My old friend, former restaurateur and new attorney, Jody Faison has written an article for the Nashville Bar Journal explaining why and how the performing rights organizations, BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC go about licensing the public performance of music to the bars, clubs and restaurants which provide music to the public.
Jody does a good job in explaining this whole process which to the new proprietor is most likely bewildering. Those who have not been raised in an environment which understands intellectual property rights are often shocked when they find out they have to pay for the privilege of providing music, live or otherwise, in their facility. Jody also points out that unless the proprietor fits into one of the narrow examples provided by the Fairness in Music Licensing Act, there is really no way around the licensing requirement and paying licensing fees to each of these organizations. I can speak from personal experience from representing bar owners in the past that the consequences of not being properly licensed can be disastrous. I am obviously a fan of performing rights organizations but their enforcement and litigation strategies can seem merciless.
The article “Blueprint for the Blues: Building Strategies for Performing Rights Fees” in the November 2013 Nashville Bar Journal should be required reading for anybody going into the restaurant or bar business and those who advise them.