[Dixielandjazz] Re: Copyrights

Richard Broadie rbroadie at dc.rr.com
Sat Jan 29 17:32:33 PST 2005

I'm under the impression that ASCAP only collects for broadcast and wired 
music services and that live performances are not monitored.   Can anyone 
confirm or correct this?   Dick B.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <Bigbuttbnd at aol.com>
To: <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2005 8:18 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Re: Copyrights

> 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 
> 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
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