[Dixielandjazz] BMI licensing

Will Connelly willc at highstream.net
Sat Mar 27 11:58:42 PST 2004

Doug -

When I was running HAGS, we paid ASCAP fees when we presented concerts
in the Bailey Concert Hall (and I also ran the payroll for those events
through the union).

As Bill Oakley correctly notes, BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated)
splintered off ASCAP in the mid thirties to collect radio royalties.
They've obviously noted ASCAP's success at forcing licenses under the
revisions in copyright law that Congress has made in the past few years
- and the challenge implicit in the removal of ASCAP from Federal court
supervision under an ancient consent decree.

You might want to begin with a delaying tactic: for now, I'd continue to
ignore them. But if and when BMI gets around to sending registered
letter demands, I would write back asking them to cite, in full and in
writing, their exact legal authority to make them. When they reply to
that, write again asking exactly what songs are covered. Then ask how
the fee they request was calculated. When they tell you, question and
make them prove in a long sequence of letters requiring written replies
any assumptions (e.g., about attendance, fees, use of BMI music.)

Meanwhile, use the power of HAGS membership to complain with letters to
Congressmen and Senators about the harassment of a non-profit
organization by greedy BMI.

In short, stall. You should be able to string this out while you and
other jazz societies press for changes in the law. This is exactly the
kind of issue in which the American Federation of Jazz Societies should
seize the lead.

I disagree with any suggestion that you claim only PD music is played at
HAGS. It isn't true and eventually lies will bite you in the tender

Also worth noting is that demands are merely the prelude to negotiation
and that   you might do a better deal with ASCAP (which has a much
larger library anyhow).


Will Connelly

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