When Should a Small Business Pay ASCAP or BMI?

Small businesses and licensing fees to performing rights organizations

Small businesses and licensing fees to performing rights organizations

Ganka Hadjipetrova, Esq.

A growing number of small businesses are being unpleasantly surprised with letters from performing rights organizations, such as the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), with indirect or direct threats of copyright infringement.  The performing rights organizations, or PROs, which manage musical copyrights on behalf of their owners, request that businesses pay a licensing fee for playing in their shops musical recordings from the PROs repertoires.  Small mom and pop stores, for whom legal advice may be prohibitively expensive, must then decide whether to pay the PROs or disregard the letter and possibly face a court action for copyright infringement.  This article focuses on the small business’ risk of incurring copyright liability for playing music in its business space without the rights owners’ authorization and suggests courses of action to minimize that risk.

The brief answer to the question of whether playing musical recordings within a small business’ space amounts to copyright infringement is:

–        “no” for radio and television broadcasts over the air, whether played in public or not; and

–       “possibly yes” for musical recordings played in any other manner, for instance, MP3 files on a computer or free Internet radio, and in public.

The right to perform musical recordings belongs exclusively to the copyright holders.

United States copyright law protects original works of authorship[i] and entitles the authors to a number of exclusive rights.[ii]  The owners of copyrights in sound recordings, for example, have exclusive rights of reproduction, adaptation, distribution, and public performance of the recordings.[iii]  These rights are independent from one another and a waiver of one right does not waive the others.  For example, purchasing a copy of a sound recording only gives reproduction and distribution rights and does not permit the purchaser to further reproduce and distribute the copy or to perform the sound recording in public.  Under the Copyright Act, to perform a sound recording means to play the sound recording directly or by means of any device.[iv]

Thus, a store or other small business playing musical recordings through a playback device or a radio receiver engages in a performance under the terms of the Copyright Act.  Performing the recordings in public therefore creates copyright liability for the business unless such performance is authorized by the copyright owners, fits within a statutory exemption, or falls outside the statutory definition of “public performance.”

The law provides two defenses against claims of infringement of the public performance right.

Assuming that a small business is not authorized to play the recordings, the discussion below analyzes the two potential defenses against a claim of infringement: (1) whether the “homestyle exemption” applies to the situation; and (2) whether the playing of music recordings in the business can be considered a non-public performance.

1)    Section 110(5) exemption (“homestyle exemption”)

Section 110(5) of the Copyright Act provides an exemption for the reception of radio or TV broadcasts in an establishment open to the public for business.[v]  The purpose of the “homestyle” exemption is to release from copyright liability anyone who merely turns on, in a public place, an ordinary radio or television receiving apparatus of a kind commonly sold to members of the public for private use.  The basic rationale of this clause is that the secondary use of the transmission by turning on an ordinary receiver in public is so remote and minimal that no further liability should be imposed.

The exemption only applies to a single radio or television receiving apparatus of the type used in one’s home.  If the broadcast signal is received in an establishment of an area smaller than a certain gross square footage – less than 3,750 square feet for a food service and drinking establishment and less than 2,000 square feet for any other type of business – the law puts no limitation on the number of loudspeakers and TV monitors that may be connected to the receiving apparatus.[vi]  Where the gross area of the business exceeds these minimums, the law imposes limits on the number of loudspeakers and TV monitors as well as on their placement and – in the case of audiovisual monitors – their size.  The device must be relatively small and of limited sound producing capacity.  In addition, the business may not directly charge customers for listening or watching the broadcasts and the signal may not be further transmitted.  The broadcaster itself must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.[vii]

The case of playing music on so-called Internet radio (e.g., Pandora) likely falls outside the scope of the homestyle exemption.  The language of the statute expressly limits the exemption to “a radio or television broadcast station licensed as such by the Federal Communications Commission.”  Internet radio transmissions, although seemingly fitting the same logic as radio and TV broadcasts over the air, do not require licensing by the FCC and are thus not squarely covered by the 110(5) exemption.

