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Coffeeshop Blues.

So I come into work this morning here at Nani's Coffee to some rather disturbing news. We received a call from the ASCAP this morning. They informed us that they had reports that we were playing music covered by their agreement and that as such, we needed to pay them a yearly fee of nearly $600...

So the story goes thus: They apparently send representatives into clubs, bars, restaurants, and girl scout summer camps. All under cover, in attempts to find out of they are playing music for their customers that is protected by the ASCAP's listing of nearly 68,000 artists, composers, and publishers. If their representative hears music, he writes down the artist, time, and date, and reports it to the home office... In 1996 they went after a girl scout camp and won a yearly fee of $591...

edit:
ASCAP is a membership association of over 170,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers of every kind of music. Through agreements with affiliated international societies, ASCAP also represents hundreds of thousands of music creators worldwide.


Ok, so what it comes down to in reference to us here at the coffeeshop is that we can't play the cd's that we already bought and paid for without paying another fee. The theory behind this is that since we are using the music in a business manner to affect the abiance of the business, and therefore gather more customers, that we should pay the artists whose music we are playing. They would want a yearly fee based on our squarefootage, number of speakers, and revenue.

This reeks of mafia-style extortion to me. I understand them asking a fee from clubs and karako bars. That makes sense. Those are places that people go to listen to the music specifically.

Here, I'll make an analogy:
Say we buy our coffee from a small local company that does all their own roasting and imports it from Brazil. Good. Fine. Now imagine how you would react if the farmer who grew that coffee in Brazil had a daughter... now imagine that daughter coming into your business and asking for a yearly fee because you were making money off of her father's coffee that you already paid for.

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So I come into work this morning here at Nani's Coffee to some rather disturbing news. We received a call from the ASCAP this morning. They informed us that they had reports that we were playing music covered by their agreement and that as such, we needed to pay them a yearly fee of nearly $600...

So the story goes thus: They apparently send representatives into clubs, bars, restaurants, and girl scout summer camps. All under cover, in attempts to find out of they are playing music for their customers that is protected by the ASCAP's listing of nearly 68,000 artists, composers, and publishers. If their representative hears music, he writes down the artist, time, and date, and reports it to the home office... In 1996 they <a href="http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/communications/ASCAP.html">went after a girl scout camp</a> and won a yearly fee of $591...

<i>edit:
ASCAP is a membership association of over 170,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers of every kind of music. Through agreements with affiliated international societies, ASCAP also represents hundreds of thousands of music creators worldwide.</i>

Ok, so what it comes down to in reference to us here at the coffeeshop is that we can't play the cd's that we already bought and paid for without paying another fee. The theory behind this is that since we are using the music in a business manner to affect the abiance of the business, and therefore gather more customers, that we should pay the artists whose music we are playing. They would want a yearly fee based on our squarefootage, number of speakers, and revenue.

This reeks of mafia-style extortion to me. I understand them asking a fee from clubs and karako bars. That makes sense. Those are places that people go to listen to the music specifically.

Here, I'll make an analogy:
Say we buy our coffee from a small local company that does all their own roasting and imports it from Brazil. Good. Fine. Now imagine how you would react if the farmer who grew that coffee in Brazil had a daughter... now imagine that daughter coming into your business and asking for a yearly fee because you were making money off of her father's coffee that you already paid for.

<font size"+2">WHAT FUCKING SENSE DOES THAT MAKE?</font>

Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I should just accept it like all the other little coffeeshops and restaurants around here do. Maybe I should be part of their $38million revenue for this year.... Mayb... Wait.. What the fuck? $38 million?! Yes, $38 Million. How many people is it that are already paying this bullshit fee just to be allowed to listen to music that they paid for.

Scare tactics do not work on me. I will not submit. I will not lie down and let the big Corporate world run down small business like this one. Fuck that. I am not a girl scout camp.

_X

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
whiskeypants
Nov. 20th, 2003 08:08 pm (UTC)
that's fucking lame. there has got to be some way to fight that, because it is ridiculous to have to rent the music you already own from the people from whom you fucking bought it. what the hell? they should be paying you to play it in your coffeeshop. it means they get to have more exposure than they do on the radio stations.
grrr.
digitalgoth
Nov. 20th, 2003 09:34 pm (UTC)
I agree. They should be paying me to play their music here, as it is a form of advertisement for the artist. That's even less likely to happen than winning in court against ASPAC though.

