• We would like to remind our members that this is a privately owned, run and supported forum. You are here at the invitation and discretion of the owners. As such, rules and standards of conduct will be applied that help keep this forum functioning as the owners desire. These include, but are not limited to, removing content and even access to the forum.

    Please give yourself a refresher on the forum rules you agreed to follow when you signed up.

BMI, ASCAP, etc. suing bars?

richb

Inspired
I hate to reveal my naiveté, but I just reached out to a bar we played at in June, (who loved us), asking if they wanted to book something. This is their reply...

"As of now we are being threatend and hounded by BMI Ascap and another music licensing co. If we can't come to a agreement thats affordable to us we will be discontinuing live music. Stay tuned."

Is this really a thing? Anyone else experience this? To be clear, this is a small bar. They have a small stage inside and in the summer, the have a volleyball league (2 courts) where they can accommodate a band. Maybe they can hold 150 - 200 people. Tops. They rarely, if ever, have a cover charge.
Are BMI & ASCAP really going after these small venues?
 

bradlake

Axe-Master
Quite possibly, they can be pretty aggressive, but in the shifting winds of survival in the Music Biz , perhaps justifiable but lotsa gray area here...
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
Only ones who are going to make money from this are the lawyers, though obviously the intent is to “help” artists.

It was like when they tried suing end users for downloading music from internet sharing services. It was a losing battle all along and did nothing to turn the tide.

Industry’s die and or evolve. Labels, publishing rights, getting rich from songwriting etc, are simply not going to remain viable. The industry had a good run, but times change.

Money now is in performing, not album sales. Labels aren’t going to get a huge cut, and labels, lawyers etc aren’t even going to be that important.
 
Last edited:

richb

Inspired
Understand, I want musicians to make money from their art. I pay for the music I listen to. And I'm not in a "tribute band" where an argument might be made over earning a living off of one single artists music (no judgement by me, either) I'm just talking about a small bar that has cover bands on Fridays & Saturdays. It's sad.
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
Understand, I want musicians to make money from their art. I pay for the music I listen to. And I'm not in a "tribute band" where an argument might be made over earning a living off of one single artists music (no judgement by me, either) I'm just talking about a small bar that has cover bands on Fridays & Saturdays. It's sad.


Maybe we never really should of expected to make money from art? Maybe where things went a bit wrong was doing soemthing to make money, but calling it art? Then some people started making more money, so others changed their art to better make the money, then “artists” were created simply to make money, and those who were really in it to create art took exception, and we started to debate who is and isn’t an artist, who “sold out” etc etc

Music is awesome.... the Music Business; not so much I think many will agree

Maybe if the money goes away, the business part will go away, and we will have just music for its own sake.

Maybe that would actually benefit those who love creating and hearing music more, cut out the middlemen, etc

Maybe one wasn’t supposed to make millions playing guitar anymore than one maybe wasn’t supposed to make $20 million playing a sport ?

Good money if you can get it, but did the game improve ?

Did $200 tickets, commercials every 3 minutes, billionaire owners getting richer year after year really improve the fan experience ?

Not knocking anyone their fair share or right to earn a living but maybe the way it’s been for the past 50 years or so has run it’s course?
 

TG3K

Veteran
BMI and ASCAP have been leaning on our local venues here as well. Last summer my niece was having a beer festival in the parking lot at her pizza restaurant. She wanted live music. They normally don't have live music at her restaurant. Almost as soon as she started advertising the event, the licensing agencies started hitting her up for fees. She told them to pound sand and worked around it by hiring bands that only played original, unlicensed music. She couldn't hire my band, since we're a cover band.

Fewer and fewer venues in this town are having live music because of the licensing fees. As someone who at one time was getting (very small) licensing money from a commercial recording, I'm all for supporting musicians, but I think strong-arming small venues is not only a disservice to local musicians, but to the venues what support them as well.
 

Muad'zin

Forum Addict
The copy rights mafia is not interested in cover bands, they're not their clients, and whether or not a venue has live music or just plays the radio, the venue at least can be targeted by them. Now you can argue whether or not these practices hurt live music, and rock music in general, but big business is only interested in short term gain, and lawyers and executives live in an abstract fairy cloud land anyway. And it increasingly looks like the old bands like Pink Floyd, their clients, want to milk every copy righted cent out of their music, regardless of where it comes from. Which is why bands like that are scouring youtube to get their music off the tube. And thus rock music slowly dies, caught in the pincer between greedy lawyers and greedy old bands.

Everybody is talking about sustainable development, a sustainable business model. I reckon that notion completely skipped the attention of the music industry. Now you can say that this model will die, like previous business models. But do not underestimate the clout that these companies have in Washington and Brussels. They'll get their lackeys in Washington to introduce further legislation to keep them in business, even if they have to completely close off the internet and close every small bar in the process.
 

