[Photo caption] LeShawn Carey of Carey-On Saloon was recently fined $21,000 for copyright infringement on songs that were sung during Karaoke at her bar near Peterson Air Force Base. (Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
EDITORIAL: IF MUSICIANS DON’T GET PAID, WE WON’T HAVE MUCH MUSIC
A Gazette story Sunday explained how some business owners are shocked when told to pay fees for playing the radio, Pandora or their personal CDs for patrons.
Welcome to the free market, where fair distribution of capital facilitates the world’s most creative and beneficial endeavors.
When a new drug cures a disease and saves lives, the inventors may get big rewards. Remuneration enables them to pay investors and invent more drugs.
The financial reward also facilitates drug innovators and their employees in buying homes. The homes employ architects and construction workers who subsequently buy goods and services with transactions that benefit an array of others working in various trades — all because of a beneficial new drug. Each transaction makes life better for buyer and seller. Each creates wealth that can even be shared through charitable gifts to people in oppressed, lawless regions who have nothing to buy or sell.
Critics of capitalism view it as a system of inequality and greed. Just invent helpful drugs for the common good.
The composer of a song is not much different than the inventor of a pharmaceutical or anything else of value. Like the drug maker, the musician puts forth tremendous time and effort with only the distant and unlikely prospect of income. The artist must draw on years of experience and discipline to create and/or perform a tune that just might be so good people will buy it. The drug inventor and musician each wants to create something that will benefit millions of strangers.
To embark upon and sustain creative pursuits, innovators require the potential of capital gain. Those who cannot achieve returns — due to professional failure or a system that won’t allow reward — must choose safer endeavors. It’s hard to imagine Michael Jackson embarking on “Thriller” in return for a wage he could have earned working 9 to 5.
Americans protect the right and ability to profit from creativity with a legal system that is second to none. That’s why so much of the world’s most popular music — whether it’s country, rock, jazz, R&B or rap — emanates from the United States. That’s why so many of the world’s musicians have relocated here for much of the past century. They may not analyze the details, but they know this country offers the potential to support their art with profits.
Three private associations of musicians — ASCAP, BMI and SESAC — assist members in getting paid in a manner regulated by courts.
The collection agents monitor broadcasters, public venues, restaurants and corner bars. When a business charges $7 for a beer that wholesales for a buck, the owner sells an experience that comes with overhead. When a portion of the ambiance involves music, the artist deserves a slice. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC charge fees to enterprises that make commercial use of music and disperse a portion of those fees to members. The money is allocated through a system that determines which songs are played the most and least. The music is a cost of doing business.
Nothing is free. One man’s free song is another’s sacrifice. Societies that allow or force widespread “free” use of property end up with little of value. How many worldwide hits emanated from the Soviet Union or East Berlin? Artists from Cuba and Vietnam aren’t known for topping international charts.
So don’t complain too much about the markup of drinks when patronizing businesses and enjoying the sound. It pays overhead, which includes royalties to musicians for their role in our enjoyment of a night on the town.
Ben Peterson: While I agree wholeheartedly that genuine artists should get paid an honest living for their creations, you’re ignoring quite a bit about the music industry. First, while most musicians have probably done their fair share of drugs, they’re not scientists creating drugs…..some of them have a tough time stringing together a sentence. Some artists make a ton for not even singing (see Milli Vanilli) Second, while bands certainly put together music and hope for success and millions of dollars that it brings, that success is largely decided by the same record execs that are making millions from this enforcement racket–they’re the ones who decide who gets promoted, who gets tours, who reaches radio, etc. They’re also the ones who set the exorbitant amounts that they charge venues based on ludicrous formulas. Finally, the fact that 3 companies have effectively colluded to make licensing so difficult to keep track of speaks to the “trap” that these companies are trying to set in their government-authorized shakedown scheme.
On the plus side, the music industry is facing down a huge threat to the status quo–the internet. Most people I know don’t buy CD’s any more…..many don’t even pay for MP3 downloads. It’s evening the playing field for independent labels who don’t play these games, and taking money from the “big guys” Who knows, maybe in our lifetimes the “middle men” will be innovated out of the equation….
