A continuing trend among venues that host public concerts is to place language in their contracts restricting the music an artist performs to a specific Performance Rights Organization’s (PRO) catalog or requiring the artist or band to perform only originals. (Venues in these cases assume the originals are not part of ASCAP’s, BMI’s or any other PRO’s catalog). More and more venues are looking for ways to cut or avoid paying royalties to copyright holders when presenting public performances. Some go so far as to put language in their contracts that attempt to pass on any costs incurred by a venue should the venue be caught presenting a performance that includes covering music that is part of a PRO’s catalog.
Read Your Musicians Contract
Legally, it is a venue’s responsibility to pay the licensing costs for presenting live public performances of copyrighted music. Cover bands or solo artists that do covers should be prepared to ask venues to strike or amend language in their contracts that limit venues’ responsibilities to pay all licensing costs. Otherwise, live musicians and venues hope to fly under the radar with the performers allowing venues to shirk their obligations. Whereby, venues presenting the covered live-music essentially steal the property of copyright holders, denying the creators / owners of these compositions compensation for the use of their property.
To perform or display a work publicly means:
- To perform or display it in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or
- To transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public are capable of receiving the performance or display it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.