Nobody Knows How The Music Business Works

Check out this story: Restaurant owner says songs may cost him his business

Basically, this guy didn’t have the proper licenses for music performance, got called on it, and now has to pay for the violations.

Now, check out these Digg comments.

Basically, they treat this as a hidden tactic, a new way to screw people out of money. I particularly love the comments that are basically “FUCK THE RIAA!!”

First of all, the RIAA has absolutely nothing to do with the case. They are concerned with audio recordings. In this case, it’s all about performance rights, which means that if people are upset, they should direct their concerns to ASCAP.

Secondly, this is not a new tactic. This has been part of the deal ever since performance rights organizations were established. You want to cover a song on your CD? You gotta give the composer a cut. You want to have music performed for commercial purposes? You gotta give the composer a cut.

Third, people have to get over the idea of the arts inherently being free. They’re sick of record companies screwing artists, but they’re not upset when a guy doesn’t pay the license for the performing rights of a piece of music.

You can’t win. How are artists supposed to make money from their works? The works that so many people claim they should be compensated for making, thus, encouraging more artistic output?

If they couldn’t make money off of this, then it wouldn’t be called the music business now, would it? And if you can’t make money off of it, then there’d be nobody who’d make music professionally.

Some will ask “well, this guy is playing their music for free. It’s advertising for them.”

Well, what if you look at it like this:

  1. Restaurants and coffehouses need to attract customers.
  2. The offer open mic nights and other local artists.
  3. People come to see the performers and, while there, buy product from the establishment.

If you have a coffehouse and you believe that nobody will ever play covers, ever, then you are truly naïve.

Sure, it’s the performers that attract the clientele, but, minus whoever the performer asked to come that night, do most people stick around to hear originals?

Ask the performers how many CDs they sold after open-mic and you’ll get your answer.

5 thoughts on “Nobody Knows How The Music Business Works”

  1. The answer to how many cds someone sells after open mic night is 0-1.

    For the record, I think that business owners should be responsible enough to know that there is a price to pay for live music. If you’re creative about it, it’s not even that big of a price. A coffeehouse I used to go to had “Kiss my ASCAP” night – they’d ask a bunch of local acts to come in and donate a 30 minute set of ridiculous covers, they’d advertise the shit out of it, and they’d make enough money to pay off all or most of their ascap fines in one evening.

    So, while I feel bad, I definitely feel that he should have done his homework. ASCAP is not exactly a secret organization.


  2. Hmm so I’m supposed to feel bad for a dead artist, and a rich pop artist? Nahhhh

    Beyond that I don’t think you’re considering that you went to school with a focus in music business and 99% of the population has not. I was oh so fortunate to sit through an entire semester of an obnoxious copyright lawyer in Florida and I was aware of this law but I think it’s a stretch to assume others might. Also, I don’t see the point in even glancing at the mob mentality monstrosity that is digg comments… ugh.

  3. You also don’t consider the fact that pop artists don’t always write the songs they record. This is how those composers get further compensated.

    Because people don’t know what the law is means they’re justified in breaking it?

  4. Just because something is a law doesn’t make it justifiable to me. Look at the mush that the Bush administration pushes, do you feel like you should be responsible for it all?

    I also don’t care about the money pop artists or their writers are losing unless I’m missing something and the vast majority of these people don’t have money shooting out of their wallet already?

    I’m more concerned with buying a local artists record, or an unPOPular record. I’m thinking these bands tend to avoid this problem of being covered too?

  5. True: Just because something is a law doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do.

    You are missing something. Those fees compensate the smaller guys too, which make up most of the artists in the music business. About maybe 5% of what a record label is considered a success. For the artists that make tons of money, they tend to live in excess. Because of this the general message put out there is that every artist in the music business is rolling in cash.

    For coffeehouse/bars/nightclub covers, it’s not practical (or possible) to monitor every cover done. Because of this the payouts are not significant, but also not discriminating. Which means that your local band who is a member of ASCAP or BMI gets the same payout from nightclub covers as bigger artists.

    Ascap charges $10 in dues for writers. No fees for BMI except the one time charge of $100. Because of their collection procedures from radio, TV, nightclubs, etc, it more than pays for itself if you do this kind of thing for a living.

    I don’t expect most people to understand this, but I do expect it of someone running a night spot. That article cites $750 to $30,000 fine per song in there. That’s a lot of room for negotiation, and, like most cases, will likely be settled for a lot less. (The knee-jerk reaction is that ASCAP is evil, especially after seeing the $30k figure.)

    Same with the RIAA. They claim something ridiculous like a $100k fine per song when suing file sharers, but end up settling for $3-5k total.

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