Professional curiosity... What does this mean for someone like me that DJs 20+ weddings a year, the Genesee County Fair and multiple other events around western NY?
Music licensing agency putting squeeze on local governments for fees
Submitted by Howard Owens on August 1, 2012 - 8:30pm
The music industry has apparently found a new source of revenue: taxpayers.
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) is, according to County Attorney Chuck Zambito, asking local governments to sign a licensing agreement for public performances of music and pay an annual fee for the privilege.
The fee varies based on population.
Legislator Ray Cianfrini called the fee "shakedown money" in the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
The committee voted 4-1 (Cianfrini voted no) to sign the agreement and pay ASCAP an annual fee of $637.
The license agreement will protect the county from an ASCAP-initiated lawsuit over any public performances of music on county property, but also limits what the county can allow without additional licenses.
For example, the county can't host a community orchestra or band on its property without paying an additional licensing fee.
The license agreement also requires regular reporting of any events on county property -- such as the Holland Land Office Museum or the nursing home -- where music is played along with a copy of any program that goes with the event. If a band or DJ performs, the county must disclose the performer, provide contact information, and disclose whether the performer is licensed by ASCAP to perform ASCAP-licensed music.
"This is being discussed in every county in the state and most of them are saying they're just going to do it because it's not that much money and they don't want to fight it," Zambito said. "If we don't sign it, they're going to come around and see us."
According to Zambito, local governments that have refused to sign the agreement have already received visits from ASCAP auditors.
The penalty, according to a brochure published by ASCAP, for performing copyrighted music without permission is from $750 to $30,000 per song.
According to the brochure, a public performance of music is:
The Copyright Law defines a public performance as one “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gath- ered.”
The law requires a license for all public performances, whether from a recording or by a live musician.
ASCAP is only one licensing agency and doesn't own licensing rights to all of the songs currently under copyright. There's also BMI, for example, and Zambito said so far BMI hasn't started contacting local governments.
The license fee is some formula created by ASCAP, Zambito said, based on population and other factors.
"The bottom line is they just came up with some artificial number just to get money out of you," Zambito said.
Agencies like ASCAP and BMI have been shaking down businesses and organizations for quite some time. Places that I and many of my musician friends have enjoyed playing at in the past have discontinued music because of the ASCAP and BMI extortion racket. I looked into it years ago and the way I read it, any business or organization that plays music, whether it's a band, a jukebox, or even the radio, has to pay a fee. Even if your establishment only hires bands that play their own originals, they demand you pay for licensing "in case" a cover song is played.
The whole guise is that the money is distributed to the songwriters, bands, producers, etc... I call bullshit. Genesee County should have told them to go **** themselves, and the horses they rode in on.
Just when I thought I've heard everything.This is absolutely crazy.Greed
Brett and Howard, that last time I read, the performers don't need to be licensed, the establishment holding the event does. It may have changed since I last checked, so YMMV. I will say, however, I will be damned if I am going to pay some thug-esque protection fee in order to jam out at a bar with some friends on a Friday night.
I found this on ASCAP's FAQ Page:
"Aren't musicians, entertainers and DJ's responsible for obtaining permission for music they perform?
Some people mistakenly assume that musicians and entertainers must obtain licenses to perform copyrighted music or that businesses where music is performed can shift their responsibility to musicians or entertainers. The law says all who participate in, or are responsible for, performances of music are legally responsible. Since it is the business owner who obtains the ultimate benefit from the performance, it is the business owner who obtains the license. Music license fees are one of the many costs of doing business."
I sing in the shower..will I need a license?
Doug, you should also check with your landlord if you have one. Maybe he needs a license too
Maybe if Doug just sticks to singing ditties in the public domain there'll be no problems, something like "Go Tell Aunt Rhoda the Old Gray Goose is dead," "She'll be Comin' 'Round the Mountain When She Comes," or the always-popular "Froggy Went A' Courtin' " -- the latter has like 112 verses or something, so if you memorize them all you could prolly enhance your brain muskles.
My personal favorite REALLY olde air is "Greensleeves," which is sort of melancholy but pretty.
I'm kind of partial to "Old McDonald" and "Where the Green Grass Grows" (Tim McGraw)
Fight back. There is software available online that converts youtube audio to mp3 files for ipod or other devices. I know folks who use it, it works just fine. Never used it myself, I figured that the artists were entitled to make a buck if my family purchased music. Now I may have to reconsider.
Howard, I've been known to leave the window wide open while showering so my velvety tenor tones probably carry across the green pastures and bring all of the freshening heifers into heat. Does that qualify as a public performance?
I am a DJ by trade. I did a zillion weddings, parties, cruises, bar mitzvas for years before moving on.
I used to get my music from Promo Only. It USED to be that with a subscription with them, you got the licence to the music, so you can play anyplace regardless if they have an ASCAP licence or not because the licence went under YOUR business.
In this case, it looks like anyone who is hired by the County will be on a list that the County is going to have to provide to ASCAP. That means that they are coming after everyone any way they can.
ASCAP also charges for TVs in a bar, and Music on hold when you call someplace.
They have been shaking people down for years, and now that people share music, they have gotten relentless.
If I were you, I would get ahold of Promo Only (if you don't already use them.....if they are still around) and see what you need to do to cover your butt.
Thieves......We, the DJ's play music at parties that was long forgotten about. Someone will then go buy the music, concert ticket, t shirt for themselves...
Anyway, I hope this helps.
I remember a restaurant I managed was visited by these extortionists. The guy had the balls to walk over to the jukebox and unplug it! He went on to explain the pay structure, and why we needed to give them a few hundred dollars. I politely called shenanigans on him, asked him to leave, and never saw him again. It's a racket from start to finish.
These requirements have been around for years but are not understood or followed by many. If you are a DJ (I have also done hundreds of parties and wedding, etc) you are playing someone else's music and getting paid to do it. Radio stations pay for the right to play music as entertainment and technically if you run a business you should pay for music you use, whether it be while on hold or in your establishment. Why should you benefit from someone else's hard work and talent? ASCAP and BMI in turn pay the artists and composers who created the music. Its just like holding a patent or copywrite. If you created something unique, someone else should not be able to make a profit from it without sharing it with you. It would be like me starting my own website and just stealing all of my news from Howard...