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mitchchang
01-23-2018, 12:18 PM
Any lawyers or ASCAP knowledgable people out there?

There's a restaurant/pub that wants to host ukulele club gatherings but they are worried about paying ASCAP royalties. They've been fined in the past but I think that was when they had actual advertised performers.

In my mind, any ukulele meet up is just a bunch of people hanging out goofing off and shouldn't be an issue since 1) it wouldn't be an advertised, formal thing and 2) no one's getting paid

So I've been trying to tell them I really don't think there's anything to worry about. Anyone have any thoughts on the matter?

kypfer
01-23-2018, 12:36 PM
The best people to ask would be ASCAP themselves ... no point in anybody else trying to second-guess what they'd do.

Nickie
01-23-2018, 12:47 PM
The eateries that we play in have licenses for this. We had a problem years ago with a coffee shop that wanted to host us but wouldn't buy the license. I don't think they cost very much, the extra biz they bring in should cover it.

derbyhat
01-23-2018, 01:24 PM
If they play the radio in the shop, then they're technically supposed to have a license. It'll probably be $500 for the year. You can run an estimate yourself: https://www.ascap.com/

(A trick to consider is that if they have an ASCAP license, they will probably need a BMI license as well. Each one covers separate libraries. https://www.bmi.com/)

Nickie makes a good point about the "extra biz they bring in should cover it." My two cents is that if you organize the club, you should encourage your members to actually buy stuff. And then enforce it. I've been a lot of clubs with "self-sufficient" members who smuggle in food and drink. Bottled water, mostly. The venues didn't see a dime, and problems ensued.

Brad Bordessa
01-23-2018, 01:35 PM
Seems like getting up to speed on that would be part of their contribution for hosting the club. Then they don't have to worry and can have whoever they want play. I agree with Nickie that even with a very small effort the money would come right back. I imagine most people in the uke club are going to make an effort to buy a beer or fries to show their appreciation. Even if that's only $50 in business from you folks a night, if you meet once a month, they've already made $600. That gets them close to paying off both BMI and ASCAP licenses (assuming BMI cost similar to ASCAP).

Most musicians in ASCAP don't get a dime of that fee, but as an ASCAP musician (who doesn't see a dime of that fee) I appreciate knowing an establishment has put the effort forward to take care of its performers. It shows respect of our artistry and that they are invested in the music. Established places that insist on "originals night" or tell their musicians not to play covers are pretty lame-o, IMO.

Nickie
01-23-2018, 01:39 PM
Thank you.
Yes, when we get up to play, one of us always recognizes the management and the staff with applause. And I always tell our members, "buy something". It's embarrassing to have people from our club be so cheap they won't even buy a cup of joe. That's just tacky. I think if one can afford the gasoline or bus fair and a uke, they can afford to eat there.
Sorry I hijacked this thread....

ricdoug
01-23-2018, 03:43 PM
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/29/surprise-you-may-soon-be-able-to-sing-happy-birthday-on-film-without-being-sued/?utm_term=.d17d5caaae2d

EDW
01-23-2018, 04:03 PM
Lots of info at https://www.ascap.com/help/ascap-licensing

There are lots of variables in how fees are calculated, so the best bet is to contact ASCAP directly. A number of years ago I was director of a small chamber music series. The organization was very concerned about the fees. Once I researched it I found that based on the size of the venue, number of seats, number of performances, etc it amounted to maybe a couple hundred bucks per year. It was well worth the peace of mind.

See what ASCAP says since it will help move forward.

Rllink
01-24-2018, 04:09 AM
According to my local coffee shop, if they are having the music as a way of attracting customers to their establisment, they need a license. I've played this particular coffee shop off and on for a couple of years. They used to let just about anyone sign up and set up on a Saturday evening and just go for it. It was a great venue for the less than prime time performers like me. This year they did not renew their licence. They told me that it would cost them $1300. That's just what they told me. But they said that we could come in and jam together if we wanted to, we just can not perform for an audience, which in this case would mean that we can't engage with the customers, and they won't advertise that we are playing there.

