SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif- Two corporate music industry giants are taking an interest in what's happening on open mic night at a local coffee shop in San Luis Obispo but not on a positive note.
The coffee shop, Kreuzberg California, puts on an open mic night on Wednesdays, and typically participants bring original material but on the occasion someone would sing a cover song, which has caused them some problems.
It's a decision every business that plays music has to make. "Every business owner, every bar, every cafe, every restaurant, every retail space has had to make the same decision about whether to pay BMI or ASCAP," said the shop owner James Whitaker.
Broadcast Music Incorporated or BMI and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers or ASCAP are two large music corporations that ensure royalty payments to musicians are paid when their music is played or sang. Whitaker said during open mic night, cover songs are rarely sung, but when they are, legally you have to pay.
It costs a lot, especially if you are a coffee shop of Kreuzbergs size. "Because we are a 300 person venue, it puts us into a category in line with concert venues," said Whitaker.
Something you won't see this coffee shop turning into. "I would never sell tickets at the door, we also don't sell products that lend themselves to be bought multiple times, like at a concert, if you have a concert you sell five beers to somebody no ones going to buy 5 coffees," said Whitaker.
Only about 20 people show during open mic night, but Whitaker said he would still have to pay BMI or ASCAP as if the shop was at full capacity, which comes out to about 15-thousand a year in fees. Whitaker said he simply can't afford it.
"No ones disputing the law on this, it's just that we are no longer going to have open mic night that allows people to play covers," said Whitaker.
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