USMC_Trev

Fractal Fanatic
The copy rights mafia is not interested in cover bands, they're not their clients, and whether or not a venue has live music or just plays the radio, the venue at least can be targeted by them. Now you can argue whether or not these practices hurt live music, and rock music in general, but big business is only interested in short term gain, and lawyers and executives live in an abstract fairy cloud land anyway. And it increasingly looks like the old bands like Pink Floyd, their clients, want to milk every copy righted cent out of their music, regardless of where it comes from. Which is why bands like that are scouring youtube to get their music off the tube. And thus rock music slowly dies, caught in the pincer between greedy lawyers and greedy old bands.

Everybody is talking about sustainable development, a sustainable business model. I reckon that notion completely skipped the attention of the music industry. Now you can say that this model will die, like previous business models. But do not underestimate the clout that these companies have in Washington and Brussels. They'll get their lackeys in Washington to introduce further legislation to keep them in business, even if they have to completely close off the internet and close every small bar in the process.
They're interested in taking anybody's money, and they can get it cheap with phone calls and threats on letterheads. They're the catfish of the world, feeding on whatever scraps they can, like patent trolls. They are an invasive species. Think lionfish or kudzu. They have nothing new or useful to offer the world, so this is what they do. They harass people who are just trying to have a little fun on the very fringes of music.

There is nothing good that a lawyer can't ruin.
 

iaresee

Moderator
Moderator
"As of now we are being threatend and hounded by BMI Ascap and another music licensing co. If we can't come to a agreement thats affordable to us we will be discontinuing live music. Stay tuned."


Were they not licensed? If not, it sounds like a classic case of someone not understanding how licensing laws for music work. Licensing for music has long been a requirement for publicly accessible venues. Nothing new here. Their getting a lesson in how the world works and how song writers and copyright owners have gotten paid for a very long time now.
 

chris

Legend!
I once asked SESAC if I could somehow license myself as the musician so I could go play anywhere legally. They said no, the venue must have the license. The performer cannot ever be the one to make it legal.
 

Musikron

Inspired
Might not be a completely popular position, but here it goes.
Cover bands suck anyways. Either make your own awesome music or get out of the way for people that do! I will straight leave a “music venue” that has a cover band playing. That’s fine when your learning to play as a kid, but grown ass men playing horrible renditions of another grown ass mans music is just sad and pathetic IMO. They’re one step down from tribute bands.
 

Geezerjohn

Fractal Fanatic
Might not be a completely popular position, but here it goes.
Cover bands suck anyways. Either make your own awesome music or get out of the way for people that do! I will straight leave a “music venue” that has a cover band playing. That’s fine when your learning to play as a kid, but grown ass men playing horrible renditions of another grown ass mans music is just sad and pathetic IMO. They’re one step down from tribute bands.
Well that settles it. I am not going to cover any of your hits.
 

chris

Legend!
Might not be a completely popular position, but here it goes.
Cover bands suck anyways. Either make your own awesome music or get out of the way for people that do! I will straight leave a “music venue” that has a cover band playing. That’s fine when your learning to play as a kid, but grown ass men playing horrible renditions of another grown ass mans music is just sad and pathetic IMO. They’re one step down from tribute bands.
Nobody wants to hear original music at restaurants and pubs these days. Music has become a commodity. I enjoy being hired.
 

Fro

Veteran
Cover bands has nothing to do with it anyway, or even bands in general. If you have a jukebox, play a radio, pipe in music, etc., the business has to pay. And it's not just bars, or bars that have bands. Any music being played for the public by a business, any business, gets licensed, including supermarkets. That's why the bars I know that have tried to go the "all original music" route still get hounded. That means no "commercial" music ever, radio, jukebox, etc. Trying to prove that to the Performance Rights Organizations is tough.

And as folks said, this is nothing new. A friend of mine that bought a bar 30 years ago was getting hounded immediately after buying the bar. They didn't have cover bands. They booked national acts. Guess what. National bands play cover songs too. Or in the case of professional bands that have been around forever and have rotating musicians, the venue still needs to pay the band member that wrote the songs but is no longer in the band. How do you think Fleetwood Mac gets away with still playing Lindeys songs? He can't really do anything about it. Same applies to Dweezil Zappa playing his dads songs. They family tried, but they can't do anything about it, thanks in part to the way the system works.

The system isn't perfect, and the Performance Rights Organizations do operate like the mob most of the time. But if you play in a bar, this is covering your butt. And some musicians do get money from this, and I do only mean some, and I strongly question how it could ever be figure out correctly. In all the years I've been playing, nobody has ever asked for a copy of my set list so that they can log which bands should be paid, like radio stations are required to do. So yes, it's an archaic system, but it does mean music can be played, heard, and enjoyed. Licensing music is a cost of doing business just like a liquor license.
 

