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View Full Version : Do clubs have to pay for the songs that they play?


Lakai
08-12-2006, 01:26 AM
Aside from buying the record, do clubs have to pay for anything else when playing copyrighted music?

scotandrsn
08-12-2006, 01:29 AM
Aside from buying the record, do clubs have to pay for anything else when playing copyrighted music?

Yes, they have to pay a license fee for public performance of the music. The fees are collected by whichever licensing agency the songwriter is registered with, usually either ASCAP or BMI.

Jeff Lichtman
08-12-2006, 01:39 AM
Any time copyrighted music is performed in public for money, someone has to pay a fee to ASCAP and/or BMI. Believe it or not, if a musician plays one of his own compositions at a concert, money still has to go to ASCAP or BMI.

So yes, clubs that play records have to pay for it. So does a diner that sets up a radio for its patrons to hear broadcast music (on the other hand, a diner wouldn't have to fees for a radio tuned to the same station if it's in back where only the dishwasher can hear it). Jukebox owners have to pay fees. A baseball team has to pay fees for playing music over the P.A. between innings. A talk show has to pay fees when its orchestra plays copyrighted music.

Rigamarole
08-12-2006, 03:29 AM
How much would such a license usually cost a restaurant for typical popular songs? (of course I'm sure it varies greatly, but if there are any statistics I'd appreciate it). Also, do all such places follow the rules strictly? Who enforces it?

Foldup Rabbit
08-12-2006, 04:41 AM
You're right; it varies a lot. The licensing fees depend on whether music is live, recorded or recorded with a visual. They depend on how many people your establishment holds, whether or not you charge tickets and the number of nights per week you have music playing. For specific information, I'd check out ASCAP (http://www.ascap.com) or BMI (http://www.bmi.com).

TonyF
08-12-2006, 04:54 AM
Suppose you're playing music that's not registered--would you have to ask the artist directly or something? Is it free?

And suppose it's not covered by U.S. copyright--say, a song from France or Japan--would it matter then as well? (I'm guessing there's still some sort of international copyright recognition, though...)

Baffle
08-12-2006, 05:36 AM
I am a DJ in Canada. Purchasing the CD here gives you the right to play the music publicly. However, you must prove that you own an actual, licensed CD which contains the track.

Baffle
08-12-2006, 05:44 AM
Ah. Cite:

http://www.avla.ca/license.html#DML

There is information in the "Info for DJs" and "Info for Licensed Establishments" PDFs. Warning, they're PDFs.

RealityChuck
08-12-2006, 12:58 PM
And suppose it's not covered by U.S. copyright--say, a song from France or Japan--would it matter then as well? (I'm guessing there's still some sort of international copyright recognition, though...)It's called the Berne Convention, and it basically means that all nations subscribing to it (including the US) will recognize copyrights from other nations. The song still has to be licensed for you to use it; usually ASCAP or BMI will handle those. If they don't techincally, you're in violation (in the US, at least).

Jeff Lichtman
08-12-2006, 01:27 PM
I am a DJ in Canada. Purchasing the CD here gives you the right to play the music publicly. However, you must prove that you own an actual, licensed CD which contains the track.

Really? According to the web site you directed us to, you do not need an AVLA license if you are using the original LPs/cassettes/CDs you purchased in a store. However, the AVLA license is a license to copy the material, not to play or perform it in public. Elsewhere on the same site it says an AVLA license does not replace the mechanical licensing obtained from CMMRA, and also that an AVLA license doesn't replace the performance licensing from SOCAN. In other words, you can get a license to copy CDs from AVLA, but not to play CDs of copyrighted material for money. You don't need an AVLA license if you never copy a CD, but that doesn't mean you don't need a license to use it as a DJ.

Carnac the Magnificent!
08-12-2006, 01:34 PM
I am a DJ in Canada. Purchasing the CD here gives you the right to play the music publicly. However, you must prove that you own an actual, licensed CD which contains the track.


Were that correct, radio stations that owned their own CDs wouldn't have to pay fees to air copyrighted songs. They do.

HMS Irruncible
08-12-2006, 01:42 PM
Were that correct, radio stations that owned their own CDs wouldn't have to pay fees to air copyrighted songs. They do.
Or could it be that broadcasting falls under a different category?

Musicat
08-12-2006, 01:43 PM
You're right; it varies a lot. The licensing fees depend on whether music is live, recorded or recorded with a visual. They depend on how many people your establishment holds, whether or not you charge tickets and the number of nights per week you have music playing. For specific information, I'd check out ASCAP (http://www.ascap.com) or BMI (http://www.bmi.com).And whether or not your music is the prime entertainment or just background noise.

