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Bluegrass Songs not on the BMI Playlist

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Apr 2, 2020 - 10:28:33 AM
688 posts since 12/23/2003

If your band is like my band, you have had to deal with the BMI folks at one time or another. They want restaurant owners to pay hundreds of dollars for songs that have been in the bluegrass music genre for very long time. Artists that write music should be compensated for their work - that's not my argument. It simply seems like giving someone money with nothing in return just to get to play music that has been around for decades. Is there a list of bluegrass songs that is not on that BMI playlist?

Apr 2, 2020 - 10:31:41 AM

688 posts since 12/23/2003

By the way, the song "Happy Birthday" in on the BMI playlist, so you have to pay BMI $500 a year to be able to sing that song to someone - just ain't right........

Apr 2, 2020 - 10:41:09 AM

Buddur

USA

2769 posts since 10/23/2004

I was very surprised when I first learned that the House of the Rising Sun...has been around so long that noone knows who wrote the song. Therefore, a traditional song that should not be on the BMI playlist.

You'd think there would be a BMI playlist posted somewhere in which you could search songs to ensure whether or not they are on the BMI's hitlist

Apr 2, 2020 - 10:44:04 AM

688 posts since 12/23/2003

Seems like BMI gets more for the songs than the guys that ordinarily wrote them.....

Apr 2, 2020 - 10:51:07 AM
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1360 posts since 4/13/2009

Both ASCAP and BMI collect fees to pay composers for what they wrote, so you want royalty-free tunes. Here's a BHO discussion from 2013 which includes a good start with a list of 40 or so.    https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/262969     What complicates such lists is that sometimes arrangements of traditional songs ar subject to license.

Apr 2, 2020 - 11:23:28 AM

Foote

USA

346 posts since 3/25/2009
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It doesn't matter to BMI/ASCAP, in my town they went after any venue with live music, including monthly open mics. They make the assumption that it's not possible to have an evening of music without violating one of their writers. Which brings up the second issue, where the money goes. A portion goes to the field agent who busts the venue, a portion to BMI/ASCAP lawyers and admin, and the portion that goes to the writers is based on broadcast numbers, not live performances. When a DJ plays a song, he records the performer and label, and that's reported to BMI/ASCAP. I've played in clubs off and on for 40 years and have never been asked to submit a list of songs performed. And since the songs we bluegrassers and old timers play isn't broadcast all that must, the money they get goes to Justin Bieber and the like. Creators need to be compensated, but this system sucks. It hit my town of Chico a few years ago and closed several of the small live music clubs that had bluegrass, folk and Americana.

Apr 2, 2020 - 11:33:17 AM

238 posts since 4/11/2019

I'm no lawyer, so dont take my advice.

I used to work in a small family owned business located in St Augustine Florida. The business was a small gift shop on the main pedestrian shopping street. The ASCAP guys came to town and tried run over anyone who was playing music in their shop. Then they started on the bars, where the same guys had been playing for years. The way we got around it was to offer the music we were playing FOR SALE. Every so often someone would run up to Costco and buy a dozen or so CD's of the same title, then we'd mark them up a bit.

Apr 2, 2020 - 12:33:32 PM

14760 posts since 12/2/2005

Do a search and you'll find many previous discussions on this topic.

Bear in mind that it's not just the original songwriters who are covered by BMI/ASCAP - and don't forget SESAC, which is the third PRO (Performance Rights Organization).

Arrangements of songs - even those in the public domain - can also be copyrighted and covered through PROs. So take, for example, a public domain song like Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More." You will effectively be violating a copyright if you lift your arrangement from someone who arranged it in the 1980s.

I'm not arguing for or against the practice. I'm just telling you the way it is.

Apr 2, 2020 - 1:00:12 PM

10696 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by gtaunton

They want restaurant owners to pay hundreds of dollars for songs that have been in the bluegrass music genre for very long time. Artists that write music should be compensated for their work - that's not my argument. It simply seems like giving someone money with nothing in return just to get to play music that has been around for decades. 


The age of composed works does matter, but not in the way you seem to think. Songs published before 1924 are in the public domain. That means no one owns copyright on them and anyone is free to perform them without paying any royalties to anyone.

Songs published after that date are still protected by copyright. And because of revisions and amendments to the copyright law over the years, I believe the life of copyright is different for songs published in different time periods, so I'm not going to attempt to say when copyright expires on songs published when.

Just think of it this way: If you look at liner notes on a record or CD and see songwriters credited on any song, then assume the copyright is still live.

As to getting nothing in return for BMI/ASCAP fees, I disagree.  The authors of the songs get compensated for the continued performance of their songs and the venues that pay the fees get the right to host live entertainment using the songwriters' intellectual property as a way to enhance their establishments, attract paying customers and generate income. Performers such as yourself get the right to perform music written by others for which you've paid no royalties beyond what the artist might have earned from your buying their CD.  If you never bought their CD, then they got even less.

Apr 2, 2020 - 1:05:16 PM
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10696 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Buddur

You'd think there would be a BMI playlist posted somewhere in which you could search songs to ensure whether or not they are on the BMI's hitlist


Good idea. Someone should suggest that BMI post a free searchable database of 14 million songs by over 900,000 songwriters.

Apr 2, 2020 - 2:17:26 PM
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banjoy

USA

8849 posts since 7/1/2006

PRO fees for small venues can be quite affordable, as low as $200-ish per year Per PRO +/- which gives full performance rights to the entire catalog. That's not a bad deal. Some of the hyperbole put forth in all these threads on this topic (including this one) is simply not the case.

