The Empire Strikes Back

broken-cdThe American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, or ASCAP (or ASSHAT) is a lovely organization that collects royalties from various sources in relation to performance rights. While a few artists have been pleased to find checks in the mail, most join venues in feeling the sting of expensive fees, the threat of litigation, and mafia-style bullying. Over the last two years we’ve followed ASCAP’s dealings in Corvallis and have had the total displeasure of experiencing their influence. From DJs to bands to bars, open air events to, lord knows, probably singing in the shower… the damage to the local music scene has been clear. And now it has gotten even worse, with Les Caves and Troubadour announcing their exit from the list of live venues.

Troubadour Music decided to take a six-month hiatus from live music, a decision they attribute in part to the ASCAP structures available to them at a time they would have preferred to scale back temporarily. Citing exorbitant fees (as interpreted from a recent email from management), which can easily amount to thousands of dollars a year, Les Caves is taking a route that is less hiatus and more permanent. And who can blame them, considering ASCAP gleefully hits unlicensed venues with $30,000 per single play of a copyrighted song?

While a lot of local musicians have had mixed feelings, evident through a discussion on the Corvallis Noisemakers Facebook group, the general consensus is that less venues is a bad thing. ASCAP is a bad thing. Bad news all around for a scene already bottlenecked by a lack of diverse, paying venues.

By Johnny Beaver

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2 thoughts on “The Empire Strikes Back

  1. Don’t forget the other PROs,(Performing Arts Organizations)
    BMI and SESAC. They want their cut too.

  2. I’m definitely one of those musicians who want live venues to thrive – I appreciate the opportunity to play locally. As an ASCAP member (which I’ve been for many years – $10 will buy you a lifetime membership) it concerns me when I read of local venues struggling with ASCAP. ASCAP is ostensibly there to protect creators’ intellectual property rights – but when venues close the door on live performances then this obviously hurts local artists. Futher, it’s a bad deal for the economy (however micro it may be) – nobody wins with this model. I realize the issue is complicated and there are many aspects and perspectives involved. I’ve written a letter (for what it’s worth) to request an ASCAP rep to do a presentation to our Corvallis community…maybe it’s a fools errand but what the heck. I’d like to be in the room and hear them address some of these issues directly and work towards a mutual and sensible solution.

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