[Dixielandjazz] Re: Copyrights

Dave Gravatt dave at creolejazz.com
Fri Jan 28 09:06:09 PST 2005

Some of you might recall my ASCAP story of a year ago. A brief summary now:

ASCAP suddenly started writing and calling the restaurant where we play every Monday night. The owner finally called me about it. He was already paying ASCAP for the canned music piped in through the speakers and resented that they were asking for another sum just because he now had live music once a week for two hours.

I called ASCAP directly and the rep admitted that, although we were playing some Irving Berlin tunes (for example), the funds wouldn't necessarily go to Berlin's descendants. The rep did not even know at what year a tune became public domain. 1924? 1930? No clue. She even said that ASCAP was formed in 1914 and any song written after that was theirs. Sheesh. Even I know better than that.

Finally I asked how they found out about our playing in the restaurant. She said that "Larry", a retired ASCAP man, had eaten at the restaurant and heard our group. He immediately went home, called ASCAP, and "reported" us.


Oh, how does it end? The owner is paying ASCAP the additional $280 a year to have us play two hours a week. Of course, he insisted that we cut our fee by $5 a week to help make it back.

I don't get upset easily but ASCAP pisses me off.

Dave Gravatt
"It's a treat to beat your feet."
The Creole Dixieland Jazz Band
Ozark, Missouri

-------Original Message-------
> From: Bigbuttbnd at aol.com
> Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Re:  Copyrights
> Sent: Jan 27 2005 21:18:59
>  Bill:
>  I'll weigh in first. I'm NOT a copyright or music performance lawyer but I
>  have a propensity for remembering some of this because twice in my music
>  'career' I've had to deal with the ASCAP/BMI/SESAC issue extensively.
>  Yes. There are at least 3 organizations (maybe more) that separately collect
>  royalties for their composers: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. SESAC is the easist
>  (can't remember what it stands for) but they tend to represent composers of
>  religious (gospel, contemporary christian, hymns, etc.) music. In the bar business we
>  would simply say, "We don't play any of your tunes in here... the customers
>  get uncomfortable." That would generally send them packing because a bar is not
>  a high percentage place to collect for their kind of music.
>  ASCAP and BMI together represent just about any composer (and therefore any
>  tune) that you can think of so they have the market sewed up. Both have
>  separate fees. I seem to remember that ASCAP was considerably higher than BMI. I DO
>  remember that ASCAP was harder to deal with - less flexible -   than BMI. We
>  could pay a little and put off BMI some with sad stories of how bad we were
>  doing but ASCAP was not moved by any of those strategies... pay up now or get
>  sued.
>  I think our fee to ASCAP was about $400 a year for a blanket license. BMI was
>  closer to $250 a year. This was between 1992 and 1996 and our nightclub sat
>  about 200 people.
>  With regard to radio. My understanding is that ASCAP/BMI/SESAC (hereafter
>  refered to as ASCAP) use a log system where each radio station keeps a daily log
>  of the tunes it plays. ASCAP only samples SOME of the radio stations in a
>  given market and then totals those on a national basis to determine exactly who
>  should be paid and how much. For years the system has been flawed because there
>  were o too many radio stations to keep track of. Maybe Hank Williams got
>  played on lots of stations that were not sampled and Michael Jackson got played on
>  lots of stations that were sampled... at the end of the quarter Michael
>  Jackson might receive more money for airplay than he deserved because he represented
>  10% of all songs played on sampled stations (and therefore, 10% of all songs
>  played!)   Since Hank Williams didn't show up in the sample, his estate didn't
>  get paid anything. Not very fair.
>  Television seems to be handled differently. I've read that TV handles the
>  royalties on a case by case basis - PAY AS YOU GO. You play "Your Cheating Heart"
>  on a TV show... Hank Williams' estate gets paid, and usually a much higher
>  fee based on a much bigger audience. Merv Griffin wrote the "Thinking Song" for
>  Jeopardy so he could get paid every time it was played. Paul Anka split his
>  royalty for "The Tonight Show Theme" with Johnny Carson as an incentive for
>  Carson to use the theme.
>  I have no idea what 'formula' ASCAP uses to determine who gets paid what for
>  live performances. There is no way to keep track of every musicians' playlist
>  at every venue in the country every hour and day of the year! So Michael
>  Jackson is probably getting paid when we play a Jellyroll tune at a concert!
>  I'm all for composers being paid. But ASCAP needs to find a fairer way to
>  determine what is being played and who should receive the money. Many musicians
>  (including some on this list) feel that the 'gray area' in this blanket license
>  crap is an open invitation for ASCAP to scrape a lot of money off the top...
>  and who would ever know? The 'formula' is so nebulous.
>  I often hear musicians on this list relate stories about ASCAP coming after
>  them for fees, which surprises me. ASCAP's real leverage (other than
>  knuckle-busting in a back alley) is through the courts, which consistantly rule in their
>  favor. In that scenario the collector is following the 'money trail', looking
>  for an entity that has assets, like a venue. Most musicians don't have the
>  kind of assets that look attractive to a lawyer trying to collect big money in a
>  lawsuit. I've never heard of ASCAP going after the performers in a legal
>  action... rather the venue owners.
>  Well... that's all I know and it ain't much...
>  ~Rocky Ball
>  Atlanta, GA
>  _______________________________________________
>  Dixielandjazz mailing list
>  Dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
>  http://ml.islandnet.com/mailman/listinfo/dixielandjazz
-------Original Message-------

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list