On the other hand, Pandora and other free Internet radio webcasters are usually licensed by the performing rights societies such as ASCAP and BMI and one could argue that the logic of the “homestyle exemption” should be extended to such radios as well.  This argument, however, has not been tested in court yet and it is not clear whether courts would accept it.  The safest course of action is to avoid playing Internet radio without authorization from the copyright holders.

An alternative to free Internet radio is satellite radio.  In contrast to an Internet radio service such as Pandora, satellite radio subscription for businesses is covered by the homestyle exemption.  SiriusXM for Business is a paid subscription service which handles copyright royalties for businesses.[viii]  Through such a subscription, the business would avoid having to pay licensing fees to the different performing rights organizations.  The business may choose to listen through an internet reception or through a satellite receiver.  It should be noted, however, that the licensing fees for most performing rights organizations amount to an annual sum not substantially different than that charged by satellite radio.  Depending on the negotiated price, a company may be indifferent between paying to one performing rights organization and subscribing to satellite radio.  The advantage of a general license to play that society’s repertoire regardless of the device chosen, e.g., personal computer or another audio system, may be overridden by the need to pay a licensing fee to several PROs, not just to one.

2)    Definition of Public Performance

Another possible defense against a claim for infringement is that the performance of the recordings is not public.  According to the statutory definition, a sound recording is performed publicly when played “at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.”[ix]  Courts have ruled that public performance of musical pieces encompasses the playing of recordings over a stereo system in a business establishment for the entertainment of customers.[x]  Public performance occurs even where the customers are not directly charged for listening to the music.[xi]

The question arises whether the performance is public if the place where the music is played is the staff’s work space to which customers do not have access.  In that case, there would be a strong argument that the performance is not a place open to the public.  This argument may not be applicable to stores where, as is commonly the case with bakeries, for example, the staff’s work space is not fully enclosed but is separated from the customer space by a half-wall sales counter.  Because the enclosure is only partial, the sound from the sound system located in the work space easily travels to the customer space.  As long as the sound is loud enough for the music to be distinguishable to the customers, it may be difficult to argue that the playing of the music is not a public performance.


Where mom and pop stores play musical recordings, they engage in a performance of copyrighted material under the Copyright Act.  If the music sound is clearly audible in the space designated for customers, the playing most likely infringes the owners’ exclusive public performance rights in the sound recordings.

Possible Courses of Action:

  1. Switch to broadcast radio only.

If the business switches to playing broadcast radio through one homestyle apparatus only, it may do so without risk of any copyright infringement liability.  In the case of a food service and drinking establishment of less than 3,750 gross square feet or of another type of business with an area of less than 2,000 gross square feet, the business may connect any number of loudspeakers or TV monitors to the receiving apparatus.  The loudspeakers and monitors may be located at any place within the business and the adjoining outside space.

        2.   Play music at a reduced volume.

The business may play musical recordings in the staff work space but do so at a low volume so that customers would not be able to hear the music or would hear it at a level that would not meaningfully add to the atmosphere of the customer space.  Where the business has a half-wall or an open-wall counter, the wall may be built higher or into a full wall so as to prevent or decrease the traveling of the sound to the customer areas.

Such a course of action would necessarily involve a certain risk.  It is possible in this case that copyright holders in the music played may choose to sue for infringement of their public performance right.  In a case where the rights owners prevail, the business may be subject to injunctive relief and substantial damages.[xii]  The law allows the owners to sue for either actual damages[xiii] or statutory damages.[xiv]  A performing rights organization would likely sue for statutory damages as it would be difficult to prove actual losses and profits.  The court has discretion to determine the amount of statutory damages in a range between $750 and $30,000 per individual copyrighted work infringed, i.e., for each song played.[xv]  It must be noted, however, that a PRO will likely face challenging proof issues in identifying the pieces infringed.

