Having read a somewhat-incendiary comment re: ASCAP here, I decided to try and get some answers. Rather than call, and possibly misquote, the person named in the comment, I figured I'd address the issue in writing. I've emailed several apparently-appropriate folks at ASCAP, asking the following:
From: admin@openmikes.org Subject: Questions re: performance of original works in a non-ASCAP-licensed establishment I run a website (openmikes.org) listing music open-mike nights across the US and Canada. Listings often include the "originals-vs-covers" policies of the establishment -- the understanding being that you can't go performing licensed works without the venue being under ASCAP, etc. licenses. The further assumption being that if I'm performing my original works, it's a non-issue. Even if I'm an ASCAP member (which I am, by the way), I can't really infringe on my own rights. I notice, for instance, on your website (at ascap.com/licensing/about.html) the following:
"Whenever music is performed publicly the songwriter and music publisher, who created and own that music, have the right to grant or deny permission to use their property and to receive compensation for that use."
So no problem. I own my songs, and publish them, under ASCAP in both cases. I grant myself the right to perform them, and grant the club the right to have them performed. Ta-da. However, a commenter on one of the listings has posted the following:
"As per Sarah Alana of ASCAP it is ILLEGAL to play live music, even if it is an original piece of work and your a member of ASCAP. If the location that you are playing at is not a member of ASCAP. This is a violation of Federal Law and copyright infringement. For further questions or inquires you can contact Sarah Alana of ASCAP at (800) 910-7347 ext.89"
Apart from the "this is a violation of Federal Law..." sentence, which sounds fairly paranoid and wrong, I was hoping to find out from ASCAP what the deal really is, and post a response / rebuttal in your own words. Does ASCAP really concern itself with performers playing *their own* compositions, whether licensed or not, at non-ASCAP-licensed establishments? If so, *why*? If not, thanks for confirming that the world still makes sense. I'll publish any response, in full, with no edits, at openmikes.org/blog (where this email is also posted). Thanks for your time. Paul Roub Benevolent Dictator, openmikes.org
I'll keep you posted on any responses. Update 1: restaurantlicensing@ascap.com, although listed on the site, isn't actually a valid email address.