But I think that is just their interpretation, and I'm not sure how it would stand up. I mean, the law isn't what I want it to be, so it is a court that would make the final determination of it ever went that far.

SailingUke
01-24-2018, 06:05 AM
We used to meet in a coffee shop and jam. The owner was approached by the ascap/BMI representative for licensing. It was more like extortion. The fee started at 3,000 each for the year. They settled on 300 each. The owner did not pay, he decided to close the shop. I don’t understand ascap/bmi putting small shops out of business and taking away venues for future performers.

hoosierhiver
01-24-2018, 06:26 AM
from my understanding, if they only play originals and old songs that don't have a copyright it shouldn't be a problem.

Rllink
01-24-2018, 06:38 AM
We used to meet in a coffee shop and jam. The owner was approached by the ascap/BMI representative for licensing. It was more like extortion. The fee started at 3,000 each for the year. They settled on 300 each. The owner did not pay, he decided to close the shop. I don’t understand ascap/bmi putting small shops out of business and taking away venues for future performers.Perhaps it is like trademarks. If one has a trademark name, but they do not take reasonable action to protect it, they can lose it. I don't know, but I'm thinking that threatening small venues is low hanging fruit. You send them a letter telling them that if they do not cease and desist that you will sue them. Then when a big one comes along and challenges, you can point to all the little guys you pissed on and lay claim to them as evidence of your ongoing vigilance. Anyway, that's my guess. As far as our own little local coffee shop, there were four of us who played there. We actually thought about seeing if we could buy our own license, but no one got much farther than talking and none of us really looked into it seriously. But I also do some busking, and I would guess that there are underlying licensing issues in that venue as well. Just hard for them to enforce it on someone who occupies a street corner long enough to milk it, then moves on to another.

Rllink
01-24-2018, 06:42 AM
from my understanding, if they only play originals and old songs that don't have a copyright it shouldn't be a problem.

I'm afraid that would really limit my repertoire.

MopMan
01-24-2018, 07:07 AM
It is sad to me that rent-seeking copyright trolls are negatively impacting your ability enjoy ukulele club publicly.

From the pub's perspective, I understand their concern. If uke club is bringing paying customers into their establishment (even if those customers are just there to mess around at uke club) then the music that uke club plays could be interpreted as a commercial use. And if I was the pub owner I wouldn't want to have to worry about that headache.

Perhaps you can convince the proprietors to cooperate if you offer to pay the fee yourself. If you charge an annual dues fee to uke club members, several hunderd dollars should be easy to come up with.

Good luck!

Nickie
01-24-2018, 08:48 AM
from my understanding, if they only play originals and old songs that don't have a copyright it shouldn't be a problem.

Right, but do you have any idea how difficult that is if aren't a very prolific songwriter? We came up against it in our library workshops, and what a job we had finding enough Traditional songs!

Xtradust
01-24-2018, 05:43 PM
Our local music shop hosts a jam a few nights a week. They get hit with a $3,500 charge every year from ASCAP. They then have a "local-performers" concert to pay the bill. They have to put on a special show, just to pay ascap bill. This is a mom and pop shop, not GC.

I’ve never heard of an artist ever receiving anything from ASCAP. (???)

We have a couple raffles every year and with the proceeds we buy ukuleles for local elementary schools. We raised $4000 last year. People are generous when they know where the funds are going. But if we told people we were raising several hundred dollars in annual fees, just to handover to ascap, wallets would snap shut. I think.

mitchchang
01-25-2018, 03:20 AM
Thanks everyone - yeah I agree, sounds like they should just "man up" and pay for an ASCAP license so there's nothing to worry about. They can't expect an ukulele group to come and do nothing but originals and Oh Susanna.