Although it is unlikely that the PRO will choose the expensive path of litigation, it must be kept in mind that this option is available to them.

       3.   Pay the respective annual PRO license fee.

In view of the potential risks of an infringement lawsuit and the cost associated with litigation, which may run in the tens of thousands of dollars, the better course of action may be to enter into a licensing agreement with the PRO.  It must be noted that businesses always have the option of negotiating a lower fee than asked based on their individual circumstances.  Knowledge of the law in the area would help in such negotiations.

It must be noted that each performing rights organization manages the rights to a separate repertoire of musical works.  To ensure that all music played in its space is authorized, businesses must obtain licenses from all PROs.  Currently there are three PROs – the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and SESAC.  ASCAP and BMI control the rights to most musical pieces.  If a business chooses this course of action, it will then face the decision whether to buy licenses from one, two, or all three PROs.  The licensing fees will vary according to the individual circumstances of the business, such as type of business, customer space, and business hours.  Typically, the cost to a small business to obtain an annual license from one of the larger PROs, such as ASCAP, is in the range of 300 to 500 US dollars.

      4.   Do nothing.

Once the business has received a warning letter from a performing rights organization requesting a fee payment, the PRO will continue to keep track of the business and insist on payment.  Failure to respond to the PRO’s letter may lead to a much greater risk of litigation and the business would be ill-advised to follow such a course of action.

[i] Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 102(a).

[ii] 17 U.S.C. § 106.

[iii] 17 U.S.C. § 106(4).

[iv] See 17 U.S.C. § 101, definition of “perform.”

[v] 17 U.S.C. § 110(5).

[vi] 17 U.S.C. § 110(5)(B)(i)(I) & (ii)(I).

[vii] 17 U.S.C. § 110(5)(B).

[ix] 17 U.S.C. § 101.

[x] See Lodge Hall Music, Inc. v. Waco Wrangler Club, Inc., 831 F.2d 77 (5th Cir. 1987); Blue Seas Music, Inc. v. Fitness Surveys, Inc., 831 F.Supp. 863 (N.D. Ga. 1993).

[xi] See Bagdadi v. Nazar, 84 F.3d 1194, 1199 (9th Cir. 1996) (showing copyrighted instructional video in private language school was “public performance” where school was open to public and video was intended to be performed for students in classroom setting).

[xii] 17 U.S.C. § 501 et seq.

[xiii] In that case the copyright holder has to prove actual damages to him or her plus whatever additional profits the infringer obtained as a result of the public performance. 17 U.S.C. § 504(b).  The court may also award litigation costs and attorney’s fees. 17 U.S.C. § 505.

[xiv] 17 U.S.C. § 504(a).

[xv] 17 U.S.C. § 504(c).

251 thoughts on “When Should a Small Business Pay ASCAP or BMI?

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  • Our bar leases a jukebox.Who pays these fees when songs are played are we paying them in our monthly lease amount? Or should we be paying them over and above this fee. Also if we have karaokee,does the fees paid for the jukebox cover karaokee also?

  • I own a small hotel with about 65 rooms and I have two TVs in the common areas of the hotel one in the lobby and one in the gym. I have them both set to mute for the volume, would I need to obtain a Seasac license? I have been harassed by Seasac to obtain one but I’m not sure it makes sense given I’m not playing any audio and I have both TVs set to news channels and help would be greatly appreciated.

  • I have several friends that own small bars. once In awhile I do play my guitar and sing some songs for free. Do they still have to have BMI or ASCAP and pay them. I repeat, I do not get paid It’s just for fun.

    • Ken, If you stick with original music, you will be fine. Should you play cover songs, then all three licenses must be obtained by the property.

  • What you all small businesses need to know is that there is a small business exemption that exempts you from having to get a license. If your establishment is smaller than 2000 sq feet, you do not need to get a license to play music or TV. If it is larger than 3700 sq feet and serves food and drink, there are limits on number of TVS and speakers but you can get around paying any fees if you construct it correctly. For live performances, it has to be proven to be “open to the public” otherwise it is not a public performance. Hope this helps.

