is of course dependent upon whether or not I decide to keep going. I still have an every Friday jam session in the same town as the coffee shop. This venue is an officially sanctioned Opry charter that pays their licensing fees to be able to have live shows every weekend.

I'm having a hard time figuring out what the PRO's do with the money they collect? With the thousands of artists they each represent I have no idea how they disburse payment to them out of these fees. In fact, I bet they don't. I see it more as a protection racket along the lines of organized crime. But that's the music business establishment in a nutshell, right?
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Old 09-08-2019, 03:30 PM
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Doug Young Doug Young is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKell View Post
I'm having a hard time figuring out what the PRO's do with the money they collect? With the thousands of artists they each represent I have no idea how they disburse payment to them out of these fees.
You can easily search and find info on how ascap and bmi pay out money. For example, here's one page of info:

https://www.ascap.com/help/royalties...ment/royalties

As far as "do they really pay?", yes, I get checks. For me, they're small, kind of like getting an extra gig's worth of pay every now and then, but I don't exactly have any hit songs :-) For the kinds of tunes your friends are probably playing, covers of well-known pop artists, the performance royalties are presumably pretty reasonable amounts. This is part of how composers earn money, and one of the reasons the artists who write songs end up better off than band members who aren't credited as authors.
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Old 09-08-2019, 08:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKell View Post
Every other Thursday I attend a songwriter circle/open mic at a small local coffee shop. Average attendance is about a dozen people. The mix of what's played is around 50/50 of originals and covers.

At the last one we were informed ASCAP heard about us and is going to shut us down unless we pay $350 a year to do the covers. That's nearly right at $30 apiece for the regulars to cough up. Not to mention the fact that usually BMI is right behind with an identical demand.

I objected to paying because I only ever play originals. Somebody remarked "that only means the rest of us will be paying for the venue you get to play your originals in".

Right now I'm thinking that no matter how much I like this group, it looks like I'm done participating there. My advice was to stipulate everybody had to play originals and tell ASCAP to buzz off. I've been implored to come to a songwriter circle in Dallas (20 miles away, rush hour traffic to get there). The Dallas event is held in a historic, very famous old venue from 1910. A person who has seen several of my videos online of my songs keeps inviting me over. I'm certain a music venue such as this would have their licensing issues taken care of.
I just spent $24 on two sets of strings and $45 on a couple of tablature books. Hobbies cost money. I can understand your point of view, but its not like you have to pay $350 each. I'm sure you get more than a few dollars of enjoyment from playing with the group. Maybe you should re-visit your decision.
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Old 09-08-2019, 08:25 PM
Coop47 Coop47 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKell View Post
Every other Thursday I attend a songwriter circle/open mic at a small local coffee shop. Average attendance is about a dozen people. The mix of what's played is around 50/50 of originals and covers.

At the last one we were informed ASCAP heard about us and is going to shut us down unless we pay $350 a year to do the covers. That's nearly right at $30 apiece for the regulars to cough up. Not to mention the fact that usually BMI is right behind with an identical demand.

I objected to paying because I only ever play originals. Somebody remarked "that only means the rest of us will be paying for the venue you get to play your originals in".

Right now I'm thinking that no matter how much I like this group, it looks like I'm done participating there. My advice was to stipulate everybody had to play originals and tell ASCAP to buzz off. I've been implored to come to a songwriter circle in Dallas (20 miles away, rush hour traffic to get there). The Dallas event is held in a historic, very famous old venue from 1910. A person who has seen several of my videos online of my songs keeps inviting me over. I'm certain a music venue such as this would have their licensing issues taken care of.
If it's not worth a little more than a buck a night to hang out with these folks, sounds like it's not the right place for you.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:28 PM
frankmcr frankmcr is online now
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Originally Posted by Coop47 View Post
If it's not worth a little more than a buck a night to hang out with these folks, sounds like it's not the right place for you.
$30 divided by 48 (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. off) = sixty-two and a half cents per week.

And at least some of that money actually does go to the songwriters.

Pay up.
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Old 09-09-2019, 05:57 AM
keith.rogers keith.rogers is offline
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If you registered your own songs and became an ASCAP member you could get some of that money back . But, as suggested, if it's not worth it to you, just stop going, and tell the others why.
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Old 09-09-2019, 06:42 AM
MikeBmusic MikeBmusic is offline
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'Every other week' - so it's 26 weeks a year - $13.50 a week. X3 to cover BMI & SESAC, but with music only one night a week, the total can probably be negotiated down. Fees are based on # of days a week there is music and total seating of the venue.
So, $40 every 2 weeks. Make each attendee pay $5 each time they come, you are more than covered.

Does this coffee shop play a radio during the day? They have to pay for that, too.
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:36 AM
AuntieDiluvian AuntieDiluvian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by H165 View Post
The place I play (open mic every Sunday) pays ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Players pay $1.00 per session if they are performing. Spectators remain free. The $1 per performer pretty much covers the payments.
Are you serious? You are paying to provide no-charge entertainment for the venue? Pay-to-play for an open mic?
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