The day the music died…

This Sunday, May 13, will be the last Irish session at The Shoreham Inn. Not because of lack of interest but because it’s being shut down by an outside company who has requested money from the Inn to collect music royalties.

There are companies out there that “collect license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers and distributes them as royalties, to those members whose work has been performed,” according to the BMI website. I know a lot of musicians and composers and have yet to hear how they’re swimming in royalties they’ve received from people playing their music at a session.

As a writer and a musician, I understand the need to protect an artist’s work. We spend hours upon hours writing and rewriting and writing again. And it is work. I get it. If a song-writer writes a song, they should be paid if someone else records it. However, musicians at a session rarely get paid. A session is really just a place for musicians to come and share tunes and let others who don’t play enjoy the music. It’s community building. I would think most of the music we play is in the public domain anyway. These tunes span generations and were made to be shared.

Here is a letter sent from Paul Marangelo, the session host at The Shoreham Inn:

“The Inn was recently contacted by a music licensing/publishing company (BMI), wanting the Inn to pay a large fee to be able to continue the music, out of the chance that copyrighted music was being played.  While the premise of this request itself is absurd (would be a great April fools joke if it were not real) considering the music we play, and that no one pays to listen to or play it, apparently this is not without precedent in VT (others who organize/host sessions take notice).  Since the Inn is not in the business of music performance and needs to avoid complications such as this, they understandably asked that I pull the plug on the session.

So this Sunday is the last chance to come out to play at the session at the Shoreham Inn. Many, many thanks to all who came out over the past few years to help make it happen, and many, many thanks especially to Molly and Domenic at the Inn for hosting us – its been a wonderful and unique place for sessioning over the past few years!”

The session is from 6-8pm. Hope to see you there!

2 thoughts on “The day the music died…

  1. This is genuinely sad and unbelievable. So wouldn’t this put every cover band and every venue that hosts them out of business?

  2. Edited version, posted on my Facebook page!

    Somebody needs to sue BMI under the RICO act. They are acting like the mafia demanding protection money to permit free association. The prior restraint based on the “potential” for copyrighted material is simply extortion.
    They should be forced to prove that copyrighted material is being used or performed without permission. IE have a witness and a recording.
    This is truly extortion.

    Public Domain and Fair Use both are potent remedies against copyright abuse, but when the venues are threatened they cut and run.
    Any traditional musician will be able to prove that they have been harmed by this extortion, as in this case at the Shoreham.
    Of course, the trad repertoire includes plenty of tunes too new to be public domain. However “Fair Use for public performance of non-commercial nature” doctrine must be invoked and precedents established or there will be serious long term harm. The problem is that the venue stands to benefit from audience commerce. However I believe the case should be made that the non-commercial players’ freedom of association and speech are being subject to prior restrictions in a public forum. Copyright law does not trump the First Amendment.

    Btw, Most pubs and venues, of course, already pay the fees, if they have cover bands, they are a legitimate business for BMI.

    See the link for the back story. One of many.

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