  • if it is original work, no copyright licenses are needed. That is ridiculous. Send them a cease and desist. or ignore them. They should eventually go away. If you only play originals, then nothing to license, their lawsuit, should they ever file one, would be frivolous. Just don’t ignore it if you do get sued. Get a lawyer to file an answer demanding strict proof of each and every claim. They will have a hard time proving which song you played that infringed upon a copyright intentionally. The law is not written to trap the weary. It requires willful infringement. and actual infringement. If you are playing your own version of a ‘cover” but change words and sound up, is it still the copy written work or a new original? All of these are interesting items and issues. The copywritten piece is the actual composition as recorded by the original artist. The words and the composition each can be separately copywritten. But we have all heard about those artists that make fun of “hot songs” and get sued for infringement. Guess what? The comedic musician won.

    • When you say “they will have a hard time proving which song you played”, how do they prove which songs were played? Do they have to have a live recording or a witness?

      • They send in a person to record all music being played. If you are conducting Karaoke, that person will even request and sing only songs covered by their company.

  • As a funeral director, I have a problem with the agreement the licensing groups have with the NFDA. I am a small, family owned funeral home. We have background music we play during visitations, which you cannot hear once people start talking. At services, we play what the family requests. We have no control over what happens during the service. The family & the minister determine what happens during the service. One big problem I have is that we pay by location. A large city funeral home which has 1000 services a year pays the same thing I do for my 50 or so funerals a year. I think it is a crock! I am here to care for families, people do not come here for the musical entertainment!

  • For fight site,s such as “Showdown fights”, Does a local bar need written permission to show the fight via internet if no fee is being charged to view the event?

  • What if you are putting on a sporting event and only playing small portions of songs at a time? Would you still need to obtain a licence? What if a DJ was hired to do so and we payed that person?

    • It doesn’t matter if the Dj has a license or if you just play part of a song. The establishment is required to have the licenses.

      I don’t work for any BMI, ASCAP or SESAC. I have a license with ASCAP & SESAC, was refused a license with BMI.

      Be careful. I didn’t even get my day in court. Summary Judgement for BMI. $21,000 for 7 infringements.

  • We have a small bar that brings in maybe 50 people on a band or dj night. When I discussed with the BMI rep paying the yearly minimum ($343 I think) since there was no listing for my crowd size the rep said that was impossible. Said they have to go by my square footage. I received 2 different quotes. One for over $900 then after negotiating with the rep I received a 2nd quote for a little over $700. When I asked another rep about them changing the totals at their discretion i got no real answer, only threats of legal action if I didnt pay. Strangely, they go by the square footage of the entire building not taking into account that only 1/3 of the building holds customers. I tried explaining this to the rep but could not get them to understand. I then told the rep that I would ensure that no one would play BMI music but I was told that was “impossible”. I asked what if we only had them play public domain music and was again told “impossible”. I have asked several businesses in my area that are roughly the same size as mine and some larger if they are contracted through or being contact by BMI. I have yet to have one say yes. And, BMI refuses to say what businesses have licenses with them. It would seem that they would be more than willing to provide this information as proof that they are legitimate with what they are doing. They also claim that other businesses will lie about having licenses. That makes no since at all.

    • BAD COMMENT!!!!!!!

      Be careful. I didn’t even get my day in court. Summary Judgement for BMI. $21,000 for 7 infringements.

      look it up: BMI vs. Carey On Saloon.

