Rubber Gloves Fights Money Grubbing ASCAP with New Monthly Covers Show

Categories: DFW Music News

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Mike Brooks
Probably not playing Journey

It's easy to find a brief night of escapism through live local music at one of Denton's staple establishments, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. It's usually a safe bet that when you enter the doors of this time-honored venue on Sycamore Street you won't be talking over some band's rendition of CCR to your friends. It's usually new and it's usually original.

That is how they are perceived in the eyes of the Publishing Rights Organizations (organizations like ASCAP and SESAC), who administer fees across the board and to all venues, for the purpose of receiving royalties of any licensed material performed in their establishment. We talked to RGRS Owner/Manager Josh Baish, who recently created a soon-to-be monthly event, a sort of benefit show that will host any bands who desire to perform their favorite or least-favorite hits. The money made will go towards easing the choke-hold that grips this humble establishment's yearly budget, if even in the slightest bit.

So what's the deal with the ASCAP/SESAC/BMI fees? Can you give a little background on it for those that don't know?

ASCAP/ SESAC/ BMI are the three big PROs (Publishing Rights Organizations), which are responsible for collection of royalties, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly.

So you were threatened with a lawsuit from these entities?

It's been threatened, but as far as I know, nothing's been filed as of this writing.

For the most part, it seems RGRS is pretty much one of Denton's oldest venues to house local shows of original artists, how do you think the PROs came up with these unfair fees?

They each have their own calculations, but it's mainly based on the square footage of the location, capacity, how many nights you're open, if you play recorded music, etc, but their fees increase for other things like if you play music on your website. I've recently heard they're trying to charge for a ringtone going off outside of your home, constituting a "public performance". It's ridiculous.

Is this just a flat fee blanketed across all venues, in which case, in order to get your money's worth, you would have to start booking One Direction cover acts or punk bands that must agree to do at least one or two Katy Perry renditions?

Basically, yes. In their warped and completely antiquated business model, it doesn't matter if a band here covered an obscure Hüsker Dü b-side once three months ago, or if we had nothing but every single band that plays here do nothing but cover songs by whatever artist is in the Billboard Top 10, 7 nights a week, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

We don't want bands necessarily playing covers. We're here mainly to encourage and showcase local and touring bands artists playing their own compositions. To put us under a "blanket fee" which includes other venues as say, "Dick's House of Fergie" which features only a Black Eyed Peas tribute act playing covers, is, to me, wrong and completely unfair.

I want to make it clear that we are all for musicians making money for their music. Absolutely. But in the current system, it's actually hurting the smaller bands and venues. Brent Best, singer/ songwriter for Slobberbone (and who bar tends at RGRS), wrote this that was included in an Observer article published in 2008:

I am an ASCAP member. This means that I should collect money, based upon their system of the tracking of 'use' proportional to said 'use' of my music. Problem is, their bullshit system is the biggest one-sided bell curve you've ever seen...In the end, I, or anyone else 'represented' by ASCAP make no money proportional to what I sell or what of mine is used unless or until I'm as big as Mariah Carey or who-the-fuck-ever. In fact, all those publishing songwriters affiliated with ASCAP who aren't on that monetary level actually make money for those who are. If I go from selling 10,000 albums a year to 40,000, along with the predictable increase in 'use' (such as jukebox plays and the like), I will never see a proportional increase in royalty payout from ASCAP. Instead, the extra money I earn, along with the thousands of other artists on the lower rungs earning progressively more, will go the top 2 or 3 percent of ASCAP artists already earning millions a year from their vapid shit.

I think that says it all.

How do you think this system should be changed, as it seems there's no real way to keep every venue in check?

Their answer to everything is to say, "We can't be there to monitor every band and every song, therefore we must charge you the maximum amount."

What other organization operates this way? What if the utility company came up to you and said "We're going to charge you the same amount as the house up the street, you know, the one that keeps his lights on all day and night, and waters his yard until the street floods. We're not going to put in the effort to fairly monitor you, but we will send someone out to check and see if you're using our utilities. We assume everyone uses our services at some point anyway, so you'll pay what the house up the street does."

They hire people to go into venues with hidden equipment to tape any given band that night, and then they go back and analyze that recording. If you're found in violation of infringement, you could be liable for $30,000.00 per copyrighted song played. If the venue owner is unaware of the violation. If the band plays a cover with the owner's permission, the fine skyrockets to $150,000.00 per song.
Somehow in all this, they're unable to set a fair and balanced business model.

I think if they can afford to throw lavish banquets and awards ceremonies, "members" fees could be better utilized in creating a better monitoring system. But there's no reason for them to, and why would they? Why change a system that allows them collect every dollar they possibly can?


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8 comments
Ubluit
Ubluit

Money grubbing? And DIY isn't? Stick to smoking and leave your petty concerns with art and commerce to their own ends.

JeffE
JeffE

This article kind of points out the fact the venue needs to read up on PRO's. ASCAP / BMI collect royalties for any published material, not just covers. Example: If  I am a nobody in a local band and I release a CD and register the songs I've written with ASCAP/BMI, then they are subject to royalty collection if I play those songs live in your venue. The blanket licensing where all the money goes to Madonna aspect has changed a lot since BMI launched BMI Live and ASCAP its version of the same thing. Small bands actually do get paid now - if the band makes the effort to report it. Those few royalty dollars help a lot when you've got a 4 piece band playing at a venue that might be willing to pay you $150 on a good night. You'd be amazed at how little value most clubs put on the bands the book - and no, I'm not talking about Rubber Gloves, just bars in general. Personally, I have mixed feelings on the subject and my opinion doesn't really matter. It's just a simple fact of life in business that, if you're going to have any music playing in a public place - live music, a radio, muzak, whatever...  you're going to have to pay ASCAP and BMI. If you're not willing to play by the rules, well... you'll be in the situation this article is talking about.

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

But you don't understand, guys! These companies don't make any money anymore, because they are irrelevant. If they didn't sue local businesses, they would go out of business themselves! Have a heart!

commiebiker
commiebiker

@JeffE let me see if I have this right...you play your own original music in a venue...because it is registered, the venue has to pay ASCAP or who ever, then ASCAP or who ever takes a cut and gives you some?  Seems like you would be better off just getting that money directly...I understand if someone is covering your music, or playing one of your recordings, but the first scenario feels weird.. 

JeffE
JeffE

@commiebiker @JeffE You are understanding correctly. ASCAP/BMI collects royalties, then distributes back to the songwriters/publishers. Not ideal, and like I say, I'm not in 100% agreement with how it's handled. But, that's how it works. Where I do agree with it is at places that don't pay bands at all or pay very little because they know bands what to play there. Also, in situations where, say, a band member writes a popular song, then leaves the band. The band keeps playing the song because it's popular, associated with them and they don't want to play covers - ASCAP/BMI  collects and pays the songwriter. The whole PRO/publishing/licensing field is really interesting. It's a beast all of its own. 

JeffE
JeffE

@commiebiker Essentially, it boils down to paying the songwriter, not the band. The PRO's don't collect on behalf of bands, the collect on behalf of the songwriter. When they're collecting for playing a Madonna cover that she didn't write, it's going to whoever wrote it, not in her pocket. Hopefully that makes a little more sense. It helps keep food on the table for those who write rather than perform. 

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