Cover bands, "tribute" bands and royalties

Squirrel Man

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I was wondering, how do playing cover tunes at a bar or whatever and getting paid to do so not violate copyright laws? I googled and found some information but decided not to wade through it and see what the folks here have to say about it, I'm sure it's a topic that's been discussed before I'm guessing.

I see "tribute" band laws offer some sort of carve-out but it didn't make sense to me.

Anyway, hope this turns into a good discussion.
 

equipmentdork

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Geez, like it's not tough enough for bar bands. No one comes out to see original music. I can barely get people to come out to hear their favorite music.

I do know that some places do pay ASCAP and BMI a set fee.



Dan
 

Squirrel Man

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Geez, like it's not tough enough for bar bands. No one comes out to see original music. I can barely get people to come out to hear their favorite music.

I do know that some places do pay ASCAP and BMI a set fee.



Dan
For the record, I'm not advocating the enforcement of this nor am I criticizing the ignoring of these laws if that's the case, I'm just curious how this all is supposed to work.
 

Dumpy

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I was wondering, how do playing cover tunes at a bar or whatever and getting paid to do so not violate copyright laws? I googled and found some information but decided not to wade through it and see what the folks here have to say about it, I'm sure it's a topic that's been discussed before I'm guessing.

I see "tribute" band laws offer some sort of carve-out but it didn't make sense to me.

Anyway, hope this turns into a good discussion.
Supposedly, the venues pay a fee to the publishing houses (BMI, ASCAP) for the tunes played. I knew an enforcer for BMI. They have a set fee for the radio stations (I believe) and are supposed to collect playlists (rarely happened in my experience). Keep in mind that some things have changed drastically, as now Muzak actually plays the original songs by the original artists, most bars use juke boxes that take care of license fees. I get small (really small) stipends for a couple of my songs that are played.

Do you know what I call a drag queen? A female tribute act!
 

equipmentdork

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For the record, I'm not advocating the enforcement of this nor am I criticizing the ignoring of these laws if that's the case, I'm just curious how this all is supposed to work.
It's funny, I know a place that got read the riot act by the PROs and my friend, a prolific songwriter, was one of the few who had 3 hours of unpublished original music to play, so he got the gig there.



Dan
 

Ray Dee Oh King

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For the record, I'm not advocating the enforcement of this nor am I criticizing the ignoring of these laws if that's the case, I'm just curious how this all is supposed to work.
Youre getting paid for travel, setup, and time. The music is entertainment. Many places pay BMI, and ASCAP. Bands can actually upload their setlists to said companies along with the venue and the artists receive royalties for the bands performance. I briefly looked at this exact info when our band did all the licensing and publishing for our stuff. Im sure theres a bit more to it, but thats the jist of it. They get paid through the publishers. For instance I just collabed with some guys ive been recording for on a couple cover tunes. One to be released next Wednesday, a version of Joe Jacksons "Steppin Out". We licensed it, and had CD baby do the publishing. Any plays, or money made will go to the artist not any of us. They get barcoded, and can be tracked all over. Itll stream on all applications, verified social media pages, and YouTube.
 
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niles

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The Licensing Entities, BMI,ASCAP, Charge the Tribute Band Venues a royalty per seat charge. If the Venue can hold 1200 seats, then they will charge say 1 cent per song charge for a seat. So If the Tribute Band Plays 30 songs. Take 1200 x .01= $12.00 per song x 30 song=$360, the venue has to pay in Royalties.
 

langmick

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I do know that some places do pay ASCAP and BMI a set fee.
From my experience, this is how it's done, if it's done.

We never really had to worry about any issues, Pink Floyd has never shown hostility, and we were regional. They don't seem to bother the bigger ones much, but do have stipulations on setlists and albums.

Free publicity.
 

ARGuy

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Unless things have changed drastically, a venue that has live music where the musicians will be playing music that they have not written themselves needs to pay a licensing fee. The venue, not the musicians, is responsible for paying the fee. I believe the fee is a flat fee based on seating capacity, not on the song list for each night. I hope someone here can be a little more specific.
 

varatrodder

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My college degree is in music business, and in one of our classes we were talking about a venue that wasn't paying the PRO fees (I think it was in Athens, GA). They only had independent artists (so no PRO affiliation), and had a strict rule of no cover songs - only originals. The PRO's kept coming by trying to get them to pay royalties, but they never had to pay because the bands would all sign an agreement stating they wouldn't play any covers.
 

Squirrel Man

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This was 20 years ago but we did shows in dives, bars, strip clubs. I didn't know the science behind it then and I don't understand it fully now but far more now then I cared for back then.