  • My family has owned and operated a small restaurant in WNY for almost twenty years now. When we started to play music inside the restaurant, as well as the outside patio bar area, we received letters informing us to attain licenses to play their music. Both ASCAP and BMI were involved, sending people to secretly investigate if music was being played. They would not inform us of the music they protected, so we could avoid playing their music. After growing frustrations when trying to settle the issue without purchasing these licenses, my establishment decided to ignore further requests. These companies impose their licenses on businesses and offer little help or possibility to negotiate a practical solution fitted for each business. Instead, we were subject to their standard model for prices and guidelines, which loosely fit our operations. In the end, ASCAP decided to take it to court. It cost a huge amount of money and stress when the court ruled in their favor. So do not think that they won’t take you to court to settle the matter, even if you’re just a small business! I suggest using a subscription based service to play music since they take care of all the royalties! I hope sometime soon somebody makes headlines with how corrupt the whole industry is. It seems to me that there can be headway for business owners in this matter, we just need a little light to reveal it.

    • Sorry to hear this. I hope someone is successful in the future as well. I wish I would have at least been given the opertunity to have my day in court.

  • Most of these comments are referring to bars and restaurants, whereas my questions are about a gymnastics school.

    ASCAP sent us an agreement, which is geared toward a dance school. Unlike a dance school, we do not play music for the entire duration of most of our classes. Some classes have no music at all, and others have music just during the warm-up period. The only classes that play music the entire time are our toddler gym classes (a very small portion of our business). Therefore, it seems like the fee they are asking is too high for what we actually use.

    Secondly, we have four locations of our business, all of which are owned and operated by the same people. Would this mean that our one license fee should cover all four locations? Paying a separate license fee for each location to all three PRO’s would be ridiculously expensive, and completely out of line for the amount of music that we use.

    Any insight is appreciated.

  • I own a gymnastics club and we, at times, have the radio on while classes are running and/or play music purchased from companies designed for use in gymnastics competition that come with the right to play them publicly. While our facility goes well beyond the sizes you mention due to the nature of our business, we utilize normal home stereo equipment and make no effort to pipe the music beyond the gymnastics training area (no parent or lobby areas). While the music for floor routines can be heard throughout the gym at times, the music on the radio can’t be heard beyond that training area. Certainly there is no expectation that we are providing that entertainment on any level and no one is charge for this. Are we required to purchase a license? This seems ridiculous.

  • I am sincerely interested in obtainin g information. I understand about BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC. There are several clubs, bars and other establishments here in my area that I am 99% sure are NOT licensed by any of the legal agencies to do so. They say that they are, but yet refuse to provide and/or show their license.

    So if I understand correctly, clubs receive a Blanket license and they can play any and all music. Are they required to produce and/r show their lice upon request?

    Thank you,

    Dr. Reed

    • If someone asked for “proof” of any of the three licenses, the only documentation I would have for proof is my check. They don’t acutally provide you with a “license”… like to hang on the wall.

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  • I’ve read through many of the above posts. My business (capacity 40 people) features live music once a week for 1.75 hours. The musicians are local and play their own original music. They are thrilled to have a place to perform their own music. I pay the musician, and if I break even, I am happy. I have the musicians sign a contract agreeing not to play covers, and they fully realize we do not pay royalty fees. They may also choose to donate a cd containing their own original music to be played over our 2 speakers. They sign off on this as well.

    A couple years ago one of the “big guys” called, emailed, mailed, and ultimately harassed us for months, finally paying a visit. They did say the coverage would be in case anyone did play Happy Birthday. I declined the royalty contract, and that was the end of the stress. Now another “big guy” has started the harassment.

    This is ridiculous. I have permission from the artists themselves. I have explained to the “big guys” as I did above. Why can’t they just lay off?! And wouldn’t one think the musician playing the covers might be the one that should pay since THEY CHOOSE not to perform their originals?? Making the musician responsible…what a novel idea!

    <3 my original musicians!

  • I’m looking into licensing. I have a small place. I don’t play CDs or have bands. I do have a group of senior citizens who, get together and sit at a table and play mostly their creations. I’m curious. Please get back to me whenever you can. Oh, there is no payment to me or from me. I’d like to let them still get together, but business has been so bad, that I may have to tell them no.

