Venues and Artists: We Can Help Each Other

The topic of music licensing is one we have dealt quite a bit. There are emotions and opinions on all sides of it, and certainly we have our own. What we bring you today is the way we have found to work together, as venues and artists, to help each other out. The ASCAP (and BMI / SESAC) model of music licensing is a one-size-fits-all arrangement, where smaller venues are treated the same as larger venues, regardless of yearly income or the number of ears that will be reached by music playing in that venue. 

We have two goals here:
1. For venues: show you how you can play music in your business, for free.
2. For artists: show you how you can get your music playing for more ears. 

Scenario 1: A business wants to turn on Pandora (or something similar) and play popular music for their customers. 
Simply stated, if a business wants to play a song on their speakers, and this business is open to the public, they must obtain a license from ASCAP, BMI and/or SESAC in order to play these songs. If you (the business) insist on playing the greatest hits of the 70s, or other songs "that everybody knows", then you'll need to get the right licenses from ASCAP, BMI and/or SESAC.

Scenario 2: A business simply wants to have some kind of background music, and they don't want to pay thousands of dollars for it 
If you (the business/venue) simply want background music, there is a way you can get it for free. Here's how it works: 
-A songwriter writes a letter to their Performing Rights Organization (PRO) and informs them that they (the songwriter) are giving rights to some specific business to play their songs.
-The songwriter gives their music to the business, along with a copy of the aforementioned letter sent to the PRO. 
-The business plays the music. 
-Business is happy because they have background music. Customers are happy for the same reason. Songwriter is happy because their music is playing for more ears. 

If you're a business, imagine what would happen if you had 25 songwriters offer you their CDs. That's easily 24 hours of music that wouldn't repeat in a given business day. You'd have background music, the artists would get exposure to new ears, and it is all legal. 

Songwriters, it is important to remember that your agreement with your PRO is non-exclusive. What that means is that you are essentially becoming the licensor in this arrangement, where you are licensing your songs to be played at a venue. It helps if you self-publish your songs, as you'll need agreement from your publisher as well. We encourage you to check the by-laws of your performing rights organization, of course, and it should go without saying that this not legal advice. This is simply advice from our experience, and is something we are actively doing with several of the venues we have relationships with. 

We've prepared a form letter that you can use - just fill in the blanks, and follow the steps under Scenario 2 above. 


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