I stumbled across an article that is worth sharing because it is something affecting coffee shop owners in Florida. It’s about music royalties. If you play music at your store, especially live entertainment, you may be in violation of copyright law.

When a songwriter signs with one of the licensing companies — the country’s three biggest are BMI, SESAC and ASCAP — his or her music is copyrighted.

Unless Hall pays the three major companies, and even some of the smaller ones, she would be breaking the law by having musicians perform songs written by others.

“It makes me so angry,” Hall said. “People like playing here because it’s not a bar, there’s no smoke and it’s a clean environment. I feel like the greedy music industry is extorting money from us and hurting these musicians just starting out.”

In addition to the $400 she has already paid ASCAP, she routinely receives annual bills from BMI for $305 and from SESAC for between $250 and $300.

Arizona Coffee

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  1. Pierce/Bear

    Despite my borderline hostility that I have against the ‘Establishment’; paying, say, $500 a year to BMI, etc. [i]as a group[/i] to me is reasonable…………..the music companies do supply a service———think of it as an expense like Internet access, etc. 🙂

    Now: if a business did not have ‘sit down’ amenities………..then I do have major heartburn with the music industry demanding royalties———-such a rule would ban people from having a radio on, even if the only game in town was a small C & W station that also carried the news.

  2. I read more of the article – it’s very disturbing.

    On the one hand – record companies are hurting due to data theft. So they’re obviously going to crack down and try to stay alive.

    On the other – this will hopefully lead to the demise of said record companies, since it serves more to bolster independent music demand than it does to motivate shop owners to pay up.

  3. josh

    Why not avoid all the fees by having a corporate subscription to satellite radio? They take care of all of the licensing fees for you and the entire subscription is less than those fees posted above.

  4. Josh, if you read the article it sounds like only AM/FM radio is excluded because they have paid the licensing fee. It specifically mentions that satellite radio is suspect to this fee.

  5. Austin


  6. Joshua Morris

    Actually with your monthly subscription on a corporate acct there are no fees. This is taken directly from Sirius’ website

    “No Royalty Hassles – Playing music from a CD, MP3, or regular radio in your business requires you to pay royalties to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, the agencies the represent the music copyright owners. With SIRIUS Music for Business, all royalties are paid for you at no additional charge”

  7. It’s important to understand that the fees collected by BMI go to songwriters and music publishers, and not to record companies or their artists (unless they write the songs). Music licensing in these businesses has absolutely nothing to do with record companies. BMI and ASCAP operate on a non-profit basis, paying after expenses, about 87 cents of every dollar collected to the owners of the songs. BMI never earns a profit. Under copyright law, a business owner can license music directly from the composers, but most find that it’s much cheaper and easier to use the services of the three performing right organizations. If you pay commercial subscription fees for satellite radio, you do not need an additional license from the performing right organizations (PROs) for that music, but using a “home” or personal subscription will not cover a business use. In most small businesses, simple broadcast radios do not need a license. Almost every other type of music, live or recorded, in a business requires a PRO license.

  8. So…BMI fees go to songwriters, but not to artists? Here’s the problem: corporations have legal rights too. These rights include the ability to own intellectual property – like copyrighted music. I suspect that to get a major-label contract, the real artists must sign over ownership of their work to that label, thus making the record label the “owner” who collects 87 cents of the dollar.

    Now I’m sure that the performers, composers, and middle-level-managers of the record companies get a share of the royalties, but it’s nowhere near 87%. So if the PROs want to ensure that music owners get paid (for songs we’ve already heard 50,000 times), I say let’s do what we should have a long time ago, and support new and local music.