We did all originals, our own stuff so by default it was never an issue for us. We did shows with cover bands and I never heard it being an issue with them but again, I don't know - it wasn't something I paid attention to.

And I was the guy doing all the leg work for booking gigs. It never once came up on any of our shows. Which is why in large part why I'm curious.

That and learning is fun.

:p
 

Dumpy

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Unless things have changed drastically, a venue that has live music where the musicians will be playing music that they have not written themselves needs to pay a licensing fee. The venue, not the musicians, is responsible for paying the fee. I believe the fee is a flat fee based on seating capacity, not on the song list for each night. I hope someone here can be a little more specific.
Correct. My old enforcer friend went to bars and other venues that either hosted live bands, played the radio or juke box and whatever else that could provide licensed music.

Fun fact: Muzak used “orchestral” arrangements of popular tunes to avoid paying royalties.
 

dcrigger

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Fun fact: Muzak used “orchestral” arrangements of popular tunes to avoid paying royalties.
Nope.

Sorry but that is incorrect.

First clarification - There are two copyrights generally involved with music -

1. the songwriter's copyright (usually shared with the music publisher.

2. the sound recording copyright - this own by performing artist and the record label.

Nothing about cover bands etc. playing the songs made famous by known artists generates any money regarding copyright #2 - this whole topic is entirely about the songwriting copyright.

How it works is maybe easiest explained by an example - and this will be extremely hypothetical -

Let's say I write a song - "David's Lament" words and music copyright 2021 by David Crigger

Great - by law as the original creator of this song - I get complete control over who makes the first public realization/performance (generally its first recording of that song). For this first version, I can negotiate any fee I desire.... So let's say, Taylor Swift wants to record "David's Lament" - we strike a deal

Even if it's a bad deal - this will still likely work out good for me. Because a Taylor Swift recording will likely generate more artists wanting record David's lament - and perform it publicly.

And luckily I won't need to negotiate every future use - those agreements are all pre-determined by statutory law.

Every artist/label that wants to record their version of "David's Lament" - has to pay 9.1 cents per physical copy (CD) and about 6 cents per 100 on-demand streams. These are called mechanical licenses. Again this is federal law arrangement - so no CD's on CD Baby or Amazon or any commercial outlet skip on paying this.

Which bring us to our main topic - performance rights. Meaning who has the right to publically perform someone else's composition. And in this case performance means not just to play the song live, but also to play a recording of the song - any recording. Basically in most every situation in which a song might be heard - the composer of that song deserves compensation - and it is the Performing Rights Organization that are tasked with seeing that composers are compensated.

So if a restaurant plays background music - be it musak, or a stack of CD's played behind the bar - they are required to pay a license fee for that use.

Same with a sports bar, a shoe shop, department store, hotel elevators, etc.

Live performances? Same bit - a major act playing an arena. They may have written all of their songs or not. Or maybe only some band members wrote songs - makes no difference a license fee is paid for all of them based on attendance (in this case, specifically per song as listed on a reporting form)

A club or bar with live and canned music will pay an annual license based on size, general usage, etc

School concerts, free concerts in the park, again, virtually everywhere - if you hear a song in public that you didn't write, there is legal right for the PRO to collect some sort of fee for its performance.

So wedding bands, cover bands in clubs aren't involved with this - as it is generally the venue that is responsible for making sure the proper licenses are paid.

But to be clear - of all of that money collected from all of those sources...none of it goes to the artists of the original recordings, nor their labels - it all goes to the PRO's which them distribute it the songwriters and their publishers. None of that "Don't Stop Believing'" money went to Journey - it all went to Steve Perry, Jonathan Cain and Neil Schon.

This is why it was best to be Lennon or McCartney... less so to be Harrison.... far far less so to be Ringo.

So it's not that there isn't money to be made from sound recording royalties - or record royalties. But it is far far better to get in on the songwriting money. As again - all of the money touched on in this topic's main questions go to the songwriters.

(Tribute bands can I guess get caught in the muck if a band believes they have run afoul of that band's trademarks - but that is a whole different topic. And considering the number tribute bands, one that probably isn't a big problem)
 

Toast Tee

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You just get paid, like any other bar band. There maybe some obscure laws that exist, but I did em for 5 years, and it was never a thought.
Some of the bar owners would advertise us on the citiy's "better" radio stations. We got screwed with how much the door got badly, but I was young, and didn't care.
$20 a head at the door, a few hundred paying customers, and if we left with $500 in our pockets we did great. One of the bar/clubs had a different tribute band every Sat
We would play as 2 diffrent cover bands. I did that from 2007-210/11.
I was doing original stuff at the time as well, and we'd leave with $100-$150.
 

