ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are the three primary collectors of royalties for musicians and songwriters in the United States. When a song is played in movies, on radio or television, used in a jukebox, or played by a cover band in a bar, among other things, one of these organizations collects the money due for that use, and then gives a portion back to the songwriters.
This arrangement is simple enough, but the logistics of determining fees, specifically regarding using songs in a live setting, may be hurting musicians. For any place that allows live music, each of these three agencies asks the venue to pay a fee to pay for the costs of any cover songs played. The problem is that the fees are often too much for venues to pay, especially smaller venues with lesser-known musicians, and the fact that, despite many of these venues asking musicians to play only original music, these organizations still want to charge the venue these fees “just in case.” In response, many of these live venues are simply not having live music.
With less places to play, this arrangement prevents musicians from making a name for themselves In addition, because royalties are so hard to determine logistically, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC have only been paying major musicians, whose royalties are easier to track. A BMI representative disgustingly quipped that musicians who are looking for their royalty payments should “write a hit song.”
As venues give up live music and minor musicians aren’t paid their royalties, it seems like these organizations are hurting the music industry just as much as a group like the RIAA. While ASCAP, BMI and SESAC aren’t suing anyone, they are certainly making it harder for musicians to make a living playing music. [TechDirt]