Rllink
01-25-2018, 03:30 AM
Not to send this off in a different direction, but I'm still wondering about busking? Has anyone had issues with licensing when they are out busking? I haven't actually had anyone approach me or anyone else that I know who busks, but there are always stories about somebody who knows somebody.

kitsunegarcia
01-25-2018, 05:06 AM
If they play the radio in the shop, then they're technically supposed to have a license. It'll probably be $500 for the year. You can run an estimate yourself: https://www.ascap.com/

(A trick to consider is that if they have an ASCAP license, they will probably need a BMI license as well. Each one covers separate libraries. https://www.bmi.com/)

Nickie makes a good point about the "extra biz they bring in should cover it." My two cents is that if you organize the club, you should encourage your members to actually buy stuff. And then enforce it. I've been a lot of clubs with "self-sufficient" members who smuggle in food and drink. Bottled water, mostly. The venues didn't see a dime, and problems ensued.

Depends on size of shop and other factors in regard to playing radio. My biz ran into this problem but we are not an eaterie or club. I def think artists should get paid but punishing little tiny yoga studios and non-chain massage places is not where the money is. We now play no music except music we have permission for and let clients bring their own ipods. When i used the ASCAP calculator, the price was at least $2K unless i am using it wrong which is possible. But i digress! Here is what national restaurant guidelines says about radio:

(What are the exemptions for radio and TV?
Federal copyright law, Section 110 (5)(B), exempts restaurants that play music transmitted via radio, TV and cable and satellite sources if they don’t charge to hear the music. Music played by other means, such as live bands, CDs, etc., aren’t covered by the exemption.

The exemption applies to establishments smaller than 3,750 gross square feet in their premises. It also applies to those with 3,750 square feet or more of gross square footage if the operation has no more than four televisions. “Gross square footage” includes all interior and exterior space used to serve customers, including kitchen space, bathroom and storage space, but excludes the parking lot (unless used for something other than parking).

Any foodservice or drinking establishment that is 3,750 square feet or larger, must secure public performance rights for TVs or radios if any of the following conditions apply:

For TV, if the business is using any of the following:

more than four TVs; or
more than one TV in any one room; or
if any of the TVs used has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches; or
if any audio portion of the audiovisual performance is communicated by means of more than six loudspeakers, or four loudspeakers in any one room or adjoining outdoor space; or
if there is any cover charge.
For radio, if the business is using any of the following:

more than six loudspeakers; or
more than four loudspeakers in any one room or adjoining outdoor space; or
if there is any cover charge; or
music on hold.)

Tootler
01-25-2018, 11:04 PM
Their small venue fees do seem somewhat extortionate. There was an issue with PRS subs (UK equivalent of ASCAP/BMI) at a pub where a folk club I used to go to met. It was eventually resolved but I think the annual fee came down to a few hundred pounds. Even taking into account the pound/dollar conversion it would be well under the equivalent of $1000 and even under $500. I suspect you have to be prepared to barter. If they quote $3000, don't just accept it but tell them it's too much and see what they will come up with. It helps to have in mind a figure that you're prepared to accept.

The other surprise is the claim that songwriters aren't getting anything back from ASCAP. Surely the whole point is to collect royalties on behalf of the writers and composers and to redistribute them. For most it may not be very much. I've come across people whose songs have been recorded or are performed and they do get an occasional cheque from PRS. It may not be very much but they do have a formula for allocating royalties so the little folk do at least get something. Maybe ASCAP are too dominated by the big boys and just ignore the little ones. Not healthy but too much of a piece with today's world.

sculptor
02-01-2018, 09:17 PM
One thing I like to play is music from the Renaissance though the Classical period. Let's see ASCAP try and squeeze money out of that stone. Also, jamming on Blues progressions sounds pretty ASCAP proof.

-- Gary

kohanmike
02-02-2018, 04:43 AM
One thing I like to play is music from the Renaissance though the Classical period. Let's see ASCAP try and squeeze money out of that stone. Also, jamming on Blues progressions sounds pretty ASCAP proof. -- Gary

If I'm not mistaken, after 50 years, music goes to public domain.

janeray1940
02-02-2018, 05:08 AM
If I'm not mistaken, after 50 years, music goes to public domain.

Not if the copyright is renewed. "Happy Birthday (https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/06/28/happy-birthday-officially-public-domain-judge-rules/)" (which is now PD) is a really famous example of this.

Here's a really good overview (https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/public-domain/welcome/) (U.S. specific) of how works enter the public domain.