In my increasingly limited spare time, I am a singer and guitarist. While most of my caterwauling usually takes place for free at drunken parties, it isn’t unprecedented for me to play a paid gig, along the lines of $50 or (more frequently) a case of beer.
I’m not much of a songwriter, so I mostly sing covers. However, I have never purchased the rights to perform these songs in public for money. At what point would I be legally obligated to do that?
How far up does it go? Phish, for instance, frequently breaks out into spontaneous covers. If they play, for instance, “Psycho Killer” on the spur of the moment, do they have to make sure David Byrne gets paid?
This is not a moral/ethical question, as I don’t really feel any twinge of guilt, nor am I seeking legal advice, since I’m sure no one is going to come get me. I’m just curious.