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Discussion Starter #1
OK, maybe this should have gone in another section, but the Legal section has tumbleweeds rolling across it. At least this section has a pulse.....

Also, we are talking gigging and practicality here, so....

The issue: it has never happened to me before, nor to anyone I know around town. Granted, I have played in NYC, Providence/Boston, and SF Bay area...all pretty large and (relatively) sophisticated urban areas....

But...I have heard stories form Jazzers who play in smaller cities, large towns, and the like.

A set of standards...good ol' fakebok standards. And the owner of the venue gets hit with an order to pay BMI and the like $XXX/year in fees since the music is...what? Copyrighted or such......

Just got off the phone with an ol' friend in Santa Fe, we used to gig together 20 years ago and the guy is a MONSTER pianist. Basically, he told me that there are some venues which pay up each year (those established enuff to afford to), but in the smaller (and more numerous/accessible) venues where a local cat would play...he has had to go to playing originals because some of his employers have been hit with warnings from BMI, ASCAP, and such.

Again...I have been playing Jazz on various instruments since I was 12 years old....and have never come across this. But I an likely moving soon, and to a smaller place than SF. And I have heard enough stories by now to make me realize that it is actually an issue (yes?).

What about 'public domain' songs ? Is there such a thing ? Or are even those capable of having their rights owned by music publishers, composers, and such ?

If I may say so, for Jazz standards this seems truly absurd to me. This is not a piracy issue. It is not a file-sharing issue...although honestly those also seem absurd to me.

This is an issue where a bunch of folks who love to play and listen to Jazz, fairly accomplished musicians and Jazz fans and such...are in a situation where they have to concern themselves about possible legal action; or at least need to compute in add'l fees or get in a dynamic with a venue owner about such.

Am I taking this too seriously ? Am I missing something obvious ?

Anyone have such experiences ? Anyone have a good handle on how to deal with this ?
 

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Most places that offer entertainment regularly pay a flat licensing fee ... it's probably not that expensive in the big picture scheme of things. restaurants, for example pay a licensing fee to play music quietly in the background, for example.
You cant copryright a chord progression, so do what all the cats in the day did, improvise your own melody over that tune's chord progression and your good to go.
Someone here with legal specifics will chime in shortly, i'm sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for reply. Some good points. I have been perusing some other Forums and in some threads, at some points, someone associated with ascap or such chimes in and will say something along the lines of "it's not that big a deal to club owners and is part of the cost of operating a biz and you don't really wanna associate yourself with a venue which doesn't do it anyway".

(Not saying YOU are saying this, John...just sorta extending my own initial post a bit).

All of that is fine and valid...but...most Jazz isn't really played in nightclubs, but rather Cafes or Restaurants or WineBars, etc...or maybe even just an outdoor concert sponsored/paid by the town or county....where an (unsuspecting) owner just wants a little entertainment either because they think it will draw in a lotta people (WRONGGGGG reason) or because it would be nice to have some live music (BETTER reason). I would just think this can become a potentially prickly situation for some live Jazz...

BTW...again, whether the internet is worth anything or not...I have already hit 2 sites one saying anything pre-1929 is Public Domain, the other stating pre-1922....

Would really like to hear some personal experiences from some where this became an encountered issue.....
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I agree, anywhere that music is played in public should be paying a licence. It's part of how we (ie composers) make our living. The music licence is usually a very small part of any venue's overheads, if the want to squirm out of paying it then they are doing music creators out of their living. Not good.
 

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The alternative is that the venue has a "originals only" policy. JayeSF, you mentioned that you play in Providence, you surely know about AS220...they are engaging in an ASCAP/BMI "boycott" and all performances there must be comprised only of original material composed by the artists performing. But, in short, yes...if a venue, regardless of type (nightclub, winebar, etc...) is responsible for paying a license fee to those organizations.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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The alternative is that the venue has a "originals only" policy.
That's true, as long as all the bands performing only ever play their own originals or public domain works. And that any records, CDs or tapes they play are their own copyright.

That is a very unlikely scenario, but i suppose it could happen if a club or restaurant really doesn't want to pay a licence so that musicians get their (small) royalties due.
 

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Yes, we had a local duo gig here that died an untimely death because (according to the manager) ASCAP told them they had to pay $XXX as you say, JayeSF. Now I don't know if that's what really happened or not, but the venue chose to can the music rather than pay the fee.
 

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That's true, as long as all the bands performing only ever play their own originals or public domain works. And that any records, CDs or tapes they play are their own copyright.

That is a very unlikely scenario, but i suppose it could happen if a club or restaurant really doesn't want to pay a licence so that musicians get their (small) royalties due.
It appears that a huge chain in the U.S., The Austin Grill, at least in my area, is only allowing original material to avoid the fees. They pay $75 US for a 3-hour gig, which is shameful, but a lot of the local guys that make their living playing mostly covers are lining up to showcase their original tunes there.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
T'was a long, long time ago, Providence was. That's interesting, though. I will look that up.

Thanks for the replies. The thing is, how negligible are these fees, really ? Not that I have any particular place in my heart for venue owners, many of whom cannot even pay their employees a decent, living wage yet have no problem when it comes to skirting labor laws....