  • Hi all,

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  • I finally caved into the strong arm tactics of BMI. I sent them the requested amount. I did not sign their “agreement”, and stated that I do not agree that an entity that has not contributed any blood, sweat or tears or money into the start up costs, license purchases, tax payments or inventory costs, can extort additional fees to line the pockets of any one outside of the mandated infrastructure. I did my due diligence. No where did I find in my state of business, information on additional licensing fees from outside entities other than the Feds. So now they have my money. Have already cashed the check, but it seems that my business is now “under review” because I did not sign a document that I don’t agree with. Go figure.

    • Thank you for standing up to this BS! I wish more would. I understand the desire to remain upstanding in your business practices, but when someone calls and says, “Hey, you play music in your business. You owe us!”, why does everyone just begin to shake and act on the threat? Due diligence pays!

  • I thought that the reason that Karaoke songs begin with “in the style of” artist, was to avoid these fees or from copyrights? The karaoke that I play is not from original music it is re recorded by recording groups.

  • So if a venue only offers, original music, non-cover bands, what happens when a band is registered with ASCAP / BMI / SESAC as songwriters… doesn’t this whole “original music” argument go right out the window? I’ve been to many original music band live shows and all I ever see is them selling T-shirts, CDs, etc… If at some point, any point, they plan on making money off the songs they wrote (radio, jukeboxes, Pandora, etc), isn’t a catch-22 to use the original band loophole, seeing that the average “small band” wants to become a bigger band at some point?

  • I have a small sports bar with a licensed jukebox. my customers enjoy watching SPORTS on the TV. I am told they can not listen to my SPORTS broadcasts because some advertiser MIGHT play licensed music on a commercial. Its ok to play the jukebox during the whole game, because its licensed, but I cannot play the sports broadcast, which is what they want to listen to. They do not care about listening to the commercials. AmI covered since my sports broadcasts come over direct tv, that is over the air. If the advertisers are paying fees to put the music in the commercials, why do I have to pay again to play the commercials, that no one wants to hear anyway?

  • where can i find a list of non copyrighted music? With all this licensing crap, it would be better for artists to start releasing uncopyrighted work so people can actually hear it in bars or games or …..the poor not for profit nursing homes being harassed to pay obnoxious fees for residents!!!

  • We are a small non-profit organization that hosts a contest for high school marching bands every year to raise money to cover the costs of running our organization. Should we be paying ASCAP, BMI, etc. since we sell tickets to this concert?

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  • I agree with a lot of what is said and that the songwriters should get some sort of royalty. ASCAP and BMI have been harassing my friend at his bar when he already pays for an AMI jukebox and business cable TV which should cover all the rest. He did end up paying for fear of lawsuit, but according to what I have read here and the size of the business they have successfully strong armed him into paying almost 2000 dollars. He was extorted and should probably file a suit and or complaint.

    As far as the napkin story goes it makes some sense, but if, as was stated the radio station is already paying, then it would be like myself buying napkins and giving them away for free to restaurants then having the napkin makers go to the establishments and try to make them pay to use the napkins. Then another napkin company comes along and and tries to strong arm you in case someone uses one of their napkins in your establishment. Ludicrous. This is way out of hand and there should be only one entity with fair prices.

    A “few pennies per day” is BS when you pay a few thousand to the 3 entities. If all the radio stations are paying and all the commercial service utility companies are paying and you are paying a jukebox service then why are the businesses also having to pay? How many times do the writer’s get reimbursed for the same song? A plummer gets paid to get water to my home should he continue getting part of the water bill as long as water is coming into my home? Just as ludicrous.

    This new technological age has brought with it many new issues for lot’s of different businesses on many different levels, but there has to be a fair way to distribute the regulations. According to the U.S. Census there are over 500,000 restaurants and around 43,000 drinking establishments. If they all paid $700 a year to the 3 PRO entities that would be well over a billion a year plus radio, TV, CDs, digital downloads you would have to be looking at over a 2 billion dollar industry, probably over over 3. No wonder the they always win against the people that are struggling to stay open already with all the local, state and federal regulations and taxes and costs of doing business in the first place.

