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It was an issue with my store I had local artist their own music was told I would have to prove I was not playing any one of their artist music.They hounded and threatend with a lawsuit and fines. I consulted a lawyer and was told it would be to costly for me to fight it just pay or stop all music. I still get calls to this day from them and Their has not been music of any kind in my store for well over a year. Again where is their business ethics. ryan mcdougall said:
Having bands play original music is not an issue. They own the rights to perform the music. No one's going to hound you over the odd cover either. As far as playing music over the rest of your open hours, how close are you to ascap and bmi offices? They don't really have the resources like they used to a few years ago to track down every business and see if they've paid their dues. The only occasion I've heard of this actually being a problem is where a customer got mean and called ascap and said they were playing music without a license.

Also, I have hours of coffee shop friendly music that I personally own the performance rights to. I'm sure there are other "indie" artists and producers who do as well. And I'm sure you could find people who would just be happy that someone was listening to their music as much as I would. This kind of music doesn't require a license. ASCAP/BMI/SESAC are performing rights organizations who's sole purpose it is to collect moneys owed to artists for the performance of their works. If an artist doesn't use any of these and you get permission from them in writing to use their music, there is not problem. Search myspace, there are all kinds of amazing artists who don't use a performing rights organization. The problem with paying these people is that there is no way for them to track which artists, which songs and how many plays they get in an ipod/cd format. So, the artist never really sees the money from the plays. They have to be able to report what has been played, and how many times it's been played for them to actually see the money. Typically you'll get paid out on commercials, movies purchased, seats filled at movie theaters, radio commercials, radio plays, website usage, etc... They do pay dues to artists which pay out on these blanket licenses, but I've never gotten a check.

It can all get very complicated and having been on both sides of the fence, if you wanna be legit, pay them. if not, just look on craigslist for an ascap/bmi sticker and put it on your door.

Kathy Fadorsen said:

It was an issue with my store I had local artist their own music was told I would have to prove I was not playing any one of their artist music.They hounded and threatend with a lawsuit and fines. I consulted a lawyer and was told it would be to costly for me to fight it just pay or stop all music.

If you feed a stray cat out your back door, they tend to come back and see if there is still food there. If you back down from BMI and ASCAP's empty threats, they still use them.
My response was, "Bring it, you have nothing, I'm (and i was at the time) no-profit, and my artists are being compensated on premises for their own works. Send your truck loads of lawyers, and let's get this over with."
Oddly enough, I've never heard from them again.
If you're clean, it's a scare tactic. If you are actually playing the copyrighted tunes of a composer or author in your place and not compensating them via ASCAP or BMI, then I'll be driving that truckload of lawyers to your place to bust you.
I've paid ASCAP over $500 this year. Now I've got SESAC calling me and sending letters weekly. We have live, local music every night (only charge cover 2 nights a wk.), but we definitely want to be able to use Ipods and CD's. I'm finally sending them a payment.

I pay more than $1k a year just in licensing fees for music.

I find them to be rude, pushy, and snarky whenever I have the displeasure of dealing with them on the phone.
I was in a cafe a couple weeks ago. Their music was Hawaiian music streamed from the local cable TV guide station. So I had pleasant music to listen to while I enjoyed my lunch. And by watching the monitor, I knew exactly what was going to be on TV for the next two hours!

Jeff Jaworski said:
Maybe pump an internet radio stream through the shop's speakers? Perhaps an international station like Triple J so as to circumvent whatever laws there are here in the US concerning internet radio??
Ascap and BMI Cannot sue you for using unlicensed music. It's just not possible, they don't own the rights to the public performance of unlicensed music. And as far as them demanding you prove that you're not using music either one owns the rights to, well, I believe, after reading up on it at wikipedia and, the burden of proof in this case would most likely be on the plaintiff. I think... It f'n should be. If not you should be able to counter sue them stating that they owe you money, and have been playing music you own the rights to without your permission and you wouldn't have to prove it. Then the courts would be a mess with frivolous suits. Well, here's some more info...
As I understand it, the biggest risk is that the musician that is playing at your shop might play something that was licensed and your staff might not realize it. If there happened to be a witness in the audience, you are on the hook for 10k. There are stories of ASCAP sending in plants to do just this, and there is nothing at all illegal about this practice. Infuriating though.

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