Everyone has their hands out, especially the big guys.
A couple of years ago it was the University of Alabama.
Now it's BMI.
What's BMI? Yeah, I asked that, too. Never heard of it before someone from there called trying to sell us a license to play live music in the bakery. About six times a year. On Art Night. When we support and give back to the community with free music and free cake.
Truly, I thought it was a joke. Or a scam.
But no. Because now I have a letter (Dear Mr/Ms Manager -- which must be me) from someone named Louis Pough at BMI.
The bakery is keenly aware of copyright and licensing issues as they pertain to baked goods. If we reproduce a licensed or copyrighted figure we must buy a license. Makes sense.
It never occurred to me that we'd be getting hit up for licensing fees so we can pay musicians to play music at the bakery for the occasional Art Night. It does not matter that the artists play their own music. It does not matter that Art Night is a free community event. It does not even matter that we don't charge any fees or require a purchase of any kind. We offer free music and give away free cake. It's a small crowd, maybe 30-40 people over the course of the evening. People come for the free cake and an opportunity to enjoy an evening of edible and musical art.
According to BMI, they are the vehicle through which songwriters and composers are compensated for the public performances of their music. I am already paying the performer. Should he or she decide to cover someone elses music, it should be THEIR responsibility to buy a license.
In the cake world, we are required purchase a license to cover (or reproduce) copyrighted images. Demanding the bakery purchase a license in order to host live music on Art Night would be like requiring our customers purchase a license before they can serve the cake they just paid for.
Nevertheless, I read the letter and attachments and considered it. The fees are charged "per year per occupant" and given the size of our business, they would be less than $100. Except... there is an Annual Minimum Fee of $354.
The fee does not include dancing to live or recorded music at any time (no bopping around the bakery to the radio). No admission or cover charges. No Pandora. No iPod/MP3/Other digital music. And definitely no DJ. Because we have an open kitchen, any broadcast radio we decide to play on our boom box must be low enough so that customers cannot hear it. The whole thing is ridiculous.
If I paid BMI, I'd be admitting they have a right to charge me, and there are at least two other licensing agencies whose invoices would be in my mailbox tomorrow.
So, no. We will NOT be paying BMI. And if that means no more live music on Art Night, so be it.
Our bakery is kinda small, and kinda loud. If you walk in and cannot hear the radio playing, please do not ask us to turn it up.
And should you feel compelled to complain to someone, here is the contact information for BMI:
Louis Pough, Licensing Executive, Licensing Sales, (888) 689-5264
or email from http://www.bmi.com/email