_X
ocean_fever_fae
Nov. 20th, 2003 08:16 pm (UTC)
Fight the corporate monopoly, dear. Don't sacrifice anything.
<3
digitalgoth
Nov. 20th, 2003 09:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your support sweetheart.

_X
kragen
Nov. 20th, 2003 08:26 pm (UTC)
you can go to court, but you will lose
Yes, it's ridiculous what the law says, but that *is* what the law says. You really *do* have to pay them the fee. Lots of people think it's ridiculous, that the law can't *really* mean they have to pay ASCAP a fee for singing songs round the campfire or playing music in their cafe, and they're right that it's ridiculous, but it's wrong that the law couldn't be that ridiculous. It is. A lot of people take ASCAP to court over this, and they always lose. Every time.

By the way, the legal theory isn't that you're playing the music "in a business manner." It's that you're playing the music in public, period. It's against the law to sing "Happy Birthday" in a public place without paying the usage fees first.

So what can you do? You can not play ASCAP music. You can work for a change in the law. You can fight in court, and lose, and I guarantee the court and ASCAP will find a way to extract the money from Nani's. You can close the shop. I don't recommend that.
digitalgoth
Nov. 20th, 2003 08:35 pm (UTC)
Re: you can go to court, but you will lose
It is what the law says, but I do not have to pay them.

It is not my intent to go to court. I'm aware of all of the previous legal precedent of ASCAP winning. It is ridiculous, but that's how it works.

I simply don't believe that paying a $600/year fee to a large corporation would do the artists that they claim to be collecting for would do any good whatsoever. I can imagine what kind of finances it takes to run a company that large, and I can scarcely believe that any real percentage of the fee goes to the artist/author/whatever.

There are more than enough local artists that are not part of ASCAP that are willing to play open mic music nights, not to mention the ones that I know from clubs and the general music scene around here. I'm going to talk to some of them this Friday night and see what kind of details we can work out.

Currently we have a solution that is simply to leave the cd-player off and go with streaming media from the internet. There is, as yet, no precedent against that.

_X
kragen
Nov. 20th, 2003 08:59 pm (UTC)
Re: you can go to court, but you will lose
That's great. I look forward to Nani's becoming an ASCAP-free establishment. If you become part of the local music scene, you could start moving towards a real solution by encouraging local artists to license their music under Creative Commons licenses that allow restaurants to play them without paying extra royalties.
digitalgoth
Nov. 20th, 2003 09:06 pm (UTC)
Re: you can go to court, but you will lose
I would agree with you but for one small fact. They are not royalties. They are fees. Royalties are paid to the specific artists, whereas the fees go to support the company that is collecting them more than anything else.

I am looking into the Creative Commons listings and will be doing something about this in the future. I am thoroughly incensed.

_X
ex_sinaesthe204
Nov. 20th, 2003 09:49 pm (UTC)
That's about silly. Is there any loophole around it, like if you display the CD you're currently playing? Probably not, thank you capitalism. Ask for a list of artists on their membership roster, and don't play a single one. That's about the only thing I can think of that will remedy that issue in a non-monetarial manner.
hatchling
Nov. 20th, 2003 10:54 pm (UTC)
Those cocksuckers, tell em to eat a bug.
draco_insygnus
Nov. 21st, 2003 12:55 am (UTC)
---Honestly the Mafia tactics makes sense. They are going after businesses that can't afford to go to court, and also established coffeeshops that play that music make them money. I remember a lot of people at Insomnia walking up and asking what was playing. You tell them and that's free advertisement. Those people could go out and buy the music thus giving them more money. It's all just stupid.

I remember when those people sued the hotel I was working for cause we played one CD covered under them. They tried to sue us for $10,000. The hotel settled for like $1000, and just got music not covered under them. It was all classical. I found it qoute inane.
datamoon
Nov. 21st, 2003 02:12 am (UTC)
sucky. not a lot you can do, and too bad prob very lil of that $$ actually goes to the artist, if any. i'm sure most of it goes to the prod co's. lame. i really wonder how the artists themselves feel about that, and how informed they are of how it works. also, i wonder how many artists on the list arent even alive anymore. in which case, why do prod co's have all the rights to the music? or do they?
kragen
Nov. 21st, 2003 02:47 am (UTC)
aggregation for economic efficiency
Because any particular musician might account for 0.5% of the songs they play at, say, Nani's, and it isn't really worth it to send 30 000 small restaurants bills for $3 each. (That's assuming you own all the rights to the music. Usually several people are involved in making a song.) So musicians join organizations like BMI and ASCAP that collect aggregated royalties and then pay them out to the musicians, or to their heirs.
datamoon
Nov. 21st, 2003 02:57 am (UTC)
Re: aggregation for economic efficiency
sad
digitalgoth
Nov. 21st, 2003 03:13 am (UTC)
Re: aggregation for economic efficiency
By admission of the ASCAP, they collect 'fees', not royalties. See previous post about the difference.