Whitten

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I've played hundreds of covers over the years and it is routine and never a problem.
I play with a Dire Straits cover band every now and then. Dire Straits can not stop them playing the songs, in fact they've earned money from the shows.
I have no sympathy for music venues complaining they have too pay too much for music.
 

Toast Tee

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I've played hundreds of covers over the years and it is routine and never a problem.
I play with a Dire Straits cover band every now and then. Dire Straits can not stop them playing the songs, in fact they've earned money from the shows.
I have no sympathy for music venues complaining they have too pay too much for music.
That last sentence couldn't have been put any better
 

Dumpy

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Nope.

Sorry but that is incorrect.

First clarification - There are two copyrights generally involved with music -

1. the songwriter's copyright (usually shared with the music publisher.

2. the sound recording copyright - this own by performing artist and the record label.

Nothing about cover bands etc. playing the songs made famous by known artists generates any money regarding copyright #2 - this whole topic is entirely about the songwriting copyright.

How it works is maybe easiest explained by an example - and this will be extremely hypothetical -

Let's say I write a song - "David's Lament" words and music copyright 2021 by David Crigger

Great - by law as the original creator of this song - I get complete control over who makes the first public realization/performance (generally its first recording of that song). For this first version, I can negotiate any fee I desire.... So let's say, Taylor Swift wants to record "David's Lament" - we strike a deal

Even if it's a bad deal - this will still likely work out good for me. Because a Taylor Swift recording will likely generate more artists wanting record David's lament - and perform it publicly.

And luckily I won't need to negotiate every future use - those agreements are all pre-determined by statutory law.

Every artist/label that wants to record their version of "David's Lament" - has to pay 9.1 cents per physical copy (CD) and about 6 cents per 100 on-demand streams. These are called mechanical licenses. Again this is federal law arrangement - so no CD's on CD Baby or Amazon or any commercial outlet skip on paying this.

Which bring us to our main topic - performance rights. Meaning who has the right to publically perform someone else's composition. And in this case performance means not just to play the song live, but also to play a recording of the song - any recording. Basically in most every situation in which a song might be heard - the composer of that song deserves compensation - and it is the Performing Rights Organization that are tasked with seeing that composers are compensated.

So if a restaurant plays background music - be it musak, or a stack of CD's played behind the bar - they are required to pay a license fee for that use.

Same with a sports bar, a shoe shop, department store, hotel elevators, etc.

Live performances? Same bit - a major act playing an arena. They may have written all of their songs or not. Or maybe only some band members wrote songs - makes no difference a license fee is paid for all of them based on attendance (in this case, specifically per song as listed on a reporting form)

A club or bar with live and canned music will pay an annual license based on size, general usage, etc

School concerts, free concerts in the park, again, virtually everywhere - if you hear a song in public that you didn't write, there is legal right for the PRO to collect some sort of fee for its performance.

So wedding bands, cover bands in clubs aren't involved with this - as it is generally the venue that is responsible for making sure the proper licenses are paid.

But to be clear - of all of that money collected from all of those sources...none of it goes to the artists of the original recordings, nor their labels - it all goes to the PRO's which them distribute it the songwriters and their publishers. None of that "Don't Stop Believing'" money went to Journey - it all went to Steve Perry, Jonathan Cain and Neil Schon.

This is why it was best to be Lennon or McCartney... less so to be Harrison.... far far less so to be Ringo.

So it's not that there isn't money to be made from sound recording royalties - or record royalties. But it is far far better to get in on the songwriting money. As again - all of the money touched on in this topic's main questions go to the songwriters.

(Tribute bands can I guess get caught in the muck if a band believes they have run afoul of that band's trademarks - but that is a whole different topic. And considering the number tribute bands, one that probably isn't a big problem)
Thanks for the clarification.
 

ARGuy

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It seems like there are two completely separate issues here that are getting thrown together - how, and how much, a cover band playing in a public venue gets paid, and how, and how much the songwriters of the music the band is playing get paid. Leaving out the issue of any agreement between the local musicians union and the venue for now, how much the band gets paid is between the band and the venue, and the venue pays the band. There is no involvement between the band and the PRO's. You can play in cover bands for your whole life and never have any contact with the PRO's. As for the songwriters whose music the band is playing and profiting from, they get paid by the PRO's, who get paid by the venue. As for how much live music costs the venue, they can control how much they pay the band, but they don't have as much control over how much they pay the PRO's. Having a music license is somewhat like having a liquor license. To sum this up, for a venue to have live music, it's not just as simple as how much they pay the band.
 

Whitten

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Yes, although I think we always submitted a set list so the correct performed songs were reported to the PROs and songwriters.
 


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