Gary Robson
08-12-2006, 06:59 PM
How much would such a license usually cost a restaurant for typical popular songs? (of course I'm sure it varies greatly, but if there are any statistics I'd appreciate it). Also, do all such places follow the rules strictly? Who enforces it?There are quite a few factors. If the restaurant or store sells the CDs and is playing them for demo purposes, there's no fee. For stores, if it's below a specific size (1,000 sq ft? I don't remember) and the stereo has two or fewer speakers, or it's being played from a "boom box," there's no fee.

BMI and ASCAP both have fee schedules on their Web sites. They have "agents" who drive around and visit places that don't have contracts with them to see if they're playing music. I own a bookstore, and I've gotten several phone calls where the person asks if I play music in the store. One time a guy called to ask an innocuous question and said, "I hear music playing in the background. Do you sell that CD?" I do sell CDs, BTW, and I only play the stuff I'm selling.

As an interesting aside, the BMI rep told me that I'd have to pay a fee to tune my store radio to the local radio station even though the radio station has already paid to broadcast that music.

Cardinal
08-13-2006, 03:07 AM
I have heard all of the info stated by InvisibleWombat from reliable sources. If you're playing music in a public place where conceivably anyone could walk in, you're broadcasting the music and owe royalties. The reason you hear the radio on in Herb's Auto Parts is that no one has the time and money to bother suing Herb, who has very shallow pockets. This is why you never hear commercials in Kroger, Safeway, Lowes, Home Depot, Taco Bell, etc. Suing these companies would pay handsomly, so they contract to services that already pay the fees.

I know of a coffee house in Fullerton, CA that had to start selling the CDs because the musicians they had in were aware of the royalty laws. So any music on the boombox had the CD case displayed next to it, and you could walk up and buy it from the house. In this way they dodged the fees.

As for the BMI rep stating that a rebroadcast owes fees, I'm guessing this is to nail down royalties from satellite stations. Was it called Z-Rock that was really a network of hard rock stations that simply relayed the signal out of Texas, via satellite? This is the kind of thing I'm thinking of.

scotandrsn
08-14-2006, 12:10 AM
ASCAP took some PR heat a couple of years back when they announced that they would step up collection of the fees from songs sung at summer camps

racer72
08-14-2006, 07:32 AM
In the US, you can purchase a license through the Harry Fox Agency (http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp) the allows for the public airing of music, whether prerecorded or live. The license is not required if the music come over the radio airwaves.

sqweels
08-14-2006, 11:54 AM
I've been playing cover songs in bars for a long time now and I have friends who have been doing so professionally for even longer. I have never heard anything the need to pay royalties. Are we technically violating the copyright laws? Are such small-time operations exempt, or is there a certain level below which enforcement is just considered impractical?

scotandrsn
08-14-2006, 12:13 PM
I've been playing cover songs in bars for a long time now and I have friends who have been doing so professionally for even longer. I have never heard anything the need to pay royalties. Are we technically violating the copyright laws? Are such small-time operations exempt, or is there a certain level below which enforcement is just considered impractical?

By having you play, the bar is causing public performance of the music, and thus pays the licensing.

Billdo
08-14-2006, 01:38 PM
The next time you go into a bar or restaurant, look to see if they have a small, green triangular sticker on or near the door that says "ascap" (and I forget what the BMI sticker looks like). If they do, they have paid ASCAP their licensing fee, and can play whatever ASCAP-licensed music they want, including having bands play cover songs.

Edward The Head
08-14-2006, 02:00 PM
How do bands get money then? I've been to metal shows that cover older metal bands, so how does someone like Savatage get paid when someone else covers one of their songs? Does the bar have to keep track of every song that gets played? Or do these small bands just get ignored and not paid?

Also what happens if I own a bar and only play stuff that I've written? Do I still have to pay someone else to play my own music? Does everyone who writes music have to belog to one of these groups? I'm guessing this would be the same if I found some small band in Romania, who do I pay then?

Cardinal
08-14-2006, 09:18 PM
How do bands get money then? I've been to metal shows that cover older metal bands, so how does someone like Savatage get paid when someone else covers one of their songs?I've seen ads in the music trades that brag about how BMI or somesuch keeps great track of the concert tours, the better to make sure you get paid if your song gets played. If a publisher/copyright owner (the publishers get paid for covers, right?) isn't contracted with a fee collection service, I think it's up to him/her to do the collecting alone, in which case I wish them good luck, because they'll need it. Does the bar have to keep track of every song that gets played? Or do these small bands just get ignored and not paid?I'm not sure about bars, but even the teeny tiny college radio station I worked at reported songs played.Also what happens if I own a bar and only play stuff that I've written? Do I still have to pay someone else to play my own music? Are you the sole copyright holder, and the only person who would profit from the royalties? I guess it's up to you the, but there are infamous stories of people like even the Beatles (IIRC) discovering that they owed money to someone else to play songs live that they had written. This is called getting hosed in the record deal. Does everyone who writes music have to belong to one of these groups? I'm guessing this would be the same if I found some small band in Romania, who do I pay then?I don't think you have to belong to BMI or ASCAP, in the same way that you can go to work but rip up the paychecks if you really want. Of course, my buddy recording in his garage doesn't belong to either, because he doesn't expect to recoup any fees he'd pay. No one's using his music. As for the small Romanian band, I'm lost. Does America automatically respect copyrights from all other countries? I wouldn't be surprised. In a practical respect, it then becomes a question of whether you can even find out whom to pay, or even care to. Most people don't.