Kay Cee Tee: They work, they create, they have bills like everyone else. Plenty of independent artists work without the aid of major labels and executives. Where do you get your info about the music industry? Movies? TV? Musicians enrich your life with their creations – don’t you think they deserve to get paid for their hard work?
Bryan Kochtis: Kay Cee Tee – If you think the vast majority of this money collected is going to artists, think again.
KCT: I understand artists don’t get as big a cut as the publishing companies, but without them, artists would have a hard time keeping up with and collecting royalties from venues that play their works. Just because it isn’t a perfect system doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be paid at all.
Michael Lowrey: You don’t give any consideration to the fact hat this poor bar owner has to deal with three separate government-authorized musician’s agencies who each have legal authority to shut off any and all of her music over some niggling clause in a 14 page contract. Actually three 14 page contracts. Nobody has any gripe with your premise (stupidly easy to write) that musicians and songwriters should be compensated. It is the bureaucratic BS that is drowning every business owner in the country, yet your next editorial will be celebrating, in the next edition, the very entrepreneurs that you propose to cripple. Really, the FCC should be expanded to regulate newspapers, and the newspapers should have to fill out several dozens forms and regulatory filings before any editorials are published. Or at least have a government regulator looking over your shoulder as you write just to make sure you are awake writing these editorial.
Jim Morris: “You don’t give any consideration to the fact hat this poor bar owner has to deal with three separate government-authorized musician’s agencies ”
Huh? So a corporation is now “government-authorized”? This is the free market causing this “bureaucratic BS” (or more like an oligopoly)
Not every issue you hate is caused by the “government” and this also has nothing to do with the FCC, unless there was indecent music playing on the airwaves.
Benjamin Martin: I was gonna say, I think they way the music industry is run is dumb, but these organizations are no more “government-authorized” than Walmart, the Gazette or the Righthaven copyright trolls.
(Nancy Barlow for…) Sally Moon: I am LeShawn Carey’s mom and I just can’t let this editor’s opinion stand with no response.
First, because you printed the photograph of LeShawn and the caption identifying her and her establishment yet did not name any other bar owner, your entire article can be interpreted to be about her.
From the opening paragraph, it can be inferred that LeShawn was shocked when she was told she had to pay fees. She was well aware of that fact. She was (and is) licensed by ASCAP and SESAC, and recently obtained the BMI license.
She was licensed with ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI when the Carey-On was located off Fillmore & Chestnut. When she had to close, she knew she was behind in payments to BMI, to the tune of approximately $1200. Somehow, BMI decided she owed nearly seven times that amount, i.e., $8,000 +/- and when LeShawn requested documentation to support this amount, BMI would not produce it. LeShawn couldn’t have a license at the new location until she paid the alleged past due amount (which by then had grown to $11,000+). What I gather from your article is she should have just paid $8,000+ when BMI said she owed it and not question it. I don’t know anyone who would do that.
Your article further insinuated that LeShawn wants society to “force free use” of music. That is patently absurd. Of course LeShawn believes artists should be paid for their music. And contrary to your thinly-veiled accusation, she not only believes in the free market, she is part of it. She pays taxes, she pays wages, she pays unemployment insurance, she pays worker’s compensation, she pays license fees.
Colorado Springs, CO
P.S. If you are patronizing an establishment that charges you $7 for a beer, you should start patronizing the Carey-On Saloon. Its highest-priced beer is $4.75.
Wayne Laugesen (Editor at The Gazette): For the record: LeShawn Carey’s photo was included with this editorial only because her dilemma initiated the discussion and we needed a photo on the page. It’s clear from the original news article that Ms. Carey has no philosophical opposition to paying musicians. She is merely caught in an all-too-familiar bureaucratic mess of bad communication and misunderstanding. The editorial was about the bigger picture, which is why small businesses must pay when they play music for customers. It was an opportunity to explain that we enjoy an abundance of great music precisely because the law protects musicians in receiving compensation for their work.
Lots more comments! Mostly from uninformed and uneducated people about the “Business of Music” . . .[Thanks to a good COMBO member for forwarding this discussion onto us.]