Whether you’re enjoying a live performance at a local vineyard, listening to a DJ at a bar or appreciating classical music at nice restaurant, regardless of where you are, music can be a make or break of whether you enjoy yourself. Small businesses like bars, restaurants, taverns and vineyards around the country agree — if you can’t play music, guests’ experiences just are not as good. And that’s bad for business.
It may not be widely known or recognized, but in order to play music, public venues across the nation are required to secure music licenses from performing rights organizations (PROs) like American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). While the process of securing these licensees isn’t perfect, with the ASCAP and BMI antitrust consent decrees in place, as of now, venues are able to secure licenses to play music in an efficient manner, while ensuring fair compensation for music creators. These consent decrees act as a check on Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP and BMI and prevent small businesses from being taken advantage of through price gouging or manipulation of prices on blanket licenses. However, these protections are at risk.
Earlier this year, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim indicated that he would consider terminating the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. It goes without saying that this would be nothing short of a nightmare scenario for public venues simply trying to play music at their respective establishments. Without the consent decrees in place, it would be extraordinarily disruptive for the entire music marketplace and ultimately cause substantial consumer harm.
Now that we are past the 2018 midterm elections, it’s time to look to the 116th United States Congress to commit to protecting these consent decrees.
On this particular issue, it is vital to listen to those most impacted: the small business owners that operate public venues across the nation. To date, over 1,250 public venues — from vineyards in California to inns in Maine — have signed on to a letter urging continued protection of the decrees. The letter has a simple message: leave ASCAP and BMI consent decrees intact so our businesses can thrive.