The Baltimore Sun's Voter Guide 2016

ASCAP vs. the Hexagon

Last week, a representative from the American Society of Composers, Artists and Composers (ASCAP) emailed the owners of The Hexagon (the new live music space where the Lo-Fi Social Club used to be, pictured).

In case you're not familiar with ASCAP, this organization represents hundreds of thousands of musicians/songwriters/etc. from all corners of the music world. From the ASCAP web site:

"ASCAP protects the rights of its members by licensing and distributing royalties for the non-dramatic public performances of their copyrighted works."

Most people don't realize that whenever a copyrighted song is performed in public, a (small) royalty is owed to the person who wrote the tune. "Happy Birthday" brings in a lot of money, I hear. Seriously.

Since it's impossible for ASCAP to monitor how many times a cover song is played in every club and cafe in every city, they make most live music venues pay an annual licensing fee.

I'll bet you know where this is going ...  

In the email, an ASCAP representative demanded the Hexagon pay $3,000 or be sued. Since the Hexagon is a small, low-budget club (most of the money they do make goes into venue improvements), they don't exactly have three grand lying around.

When they first got the e-mail, club management freaked out and canceled last Saturday's show, co-owner Josh Atkins said.

Atkins and the other owners are trying to negotiate a lesser licensing fee. In the meantime, the shows will go on, he said.

"I think we're going to continue as usual," Atkins said. "I'm talking to this guy. We're not going to cancel any [more] events."

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