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Name That Tune

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Franklin Stover may be a member of ASCAP (as am I), but he is giving very bad advice about skirting their licensing requirements ("Mailbox," Oct. 24). ASCAP was formed in the early 20th century by a small group of rich pop songwriters. For many years it operated like a private club, and even now it is profitable only for the very few top-selling songwriters, because it pays based on samples of what's on air, and all TV and radio stations are required to keep logs. They also have hundreds of investigators combing the country.

The idea that ASCAP investigators don't come to rural towns is ludicrous. One incident exposes that misinformation. In the late '90s I played accordion at Chapala (then owned by Rita Pimentel) in Old Town on Fridays. After a couple of years, they got a demand letter — they could sign a license to play recordings or the radio for $800 per year. If they wanted to have live music (even one musician), the rate went up to $2,500. Naturally, Rita had to let me go. This is the insidious nature of the organization. They actively discourage live music, and punish establishments that hire musicians!

One thing Mr. Stover got right: If you play material that is totally original and not registered with ASCAP, they are helpless. But then the investigator will come up and request a "standard," offering a big tip. Once you've played it, your employers are their lawful prey. And by the way, this is not just bars and restaurants; they demand licenses from grocery stores, retailers, repair shops, any place where music is played as background music. For that reason, many establishments sign up with a streaming service, which takes care of the licensing.

Yes, ASCAP is evil, like RIAA and MPAA. But that's capitalism in action.

Joseph Byrd, McKinleyville


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