Stratman68

Fractal Fanatic
As an old grump, I remember when this was rampant and lots of scams too! I get it also and then I do not get it. Tough call but I agree with the guy RichB's thoughts above.

truth be told, around 1981-82 I went to Montreal with a friend who grew up there. His sister and I were great friends and she had a huge house there. So I played at a few bars all acoustic stuff, simple just me and no gadgets or machines. You know, the old folk route. At that time I was very much into old blues, like Skip James, Mississippi john Hurt, Robert johnson but also stuff like Croce, Taylor, etc. Anyway 3 months in I started seeing the same 2 guys in 2 different bars. They weren't listening they were writing. Long story short, the owner said I had to leave because he was being hassled by "gov't"....about copyrights and a visa to work and all sorts of crap.Weird.

I played a lot in Florida and the BMI guys or whoever were hot and heavy there. Now I play at home.........Hah.
I would hate to see cover bands disappear...How bad would that be....
 

pima1234

Fractal Fanatic
I'm not one of those people who believes music should be free, or that "professional" and "musician" is an oxymoron. That's a construct of a failing society. Very dystopian.

If this helps boost the profession of musicians, I'm all for it.

Music itself transcends money. But it still makes the world (including the world of music) go around. And without it, this world would be much worse off.
 
Last edited:

Stratman68

Fractal Fanatic
Well I hope it has changed because back in the it was more scam than anything else. As in....nothing made it to the artist........
 

Muad'zin

Forum Addict
Might not be a completely popular position, but here it goes.
Cover bands suck anyways. Either make your own awesome music or get out of the way for people that do! I will straight leave a “music venue” that has a cover band playing. That’s fine when your learning to play as a kid, but grown ass men playing horrible renditions of another grown ass mans music is just sad and pathetic IMO. They’re one step down from tribute bands.
Bad cover bands suck big time, but good ones create a vibe for the audience that's miles ahead of some dude playing music from his iPod ( refuse to call them DJ's).

Thing is though, 99.9% of all the bands that play original music will just not make it. That doesn't mean they are bad musicians, probably far from it. Of all the bands that I had to mix as a sound engineer I'd say that at worst only 1/4 were really bad musicians, 1/4 really good and 2/4 in the average musicians range. And playing skills have no relation to music writing skills, because really good musicians can make terrible music and really bad musicians can make good music. U2 for example aren't exactly the most technically gifted musicians, but they do know how to write and perform good music.

Of those bands I had to mix I'd say that 1/4 made terrible music, 1/4 made really good music and 2/4 average music. Does that mean that playing good music means you get to have success?

- Your band may fall apart at a critical moment (seen it happen, had it happen to me)
- Your band may lack the networking and business skills to get the kind of success that takes you out of the small bar circuit (had that happen to me as well). If you have a band member who is good at that but not so good at playing his or her instrument, KEEP THEM!!! They are worth their weight in gold.
- Your band could be making music that's just either ahead of its time, or really out of this time.
- Audiences just don't go to see original rock music any more. Gone are the days when people's idea of a night out was to go see a live band. Original music does not draw in any audiences, unless you manage to create a buzz that gets you noticed or manage to mobilize your friends and social media network. Be prepared to spend countless more hours on social media and making youtube vids then you will be on your music.
- Unless you have l33t networking skills or are guaranteed to draw in an audience, you will not progress beyond playing small bars and clubs, as the bigger venues will not take a risk with you. 'Sure, your music sounds awesome. Really cool, we loved listening to it. But we won't book you because judging by your social media presence we don't think you will bring in a crowd.'

So unless you manage to create a storm, as in bring in a guaranteed crowd, it doesn't matter how good your original music band is, you will not enjoy any success. And thus, for most musicians, their dreams of becoming a rock star die. They either move on in life, jobs, family, house, kids, divorce, those sorts of things. And others accept that their dreams of becoming a rock star become less and less a reality as they get older, but they can still have fun during the weekends playing covers in a bar, entertaining others. Because its still about playing music with friends, which is what gets most of us started. They can still do the thing they love. And what is wrong with that? Unless the cover band is really bad its still miles ahead of some guy playing music from his iPod and pretending he's an artist.

So if cover bands aren't your thing go to those soulless places that have guys playing music from their iPods. And convince yourself that one day you will become a rock star. And who knows, one day you even might be. But the statistics are against you and chances are one day you too will come to the realization that that dream will not happen. And then your only options are give up music altogether, become a bedroom player (I'm not sure if that's any better then giving up music altogether, but hey, if you like it, go for it!) , or join a cover or tribute band. And chances are you will discover it will even be more lucrative in a short period then playing original music ever was. Because unlike with original music people really like the familiar.
 
Top Bottom