    • Never heard of anyone going to a funeral home, grocery store, or retirement community because they play music. Hmmm…I’m hungry, I think I will go to Kroger’s because they play really good elevator music compared to IGA, or I think I will put mom in Victory Gardens because they have a great music selection. Or John’s Funeral Home plays the best music so I think I will make funeral arrangements there. $300 to $9000 per establishment from just BMI so without checking prices for the other 2 you could potentially be paying $27,000 a year. “just pennies”.

      Since the case is made that they are using music to make money than in the same breath the artist should be charged by Gibson, Fender, Marshall and all of the other musical and sound equipment companies they use “to make money” since it is that same equipment used to record the music that keeps getting sold and even played in establishments. Not too many going to want to buy your song without some other companies equipment making it sound good otherwise it would all be acapella.

      I don’t go to the doctor to here music nor do I make health decisions based on music, but I enjoy hearing good music while I wait or get my teeth cleaned. Half of the targeted establishment are not making money off of the music so its BS they have to pay.

      Especially when you have something that never wears out, that being words, there should be some way for a fair system like music copyrights end sooner than later. Other companies that have products are expected to keep up with technology and come up with new products to stay in business. People still drive 1950 Fords but Ford makes no money off of it. Instead they are required to come up with something new for continuing business so business should go. If want to keep making money keep writing newer better music and quit worrying about the song you wrote 15 yrs ago that someone wanted to sing in a bar. You should be honored people even remember it or care.

  • I’m not sure it was understood when the gentleman asked about his personal training studio.. that it was personal training.. not a gym.. so only one person would be in his privately owned workout room at a time.. could one person really be considered public? and if so, how about if he did not provide the music but allowed the person working out to plug their ipod into his speakers instead of their headphones while they workout so they could listen to “their” music but still be able to hear his instruction?

  • I went to a wedding on the beach where the music was going to be from a CD played from a car. This was not, as you can see, a large venue or an expensive wedding. Just two young folk trying to have a memorable wedding that they could afford. A friend offered to play for the wedding, just a guitar and a single singer, which he did. After the wedding was over, and the day at the beach ended, the fellow who played the guitar stated that since it was an open air venue and there were other people around who heard the music, he was lucky a BMI “spy” (his word) didn’t come after the young bride and groom and demand they pay a licensing fee.

  • I have a small family owned restaurant, and I use DMX Pandora, we only use their music as background music. They pay all the licensing fees. Occasionally, not even once a month we will have live music. Our musician is registered with BMI. Do we still have to pay a PRO licensing ourselves? Or are we covered thru him?

  • I would think a smart lawyer could come up with a class action lawsuit against each of the PRO’s. All of us food and beverage establishment owners, and independent retailers could join. What is ‘reasonable’ fees? Isn’t technology advanced so that the PRO’s could sell a recording unit and charge per song that is under their control? In that manner, then if an establishment pays a band and the band plays the song it would be the band that pays the fees (since they have performed for the public, and earned money as a result of said performance).

  • we are a small wine shop and have had artists request to play on our courtyard. We have insisted that they only play their own compositions. We have less than 10 times during the year that this occurs. Bmi is now after us and we are probably going to have to stop letting these artist use our area. Their response was that even though the artists were playing their own music it may be still copy-written and not allowed. Could we not get permission of the artist to perform their own music?

  • I am a member of a private campground. All members own their own lots and pay annual dues and taxes on those lots. We have a small clubhouse where we have private parties and get togethers members and families only.A couple times a year we have karaoke, again,members and families only. We are not a bar,club, restaurant fitness or anything like that. We do not sell or serve any type of food or drink. We could probably do this on one of our private lots, we just prefer to be inside. We have been contacted by BMI and told we have to purchase a license. Appreciate your thoughts.

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