ASCAP

ASCAP BMI and SESAC screw over songwriters

Write A Hit Song If You Want Money

By Mike Masnick, TechDirt

We keep hearing from folks how the collections societies in the US for songwriters and composers, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, are supposedly the “good guys” in that they actually give money to the actual musicians, and they aren’t like the RIAA at all.

But the evidence continues to be lacking on that front. In fact, it increasingly looks like they’re doing a lot more harm to most musicians. Earlier this year, we noted that their aggressiveness in getting just about any small venue to pay up fees was killing off open mic nights and other sorts of venues that allowed musicians to play live. Mike points us to the news that many venues are simply giving up on live music.


The problem? Well, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are all demanding huge fees. Even the restaurants that don’t bring in cover bands are being told they need to pay up, just in case a musician happens to do a cover in the middle of a wholly original set. The licensing organizations don’t seem to care, they just want you to pay, just in case. When asked how they know that covered music is being played, they admit they don’t:

“Basically, we don’t know,” said Dave Ascher, the SESAC Music Licensing Consultant who sent the letters. “To make a long story short, there’s no way, logistically, for us to know whether on a day-to-day basis they’re playing SESAC music.”

But, just in case, you need to pay up. Of course, rather than doing that, the venues are just giving up on live music, providing fewer places for musicians to perform, hone their craft, and build up a following (and a business model).

As for the claim that these organizations help bring in money for those musicians, well, that’s not seen either. We’ve already seen how they only give money to big name artists in most cases, because that’s all they’re able to track. In fact, the article talks to one musician who’s upset about all the venues closing, but is still registering his songs with ASCAP. When asked if he’s received any royalty check at all, the answer was no. So, how do the collections organizations respond? They tell them to become more famous:

“I’m sorry to hear that, but what I would like to tell him is that he needs to write a hit song,” BMI’s Bailey said.

How nice. They funnel all the money to big name artists, force venues to close so new artists can’t become famous, and then when asked about giving money to those up-and-coming artists, they flippantly tell them to become more famous.

At some point, musicians and songwriters need to learn that these organizations are not doing things in their best interests at all. They’re simply bureaucracies to funnel money to big names, while limiting the competition.

  • Charles

    I don’t know why the “venues” which I take are small pubs and bars, don’t just refuse to pay the fees. What is Ascap/BMI going to do about it? If Ascap/BMI doesn’t have the resources to keep track of what music is being played in each venue, how can they have the resourses to make every Venue pay a “Just in Case” license fee.

    “Band” together Club owners!! cause if you don’t, you will assist in killing the talent that helped get the bar and club scene going in the first place many years ago.

  • LARRY

    HERE’S A TWIST. I HAVE BEEN GIGGING IN CLUBS FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS. I HAVE MADE MY LIVING PLAYING ORIGINAL AND OTHER PEOPLES MUSIC IN CLUBS ALL OVER THE US AND CANADA. LAST NIGHT IT HIT ME WHEN A LADY ASKED ME, “WHO DID THAT LAST SONG”, AND I SAID,THE BEATLES, BUT YOU CAN GET ANOTHER RENDITION BY SO-IN-SO. IF BMI,ASCAP,SESAC ARE GOING TO DEMAND PAYMENT FOR SONG WRITERS, THEN I WANT COMPENSATION FOR ALL THE YEARS I HAVE ADVERTIZED THEIR MUSIC FOR FREE. I KNOW I DIDN’T HAVE TO DO IT, SO MAYBE WE ARE EVEN. I PLAY THE SONGS THAT MAKE THE WHOLE WORLD SING, AND YOU WRITE ‘EM. I WRITE SONGS AS WELL, NO HITS AS OF YET. BUT I CAN SAY THAT I WOULD RATHER HAVE SOME DUDE OR CHICK WHITTLING OUT A LIVING PLAYING MY TUNES AND KEEPING ME IN THE MIX THAN NOT. I WONDER IF BMI,ASCAP AND SESAC PAY THE WRITERS WHEN THEY USE BACKGROUND MUSIC WHILE YOU ARE ON THE PHONE, ON HOLD. I WONDER WHO PAYED FOR THE MUSIC NASA SENT UP INTO SPACE. OR WHEN THE ASTRONAUTS SANG “MUSTANG SALLY” FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO HERE. I GUESS IT’S A SIGN OF THE TIMES, THE GREED THAT’S GOING AROUND. I KNEW I WOULD RETIRE FROM GIGGING SOMEDAY, I JUST DIDN’T THINK IT WOULD HAPPEN THIS WAY. GREAT WEBSITE. 423GTRMAN

  • Jack Ellenburg

    I am saddened (mad as hell) that Congress is allowing an admended FEDERAL LAW —-which lets the giants ascap, bmi, and sesac take over the music world with intimidation and threat. The Federal Law and the State Of New York (Federal Court of New York allowed the Federal Copyright law to be used by these bigots to collect money without any respect for the American Music User).. is the reason all of this is happening. These PRO’s HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE AUTHORITY to do everything but break your leg, AND THEY WOULD DO THAT IF THEY COULD.. The artist/songwriter/performer/publisher has been given the advantage over the American People to not only ask us to buy their music, but, to pay them a salary. With members Now being offer Health insurance, pensions, and other perks.. The Federal Copyright law.. reads: For the works of the gifted: During their Lifetime royalties and 70 years thereafter for their heirs. Can’t you see a dead artist leaving his kids and grandkids the right to draw royalties of his/her works for 70 years. In other words we are going to keep them up for 70 years and pay them a royalty, even while they could be in prison or king of England or a rotten Congress Person or a rotten SENATOR. With all of this is mind, there will never be another song in the public domain.. It is my understanding (because they have access to all Copyrights) they are so cozy with the copyright office that they are taking songs that you and I might write or record (especially BMI) and putting them into their repretory without permission FROM THE WRITER and then going out and asking us to buy a license to play our own works… just because they have the power of the Federal Copyright Law.. What a slam.. WE should rise up to the challenge and run all the crooks out of Washington.. They are hoodwinking all of us and we are letting them get away with it. All of this new admended stuff TO THE FEDERAL LAW (NOT ALL OF IT) is the POWER OF THE Sonny Bono trip to the Congress. But, you see what has happened.. he is no longer around to help enforce the Federal Copyright law. So, since the giants are in control.. our only recourse is to not buy or download, or attend any event that supports the artist. I know this is cruel.. but the conduct being imposed upon the music user is cruel and unusual punishment and enforceable with a $750.00 to a 30,000 fine in Civil Court for the playing of one song. and If you do one intentionally look out. 150,000 to 350,00 for one song.

  • Jack Ellenburg

    I would appreciate a dialog so that we can continue with all the force we can muster to take control of the Federal copyright law.. It is stupid and makes no sense. Eventually, you will have to be a lawyer to play or listen to music.

    Let’s get the comments going and thank God for people like these folks who are making this site available with a sounding board. We are seeking to gather over 100,000 emails and load them onto a Uhaul trailer and deliver them to the ANTITRUST DIVISION of the Justice Department in Washington, DC with the News Media by our side. But, we need help.. Let all of us get up get out and get at it… We love music too for more reasons than profit.

    send me an experience by email: with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC AND WE WILL PILE THEM TOGETHER IN OUR UHAUL Trailer. AND GET THEM TO THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT.. I dare you to meet the challenge of getting the Federal copyright law changed..

  • Robert

    I personally could care less about a federal copyright law or performing rights crooked organizations. I write and play my songs, control and administer my own copyrights.