To: Paul Williams, President of the Board, ASCAP, Michael O'Neill, President and CEO, BMI, Pat Collins, President and CEO, SESAC, and John Josephson, Chairman and CEO, Sesac
Support Independent Music; End Prohibitive Licensing Fees
Grant venues and cafes under 350 capacity exempt status from the prohibitive licensing fees levied by ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for the public performance of copyrighted material.
Why is this important?
We ask that the governing bodies of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC reevaluate their fee structure and collection tactics in regard to small venues, cafes and concert series. We assert that their current methods do not reflect the wishes of the majority of their members, nor do they serve their best interests. We ask that they open a dialogue and act in good faith to create a system that is truly fair and affordable, and takes into account the following facts:
All three organizations typically collect fees from each venue; the sum each PRO asks for should take this fact into consideration so that the total between all three is actually within the budget of the venue.
Small venues typically pay independent songwriters who own the copyrights to their material to perform it; this could be considered a direct payment from the venue to the owner of the copyright. The fees that these PRO's collect do not typically end up in the bank account of the songwriters that play small venues. While this is a bigger issue between the artists and the PROs we feel that this fact illustrates the unfair burden placed upon small venues to essentially subsidize the royalty payments of larger artists who do not play their venues. The fees taken from small venues should never threaten the venue's ability to subsidize the careers of local independent songwriters by paying them directly for the performance of their material.
In closing, as a member of ASCAP for over 20 years I believe that the role of the PRO is an important one and this petition is in no way intended to reduce the importance of organizations that protect and advocate for songwriters, artists etc. However, in order for this system to thrive there must be symbiosis between the venues, the artists and the PRO. When the fees charged by PROs are truly prohibitive and cause small venues to reduce or eliminate their music programs it hurts the very members that each Pro seeks to support.
We petition you to consider these facts and further offer to arrange a conversation with representatives of both the independent music and small business community if you would be willing to work towards a solution together. We believe that a compromise exists that would allow small venues to feature a sustainable and thriving music program while still complying with Federal law and doing their part to support songwriters and the organizations that advocate for them.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.