So as I’m sure you have heard, BMI has filed a lawsuit against a small Idaho sports bar for neglecting to pay licenses for playing songs specifically by major label contractee Taylor Swift. It never fails to amaze me how licensing companies like BMI, ASCAP and SEASAC don’t hesitate at a chance to sue considerably smaller establishments for lack of “proper licenses.” What is more shocking though, is the fact that though Taylor Swift is named as a plaintiff in the suit, she technically will have no say in the proceedings and probably won’t even be present for any hearings. BMI will control all aspects of this case, seeing as they pay substantially for full-time teams of impenetrable lawyers, just for such an occasion. It is also worth noting that WHEN BMI either wins the suit in court or as a result of a settlement, Taylor Swift will directly receive no monies whatsoever.
The reason these cases are NEVER lost by these titans of trickery is because they stand behind one of the oldest and most well established laws of our time: Copyright Law. For a judge to throw out this case would be the equivalent of throwing out the whole almost 100 year old law all together, in terms of setting precedent, and this simply won’t happen. Unfortunately these companies are also well aware of this fact, and they tend to use this weight to throw at anyone they please.
So why do they stoop to suing small bars and retail stores in small inconsequential markets who are simply trying to supply their customers with an enjoyable atmosphere? Because they can, so they do. Remember this behavior when considering signing up with one of these companies, and let it serve as a warning to stay away. They use the payments they receive from their contractees to pay these lawyers, then sue on the behalf of a particular contractee, using even their name in the case, and then claim any monies received as a result for themselves. Does it sound like their best interests are protecting their client’s copyrights, or do they seem motivated by other, more lucrative proceedings. Unfortunately the 3 major companies occupying this market all are set up almost identically despite small insignificant differences in some policies. It turns out these companies are almost completely useless for any artist that is not at least nationally known, despite their high rate of independent artist contract renewals. Even many major artists have complained about not getting paid royalties for all of their on air appearances or performances, claiming their music was aired far more times than what they were compensated for. It seems they exist merely for the privilege of acting as an initial filter of any money that would be directed toward an artist for use of their work, while hiding behind the facade of nobly protecting the artist’s rights.
The key word of 2010 for independent artists need be “Patience!” These are problems that have been around for years and years, and despite the drastic changes the industry has seen, these problems and their initiators still seem to be up to the same old tricks. However with the realization of the potential of the internet on the industry, possibilities for new organizations and independent bonds are greatly increased and alternatives will begin to appear as soon as the middle of 2010. Keep your ear to the ground for those alternatives, I can assure you, they are coming. But until then, just focus on making good music! It should come as no surprise that this is what will matter most in the end after all.
Written By: Dante Cullari - Founder & President Beat-Play, LLC