We at ASCAP saw your piece from 10/4/09 about ASCAP and BMI, and the licensing of small venues. As a follow up, we wanted to share a link to a recent article we wrote for our members on this very subject: http://tinyurl.com/y9q8sea We thought you'd be interested in reading this. And in the specific case of small venues, our licensing team does work very hard to set reasonable, low annual fees -- or in some cases, exempts the smallest of venues altogether.The article the nameless ASCAP drone references covers some of the same points I made in my original article, primarily the idea that if a venue is making money because of the work of a composer is being performed, then a portion of that money is owed to the composer. However, I still feel that their bar is set too low. If both ASCAP and BMI want even a small fee of several hundred bucks a year, many small establishments will simply stop having live music altogether, to the detriment of all. As a composer (and in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of a performance rights organization), I would happily give up any revenue gleaned from these little 10-table joints to assure that musicians can still play in their neighborhood taverns, coffeehouses, and restaurants.
Here's the response I sent. I'm only publishing it here because my direct reply bounced (apparently, they have time to troll the internet for references to "ASCAP" and to email bloggers like me, but they don't want to be bothered with any inbound mail):
Dear anonymous person at ASCAP,
Thank you for the link to your article. In the pursuit of fairness, I have published your response -- unedited -- in my blog, along with its link to your article. Of course, I added my own commentary as well.
If you read my original article, you'll see that I really do agree with ASCAP's position in most respects. Where I disagree is mainly in where the line is drawn. I think there should be a reasonable threshold, below which the little joints get a pass.
The other area of some disgreement is one I did not address in my original blog entry: The assumption that a venue *must* have an ASCAP/BMI license, because music licensed via one or the other organization *will most likely* be played. Unless you have an agent staked out in every club to monitor what compositions are being performed, this is impossible to determine. In fact, I would counter that the songwriters in an unsigned band playing all original compositions are extremely UNLIKELY belong to ASCAP or BMI.
Membership more commonly comes *after* the band is signed or an established artist covers one of their compositions.
Now, I'm just a small-potatoes composer with a day gig. I will probably never see a dime from any of my compositions. If someone does profit from my compositions some day, then I want to get paid. But I'll give up the pennies I would theoretically make from my buddy's trio playing one of my tunes down at "Megan's Vegan Region" restaurant, to make sure that Megan can always book little bands like his.