Wednesday, January 23, 2008

BMI and ASCAP are cum-sucking pigs

Right now I'm at the open mic at Inside the Bungalow in Mesa, Arizona. My fellow musicians and I have just been informed that next week will be the last open mic here. They've been paying protection money (aka licensing fees) to BMI for the last ten years but they missed this year's payment. As a result they must cease and desist and pay a $700 fine, even if they pay their bill and explicitly prohibit musicians from playing licensed cover songs from now on.

Last month I found that every live music coffeehouse in San Francisco has been similarly threatened and harrassed by BMI and/or ASCAP in the past year. They've all either shut down their open mics or banned cover songs. Now the snakes are slithering into the Phoenix area. It's likely that they'll put the chill on every open mic scene in the country within the next year or two.

I'm all for encouraging originality, but not this way. This kind of crackdown is like record companies prosecuting college students for downloading songs for free from the internet or lawyers harrassing day care centers for painting pictures of Mickey Mouse on the walls without paying off Disney. The musicians who write these songs make crumbs while weasels in suits walk away with most of the dough. It's greedy, mean, and ultimately self-destructive. No one's making money off these performances, but the performing rights organizations are getting free publicity for their songs every time some kid butchers Brown Eyed Girl in front of ten other musicians. They're not gaining anything by bullying the little guys. They're destroying an important part of our culture for a miniscule amount of cash.

BMI's corporate headquarters is at 320 West 57th Street, New York. I encourage everyone who finds themselves in or near The Big Apple to stand in front of their office and play some of the 6.5 million songs in their catalog. Open your guitar case and keep the change people throw at you. Do it in groups. Do it on an ongoing basis. Let's make it a new community tradition. I'll join you the next time I'm in town.

1 comment:

nlitenme2 said...

We are a small restaurant, seating 70 people. We OCCASSIONALLY have a local artist (usually a regular at our place) play. We do not charge a cover and their music is original. We are CONTINUALLY hounded by ASCAP and they are demanding hundreds of dollars from us or they will sue us! Can't this be stopped? This is ridiculous. We are struggling to stay open and cant afford the fees, nor do we feel we owe them! This is a CRIME!!!