Oh, and by the way, I'm fairly certain that you owe royalties for playing music on your company's hold line on the phones. I remember KABC-AM (Los Angeles talk radio) discussing this on the air, saying this is why they make the on-hold callers listen to the live broadcast, because they've already paid to broadcast the bits of music they use, and they don't feel like paying again just for the hold line. Again, this comes down to whether anyone can be bothered to sue Dr. Anthony's Kiddie Dentistry for playing the oldies station through the phone, and the answer is that I've never heard of anyone who could be bothered when the payout was so small.

Cardinal
08-14-2006, 09:32 PM
Looking for a BMI sticker online, I found this page by a real lawyer: http://www.boylanbrown.com/full_article.php?ID=32

Ah, I found the BMI sticker: http://www.kendrak.com/blog/?p=458

Another good link about intricacies: http://www.dvinfo.net/articles/business/copyrightfaq4.php

From the horse's mouth: http://www.ascap.com/about/payment/whocollect.html Please forgive their misuse of "who"; they know not what they do.

Ok, I have a question. What about all those jukeboxes? If I read those pages correctly, buying the CD does not mean I can play it just anywhere. If you have a jukebox in your bar, do you have to make a good faith effort, like joining BMI?

Lakai
08-14-2006, 11:57 PM
Ok, I have a question. What about all those jukeboxes? If I read those pages correctly, buying the CD does not mean I can play it just anywhere. If you have a jukebox in your bar, do you have to make a good faith effort, like joining BMI?

If the jukebox business is anything like the arcade business then the owner does not keep all the profits from his jukebox. I know that when my friend worked in a store that had arcades in it, a guy from the arcade company would stop by, collect all the quarters and then the store owner would somehow get a percentage of the sales.

I would assume that the jukebox located in your local bar does not belong to the bar owner and that the owner of the jukebox probably pays copyright fees.

I could be wrong though. In any case, someone should be paying for the rights to play copyrighted music on a jukebox.

All you need to know about jukebox licenses can be found here. (http://www.jukeboxlicense.com/Q_A.htm#JLO).

Gary Robson
08-16-2006, 04:38 PM
In the US, you can purchase a license through the Harry Fox Agency (http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp) the allows for the public airing of music, whether prerecorded or live. The license is not required if the music come over the radio airwaves.That's not true, according to the BMI and ASCAP reps. They told me that you absolutely have to have pay royalties on music coming over the radio.

Drum God
08-16-2006, 05:28 PM
I once walked past a parked charter bus in downtown Austin. This was one of those huge buses with it's own video system. Prominently displayed in the window was some sort of license saying that it was allowed to display recorded movies. I forget who issued the license, ASCAP, BMI, or even MPAA. I also don't know if the movies had to belong to the bus company or a subscription service, or if passengers could provide their own movies. This bus wasn't the sort that would run regular scheduled routes, but the sort that was available for charter runs.

beergeek279
08-16-2006, 07:18 PM
Now here's an interesting question...what about music that's lapsed into the public domain??

I don't ask this as a complete theoretical question. Living in West Virginia, a LOT of the local music is bluegrass/folk, most of the famous tunes of which have long since slipped into the public domain.

If a place books a bluegrass band that plays PD music, are they still responsible for an ASCAP/BMI fee?

Cardinal
08-16-2006, 08:14 PM
I thought that was the entire point of public domain, that the answer was, "No."

Musicat
08-17-2006, 08:19 AM
Let's not confuse performance royalties with copyright use fees. It's been a while since I was in the business, but I believe ASCAP, BMI & SESAC exist to collect & distribute monies to composers and authors (copyright owners). The Harry Fox Agency handles mechanical syncronizations, or the performances tied to sound recording, movies, commercials, etc.

You can write a song and get royalties from the original composition if performed any anyone (or yourself). But if you perform a song, you are the artist, not necessarily the composer.

So it's possible for a public domain composition to bring no money to the composer but performance royalties to the players.