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I have been tinkering with it ever since trying to keep it more up-to-date, since I want to help shed some light on a complicated situation that has a large impact on musicians, music listeners and public places where music happens. Undoubtedly parts of it need updating, but the basic explanations and issues are still unchanged.
My experience is that musicians, venues and the general public know almost nothing of this system that has a great deal of influence in the music business, and involves nearly a billion dollars annually. These organizations exist by a strange set of legal circumstances, and are very little understood or regulated, yet they have a wide influence and control a lot of money in the modern music industry and in hundreds of thousands of places of business.
A number of publications declined to publish this, not wishing to stir up too much trouble. There have been many edits and updates since it was written, and one of these days I hope to seriously research and update it or encourage a professional journalist to dig into it I welcome your input to update this information if you find something incorrect.
My only intent is to explain what I understand to be the way the system works, though my own opinion that we could design a better system no doubt creeps in. A number of issues that that need clarifying have arisen since this was written, and could use the services of a skilled journalist or investigator to look into.
These include whatever changes have been made by insiders to ASCAP and BMI charters and bylaws, the emergence of SESAC as a larger player in this game, the complex issues of licensing Karaoke, games, podcasts, satellite, cable and internet music, as well as other changes involving the use of internet, television and video in public businesses.
The basic system of licensing is still in place, and the explanation of its details is still accurate, and I would venture a guess that size of the "licensing empires" and the total dollar amounts of licensing money have gone vastly higher than the old numbers I give here.
You obviously don't need a license to blast some music at a private party in your house, but advertising publicly that you're having a concert at your house where copyrighted music is being performed is not OK with everyone.
It's a delicate issue. I also encourage some of you to read this posting by songwriter and folk musician Richard Phillipswho wrote me his saga of how he became possibly the first person to beat BMI in a legal battle over a BMI license for a restaurant.
It involved him playing only his own music and traditional songs in a cafe in New York state. It's long and involved, but if you are really into this stuff it's worth reading. Harvey Reid Oct Many of you who are music listeners have no doubt read the small print in the liner notes of recordings, seen the letters ASCAP and BMI, assumed that they had some legal meaning concerning ownership of music and never thought much more about it.
Many musicians, writers, club owners, promoters and other active participants in our music industry do not know much more about these organizations than this, even though they control huge amounts of money and have vast power in the music business.
And it may well be true that many who understand this system the least are people who have the most legitimate grievances against it. It is certainly worth trying to look inside a hidden industry that controls so much money and power in the name of the public good, without any elected public officials or legislatures having a say in its operation.
ASCAP derives all its power not from any laws that have been passed by elected officials, but from a decades-old federal judicial consent decree in the Southern District Court of New York.
ASCAP is an unincorporated membership association, and not a non-profit corporation as it is often assumed. Struggling musicians and songwriters seem to have become pervaded with sort of a lottery-ticket mentality; they know that if they make it big they will receive a lot of royalty money someday from ASCAP or BMI, so they generally join and don't complain.
Since nobody plans to stay unknown and impoverished, the concern among less-than-world-renowned music business people about what they might do to get a fairer shake in the system before fame sets in seems small.
ASCAP has published remarks to the effect that all legal challenges to their system have come only from consumers of music and not owners, and they state in their literature that "apparently the writers and composers are satisfied with the current system.
Those who are in a position to reform the performance rights licensing system are the very ones who are profiting most from it, and the system shows no signs of abandoning any of its long-established methods of running itself.
The focus of the "PRO's" performance rights organizations and the music publishing industry in general have moved away from sheet music, becoming almost entirely focused on "performance" royalties. This is intended to be a way that owners of music can be paid when their music is used in "public performances.
In ASCAP had about 32, writer and 14, publisher members and no doubt these numbers are significantly larger now.Praise and Worship Radio - Now Playing on Pandora A Call To Worship by Caedmon's Call See more.
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About Jess Zafarris Jess Zafarris is the Director of Content Strategy and Online Content for Writer’s Digest and ScriptMag. Her eight years of experience in digital and print content direction includes such roles as editor-in-chief of HOW design magazine and online content director of HOW and PRINT, as well as writing for the Denver Business Journal, ABC News, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Finding fast, upbeat worship songs is one of the toughest parts of a worship leader’s job. I still haven’t quite figured out why this is. Maybe it’s a lot easier for worship artists to write slow, contemplative songs. Receive, now, the offering of our worship: the gifts we bring from Your field, the songs we sing from Your Spirit, the words we say from our heart. Increase the harvest, O Lord. This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
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