Monday, October 10, 2011

The Day the Music Died or The Music Nazis Are after You.

 Do you play the radio, some CD’s, or maybe the MP3 player in your tasting room? Do you have an event with a band? Beware, the music Nazis are out to get you.
Who are the music Nazis? They are the people that collect royalties for artists and composers for copyrighted work. They are called BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.), ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Artists and Producers) and SESAC (which stand for nothing).
BMI and ASCAP are big. They control most of the music you listen to. SESAC controls R&B and gospel music – probably something you don’t play often in your tasting room, but play one song and you owe!
I’m not opposed to paying artists for their work. They deserve it. But, general licensing fees are shared among the top 200 radio plays – not the artists you are playing. So you might play the Eagles and the money goes to Lady Gaga. It is not a fair system. Radio stations keep logs and the money goes to the actual artist.
Most of you are saying you can just ignore them. Wrong! Not only do they have the power of the law (thank you Congress) on their side, they have spies and lots of attorneys. You are guaranteed to lose if you fight the Music Mafia. They make Al Capone look like a bicycle thief.
How much does the Music Mafia want from you to play the radio? It is unclear because individual deals can be negotiated, but about $2500 per year. The price of their product far exceeds the value.
How do I know all this? Last year we started to get letters from SESAC telling us we had to buy their license. We ignored it because all the CDs we were playing were ASCAP and BMI. Then BMI found out that we had live music Saturday afternoon and they wanted their cut. Well, our live music was a Russian composer and artist who played his own copyrighted music, so we didn’t owe them a dime but they continued to get quite nasty. His music is registered with BMI and he finally called them and told them to back off. He can play his own music and sell CDs at our winery if he wishes. BMI backed off. SESAC continues to send letters.
Frankly I don’t like music in the tasting room, but the ladies do so we had to find a solution. Buying three overpriced licenses was out of the question.
One option is Muzac, the people who invented elevator music for the brain-dead. Muzak takes care of all licensing hassles with your contract. Muzak’s website wasn’t really helpful in figuring out a cost and we really didn’t want to treat our customers as brain-dead wine-drinking zombies anyway.
Our solution was quite simple; SiriusXM Radio for business. All licensing is taken care of by SirusXM, so you can tell the music Nazis to chuck off. They offer a large selection of stations to suit your winery ambience including 30 talk-free commercial free Channels just for businesses. Once you buy the internet radio, the cost is $35 per month with no contract.
And people wonder why I am grumpy!

1 comment:

  1. I found your artical interesting and timely. I along with many wineries in Iowa have been threatened by the same mafia. The trouble that I see is they don't have a license for our industry. We are value added ag producers, whose focus is to sell our products. While part of our marketing does involve music events, typically there is no charge. Space is provided for people to buy our wine inside and go to a seperate area to enjoy local bands. We are not a bar or resturant whose income is based on food, beer, liquor and wine sales. We are much closer to a grocery store for the retail end or even a manufacturer for the wine. Most wineries do not have a designated space for consuming food and wine. If they did and offered wait staff, maybe they are a resturant/bar. I think it would be great to get some more conversations going with this issue, maybe get the associations involved. By the way I am going to purse the XM Radio license too.