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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

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

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