_X
kragen
Nov. 21st, 2003 09:54 pm (UTC)
Re: aggregation for economic efficiency

They collect royalty fees, also known as license fees. Your previous post about the difference is nonsense; it's pure speculation. The post to which I am replying is simply a lie, and a libel at that. From http://www.ascap.com/about/:



ASCAP protects the rights of its members by licensing and distributing royalties for the non-dramatic public performances of their copyrighted works.



Apparently, ASCAP distributes about 84% of the royalties they collect to their members.



Anyway, ASCAP does enough bad stuff in reality --- you don't need to make up stuff, like you've been doing, to make them look bad. Stick to the truth.

digitalgoth
Nov. 22nd, 2003 01:24 am (UTC)
Re: aggregation for economic efficiency
royalty:
A share of the product or profit (as of a mine, forest, etc.), reserved by the owner for permitting another to use the property.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.


As such, the 84% that you stated is the actual royalty. The entire amount (that which they collect from the businesses) is a FEE, and mislabelled a royalty.

My post about the difference is not nonsense, nor speculation. There's a difference. If they tracked what music we played here and gave all $600+/year to the artists that we played, then it would be a royalty. They do not track, or give all 100% to the artists. Since they do not, it is a fee, not a royalty.

I really would like to know what I have made up though. So far, to my knowledge, everything that I have posted here is true. I love you to death big-brother, but I got over my 'making things up' phase many years ago, despite your convicted belief to the contrary. I'm aware that they do enough bad stuff in reality, and I haven't 'made up stuff' in any of this thread. If you think that I have posted something untrue, please quote and correct me... Please don't just drop accusations of me making things up.

For note: Slight correction from first post:
Based on this excerpt from your link, I am forced to assume that the ASCAP collects a bit more than $38million:
The RIAA collective will handle royalty distribution for non-interactive webcasting, while labels are negotiating their own royalty deals with interactive webcasters, which let users skip songs and choose artists. Licensing royalties from subscription services and webcasting (including radio stations on the 'Net) could come to $400 million per year -- double what ASCAP and BMI collect from radio -- according to Gertz.

If The ASCAP and BMI collect $400 million/year together as that says, I find it hard to believe that only $38 million of that is ASCAP considering the following information:
from bmi.com:
BMI is an American performing rights organization that represents approximately 300,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music. ...(snip)... The license fees BMI collects for the "public performances" of its repertoire of approximately 4.5 million compositions -...(snip)

and this information from ascap.com:
ASCAP is a membership association of over 170,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers of every kind of music. Through agreements with affiliated international societies, ASCAP also represents hundreds of thousands of music creators worldwide.



Please let me know if I'm in error, but don't be an ass about it. Don't just rampantly accuse me of making things up when I -am- actually basing them off of facts provided by the company that I am talking about.

_X
digitalgoth
Nov. 22nd, 2003 01:35 am (UTC)
Re: aggregation for economic efficiency
The RIAA would like to take 16-20% of the total for administrative expenses, according to Simson. "Our goals is to keep [expenses] in line with other performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI," he says.

"History has shown that if administrative costs approach 20%, managers lose their heads," says Andrew Sanders, director of international legal and business affairs at ASCAP, which took 15.9% in administrative costs in 1999. ASCAP's percentage is less than BMI's, he said, which is around 18%.

The final administrative percentage will be negotiated at an upcoming Copyright Arbitration Rate Panel (CARP) proceeding, supervised by the U.S. Copyright Office.


Given an administrative cost of 15.9%, $63 million of that $400 million went to BMI and ASCAP. And that was just counting radio. That was not including the fees that they collected from clubs, bars, restaurants, live performances, webcasts, and television.

My estimate of $38 million was a little underrated. Sorry.

_X
tymeschizm
Nov. 21st, 2003 03:04 am (UTC)
it's big buisness taking advantage of anything they can get thier fingers into.

just another aspect of copyright law that needs to be revamped, imo.
oh, and it sucks that it's happening to you. it blows goats.

just because its interesting and well written, and in regards to copyright law, i recomend reading spider robinson's shortstory "meloncholy elephants."
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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