I'm all for coffee places and bars and church meeting halls offering music. Musicians I'm sure like the idea too. But musicians might also like the idea of getting paid if they write a song that someone else likes enough to sing.
So when BMI and ASCAP find these little places and demand licensing fees, it's not as simple as David versus Goliath - because Goliath claims to be representing lots of little Davids and Donnas and more.
Venue owners say that letting local artists get a start is important, and often a non-profit effort, and charging annual fees of about $1000 (total, for each of the three licensing organizations) will hurt musicians by forcing them (the owners) to stop presenting music. The copyright groups say that you wouldn't open a venue without paying your electric or phone bills, so why would you deprive songwriters of what little money there is in the music world these days if you’re not Lady Gaga?
It bothers me to hear live music being lumped in with a club's utility bills. But this gets us to the real thorny issue - music as something we own, and yes, as something to be bought and sold. Our copyright laws have not kept up with technology and the way music is actually played and used. There has to be a middle ground between depriving a songwriter of the ability to make a living on the one hand and bringing the heavy fist of a desperate industry down on small club owners trying to give local musicians a leg up.
Should a small place offering a spot to local musicians be required to pay a music licensing fee? Leave a comment.