Pay to Play Cover Songs

Yipes! If you own a venue that features live music, be sure to either tell your artists never to play covers, or else you’d better remember to pay those ASCAP thugs their grift…

Restaurant owner says songs may cost him his business:

Dorr says a rep from the American Society of Musicians and Publishers paid an unannounced visit to his restaurant one night and heard covers of the songs performed by local band “Black Notes.”

Because his place features local musicians and covers are rare, he didn’t think he had to pay the musicians and publishers group an estimated $2,000 to cover performances of copyrighted tunes.

But the owners of the songs, including Wonder and Hendrix’s estate, say he does.

Now they’re suing Dorr for copyright infringement – and they’re seeking payment of between $750 and $30,000 for each song, along with attorney fees.

And this is supposed to help artists somehow? Isn’t copyright meant to promote the arts? How’s that, by closing down every fucking coffee house in America?

Section 8 of Article I of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” You think this is what the Founders had in mind? Somehow I doubt it.

Thanks, lw!

5 thoughts on “Pay to Play Cover Songs”

  1. “Yipes! If you own a venue that features live music, be sure to either tell your artists never to play covers, or else you’d better remember to pay those ASCAP thugs their grift…”

    Don’t most places that feature live music have ASCAP licenses? Is it really a rarity? I could imagine it might be rare that restaurants or cafĂ©s have licenses, but among real venues?

    “Because his place features local musicians and covers are rare, he didn’t think he had to pay the musicians and publishers group an estimated $2,000 to cover performances of copyrighted tunes.”

    The only way that excuse would work is if none of the folks playing their original material had registered it with ASCAP. You sing and play your song, you get paid to sing and play by the venue, but you get paid for writing your song by licencing agencies like ASCAP.

    What would you say if the bar refused to pay the singers and players? Who would be the bad guy then? Why should the songwriters get different treatment?

    Obviously I’m talking about principle here. Sounds like they went after somebody who was just ignorant, not trying to cheat anybody. There’s gotta be bigger fish to fry.

  2. I dunno. $2,000 to cover performances of copyrighted tunes seems excessive, prohibitive, and just silly.

    And to the fundamental principle, I’m not sure that I even agree that songwriters deserve to get paid when their songs are performed live. I suppose I understand the idea behind, and I might change my mind if the Rolling Stones or Madonna included a song in their set that had been written by someone I know…

    But some schmuck in a coffee house playing “The Wind Cries Mary” for a crowd of thirty disinterested latte lappers? Does the Hendrix Estate really deserve any money for that?

    Any “normal,” non-superstar members of ASCAP out there? How much are your dues? And how much does ASCAP end up paying you?

  3. Alright, based on what Jake asked, as a venue, what is the cost to be a member of ASCAP and BMI, and are the costs to a coffeehouse whose bands play 99.99999% original material the same as Shark City, whose band roster is 99.99999% cover bands, with nary a shred of original soingwriting?

  4. Murph, they seem to be a little sneaky about the cost of becoming a licensee. You have to contact your local ASCAP rep…

    Dig the exemptions: “Permission is not required for music played or sung as part of a worship service unless that service is transmitted beyond where it takes place (for example, a radio or television broadcast). Performances as part of face to face teaching activity at a non-profit educational institutions are also exempt.”

    So basically, we just need to set up a non-profit “church” for our “religion.” Saint Dee Dee’s House of Worship, or something…

Leave a Reply