So there I was minding my own business in an afternoon session of the Create WV conference, listening attentively at a panel called “Creating Places to Hang Out.” The premise is simple enough: How to create so-called “third places:”
“The places we spend our time away from work and home are important, especially to creative, New Economy workers. Whether it is for food, entertainment, or just a pleasant place to hang out, people are attracted to public and semi-public spaces to be around others, share ideas and dream up new opportunities.”
The panel boasted the proprietors of some of the very coolest places in WV, including the Cathedral Cafe in Fayetteville, WV (by the New River Gorge), the near-legendary folk/acoustic venue (and RoeDeo-RoadTested) Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV, and the much-buzzed-about Cafe Cimino in Sutton, WV, population 993.
The discussion naturally turned to questions about what makes a “Third Place” cool and attractive, and what visitors/tourists/customers are looking for. Places that are dog-friendly. Places with books. Coffee available all the time. Comfortable places, nooks, and crannies. Oh, and people are looking for more live music.
And that’s when the entire conversation took a sudden left turn.
The answer from the panel: Chances are that you’re going to be hearing LESS music – both live and pre-recorded, rather than more.
Tim Urbanic of the Cafe Cimino then proceeded to tell a harrowing tale of harrassment from ASCAP and BMI….demanding copyright payments (both for piped-in music from radio stations as well as cover bands playing Eagles tunes) running into several thousands of dollars. Threatening lawsuits. And getting 10 calls in a row from BMI on a Friday night, the caller trying to overhear the live music being performed in the background to determine if it’s a song in copyright.
Astonishing. Unbelievable. And the facts – and tactics – confirmed by all of the other live music providers in the room.
So maybe all of the other doomsayers are right. If the PROs are trying to dig copyright coin out of the hardscrabble West Virginia soil, they must either be really desperate, or have built a scarily efficient enforcement machine.
Or both. So, my question: If enforcing the copyright rules for clubs, cafes, and stores is happening on this scale in lil’ ol’ West VA, how’s this playing in Austin, Nashville, and New York? Or Branson, Missouri, for that matter?
It should be noted, by the way, that ASCAP posted record revenues last year: $785 million, of which they paid out $680 million to their members. So I guess it’s working.