Pete, you just noted the precise argument for such fees. and it is fine, really. I do not think any musician would begrudge that. But I guess it becomes more arguable when the 'rights' of the composition are really no longer connected to the creator/originator etc. of that composition. And rights are bought and sold all the time....

One would have to pay bmi and ascap separately, if I understand correctly. Again, if it is just the cost of doing biz and is something which a venue owner should know and just build into that cost...I can understand that. All I would then say is that I am fairly certain about 70% of the venues I have ever played in the past 30+ years...certainly didn't do that at all.....

Also....rereading the replies here...for example, in SF there's an 'entertainment license' and a 'cabaret license'. I believe these are state licenses. I wonder if the royalty fes are included in these state licenses or not.....I am inclined to doubt they are interconnected in any way.

My buddy who now has taken to playing all originals, also said it becomes an interesting situation when someone makes a request....
 

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My buddy who now has taken to playing all originals, also said it becomes an interesting situation when someone makes a request....
Q: Can you guys play Take Five?
A: Sorry, the last time we did that, we almost got sued.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Q: Can you guys play Take Five?
A: Sorry, the last time we did that, we almost got sued.
Ha !

Or:

Customer: "Hey, man, sounds good. Can you play Take 5 ?"

Pianist: "No...sorry."

Customer (to his friend): "That piano player's an #sshole."
 

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Here's how it works in Australia.

The bodies that collect licence fees and distribute payments for recorded and live music are APRA (Australian Performing Rights Association) and AMCOS (Australian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society). Both are run out of the same office and if you're a member (like I am) you are a member of APRA/AMCOS.

There has always been an onus, particularly on businesses that use music as part of their revenue raising, to pay royalties to the copyright owners, but there has never been a foolproof way of collecting these and so copyright owners in all countries have always had their intellectual property rights violated to a large extent.

In Australia APRA/AMCOS gives businesses a way of showing that they are meeting their obligations. APRA/AMCOS uses a licensing system that covers all the ways in which music is used from live performance through to recording and karaoke. By paying the appropriate licensing fees businesses can avoid being sued by copyright owners.

In the case we are looking at - a small, live music venue, the annual licence fee here is currently 2.2% of the gross payments made to artists and 1.65% of gross entry charges. I have no figures for non-compliance but I suspect it's very high. If you speak privately to small business owners they'll often say they'll take their chances rather than buy all the licences. In general lawsuits for copyright infringement are only instituted where the potential payoff is high. Radio stations and big events are much better with compliance than the corner pub.

Artist members of APRA/AMCOS are expected to fill out play lists for all performances and the royalty pool is shared among copyright owners based on the reported playlists. Some members are more assiduous than others in filling out the lists. Some members (I'm not saying me) doctor the lists so that the only tunes they report are their own.

APRA/AMCOS contains a large database of songs and copyright owners and members are encouraged to register new works. I have a number of works registered and I get an annual small share of the pool. I have made as much as $150 in a year and as little as $3. The payout is supposed to be based on the number of times the work has been used as reported in the artist and business playlists.
 

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I hope this is appropriate to the topic. Where do musicians unions fit into all this? Or do they anymore? My music teacher says in our (dinky) town, they've been gone for years, decades.

At one time would the union have taken all these royalties into consideration for both the artist (i.e., present-tense performer) and the composer or author (having written the music and lyrics thirty years ago)?
 

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It's interesting, in this respect, to learn that the new versions of the IPhone Real Book app will only include non- copyrighted material: http://irealbook.net/ (In my neck of the woods every other guy at a jam session can pull out an IPhone with IRealbook on it). I just happened to hear this yesterday on a jam from the bassist we played with.

At least the conundrum of what to play on a gig in the US is solved.
 

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It's interesting, in this respect, to learn that the new versions of the IPhone Real Book app will only include non- copyrighted material: http://irealbook.net/ (In my neck of the woods every other guy at a jam session can pull out an IPhone with IRealbook on it). I just happened to hear this yesterday on a jam from the bassist we played with.

At least the conundrum of what to play on a gig in the US is solved.
There is no copyright on chord progressions right?
 

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That is the story I know about the days of Bird and Bebop - they would play the changes, not the melody of a tune, to avoid having to pay rights to the composer (or - more probably - the agency). However, that was more than 60 years ago and I think the situation is different nowadays.

Reine
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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There is no copyright on chord progressions right?
Correct
That is the story I know about the days of Bird and Bebop - they would play the changes, not the melody of a tune, to avoid having to pay rights to the composer (or - more probably - the agency). However, that was more than 60 years ago and I think the situation is different nowadays.
No, it's the same.

If I write a tune with the same changes as All the Things You Are, then it's my tune.

The composition copyright is only in the melody, not the harmony
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Well, then I don't understand the statement on the Irealbook website anymore...
One problem is that publishers are always pushing the boundaries, threatening lawsuits even if they are without foundation. In those situations, companies sometimes just backdown rather spend the time and money preparing a case. That might explain it.

It could be that the actual title of the tune is associated with the chords, which isn't the case when a jazz musician takes a set of changes and writes a new tune. They have a new title.
 

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In the netherlands you buy a license when you have a bar or something that plays (live)music. It not that expensive maybe 600 euros for just cd's and about the same price for live music I think.
 
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