As far as how that money is divided up, well, all three PROs have had for several years now online tools to document performances, etc so that the artists receives direct compensation. If those tools are not used by the artists, then ther are some arcane formulas that divvy up the money to songwriters. The PROs are set up for songwriters to receive compensation -- that's the purpose for which they exist -- and this is the only way it happens in scale. Unless you want to cut a deal with every songwriters whose work you perform...

Both BMI and ASCAP were created by Consent Decrees from the Department of Justice waaaay back when to counteract anti-competitive practices in the industry (basically, screwing songwriters). If you have issues with these consent decrees, well, now's your chance to voice your opinion since congress is in the middle of all this (unless this article is out of date by now, which is possible but I don't think so). If the PROs go away, how will songwriters be compensated for their work? Any ideas?

And, as far as I heard last, Happy Birthday was ruled to be in the public domain sometime back in 2015, and finally ruled on in 2016. So, sing Happy Birthday all you want without fear LOL.

I don't have a pony in this race. I'm just reporting the facts as I understand them to be.

Edited by - banjoy on 04/02/2020 14:19:35

Apr 2, 2020 - 2:24:26 PM

688 posts since 12/23/2003

Artists that write music should be compensated for their work - that's not my argument.

Apr 2, 2020 - 4:24:19 PM

10696 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by gtaunton

Artists that write music should be compensated for their work - that's not my argument.


OK. You agree that songwriters are entitled to their work.  When you complain about BMI collecting royalties on "songs that have been in the bluegrass music genre for a very long time" or that venues get nothing in return for paying fees so that performers can play  "music that has been around for decades," it sounds as if you'd like to reduce the number of years for which songwriters' can be compensated.

Is it your position that someone who wrote a song in the 1950s that's still being performed today should no longer be entitled to earn something on their work?

What's your vision of a fair compensation system other than the performing rights organizations?

Apr 2, 2020 - 5:25 PM
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688 posts since 12/23/2003

We play at a small local restaurant for tips because the lady that has the restaurant can’t really afford to pay a band several hundred dollars a night to come in and perform. All I ever wanted by asking this question was some songs for us to play so that we didn’t have to pay BMI or ASCAP. I am not looking to start an argument or a fight. You guys have way over complicated this thing is a lot of folks on the hang out often do.

Apr 2, 2020 - 7:56:24 PM
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533 posts since 8/14/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
 

The age of composed works does matter, but not in the way you seem to think. Songs published before 1924 are in the public domain. That means no one owns copyright on them and anyone is free to perform them without paying any royalties to anyone.

Songs published after that date are still protected by copyright. And because of revisions and amendments to the copyright law over the years, I believe the life of copyright is different for songs published in different time periods, so I'm not going to attempt to say when copyright expires on songs published when.

 


Yeah, there's a grey area because copyrights that expired and were not renewed before 1964 are also PD. But determining for certain that that is the case can be a PITA. And the rules for recordings are a mess that Congress has yet to straighten out.

Apr 2, 2020 - 8:57 PM

1698 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by gtaunton

We play at a small local restaurant for tips because the lady that has the restaurant can’t really afford to pay a band several hundred dollars a night to come in and perform. All I ever wanted by asking this question was some songs for us to play so that we didn’t have to pay BMI or ASCAP. I am not looking to start an argument or a fight. You guys have way over complicated this thing is a lot of folks on the hang out often do.


The lady that owns the restaurant can probably afford a couple hundred dollars a year for the license. That way you can play any song. You don't have to pay anything for performing the songs. If you are set on avoiding their catalog, think of a song you would like to play and search their database. 

Apr 2, 2020 - 9:06:09 PM

1698 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Foote

It doesn't matter to BMI/ASCAP, in my town they went after any venue with live music, including monthly open mics. They make the assumption that it's not possible to have an evening of music without violating one of their writers. Which brings up the second issue, where the money goes. A portion goes to the field agent who busts the venue, a portion to BMI/ASCAP lawyers and admin, and the portion that goes to the writers is based on broadcast numbers, not live performances. When a DJ plays a song, he records the performer and label, and that's reported to BMI/ASCAP. I've played in clubs off and on for 40 years and have never been asked to submit a list of songs performed. And since the songs we bluegrassers and old timers play isn't broadcast all that must, the money they get goes to Justin Bieber and the like. Creators need to be compensated, but this system sucks. It hit my town of Chico a few years ago and closed several of the small live music clubs that had bluegrass, folk and Americana.


The system is not perfect, but it really is the only way to do it. You even stated that in 40 years of playing, you never submitted a list of songs to a PRO. Had you submitted them, then they would have got logged and attributed to the songwriter as a public performance. It is really easy now a days. You can do it online, however no one still reports, so the only way to judge performances is through an algorithm based on broadcasts, that essentially figures, the more a song is broadcast, (which is a public performance in itself), the more unreported public performances it has also. 

Apr 2, 2020 - 9:07:38 PM
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1698 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by gtaunton

By the way, the song "Happy Birthday" in on the BMI playlist, so you have to pay BMI $500 a year to be able to sing that song to someone - just ain't right........


That is not how it works. 

Apr 2, 2020 - 9:40:09 PM

10696 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by 250gibson
quote:
Originally posted by gtaunton

By the way, the song "Happy Birthday" in on the BMI playlist, so you have to pay BMI $500 a year to be able to sing that song to someone - just ain't right........


That is not how it works. 


And "Happy Birthday to You" is now in the public domain. Not only that, but in a court settlement 4 years ago, the publisher Warner/Chappell Music agreed to pay back $14 million it had collected from people and businesses that had paid licensing fees to use the song. A court had earlier ruled that Warner/Chappell didn't actually own the song.

Apr 3, 2020 - 1:33:15 AM

297 posts since 3/12/2014

Well, a friend was "caught" playing his own songs that he kept the rights to in public.

It ended well but annoying never-the-less.

...Deb

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