No doubt anyone in the music industry who has anything to do with writing or publishing songs, and/or performing them, has heard of the issues that have cropped up in regard to ASCAP's "premium payments". These payments, supposedly, are paid to songwriters to reflect the importance to ASCAP's repertory that achieve high level performances on radio, and to compensate members that have some type of a "prestige" value.
Recently, this has come under fire, with those in the industry starting to speak out - loudly - about it. An article I came across in Billboard, entitled "At PROs, Transparency Shouldn't Be Just A Buzzword," by SMACKSongs president Michael Baum, went into great detail about this issue and how country hitmaker Shane McAnally's woes with ASCAP have put these payments into the spotlight.
To summarize the issue, McAnally notified ASCAP that he was leaving ASCAP to join another PRO, Global Music Rights. Although he expected his payments to keep on coming - including the premium payments for which he was owed - he was shorted about a million dollars of what he had been anticipating.
He is now in a fight with the PRO to get what he was due, and promised. And as is typical with ASCAP and the other major PRO, BMI, he got the run around.
According to Baum, they repeatedly asked why the money was being withheld. ASCAP responded that it "takes a long time" to manually create statements. Baum pointed out that nobody ever cited a rule as a basis for withholding payments, or in fact that they were phasing out the payments.
Typical of snarky behavior that small venues are used to dealing with (when it comes to "blanket licensing"), no one said anything to the point that removing works would also mean leaving those monies at ASCAP, even while ASCAP continued licensing McAnally's work.
This is beyond snarky. I would say it borderlines on illegality, but since I'm not a lawyer, I cannot make that assessment alone. It sounds like Baum, however, is going to take this to the Justice Department, and I hope he does.
This practice is yet another glimpse into the tactics that these organizations utilize to withhold money that songwriters, artists, and publishers expect - along with the already egregious tactics used to force mom and pop shops to license a PRO's entire catalog. There is ZERO transparency. They state that they are "protecting" the interests of their members. But in my eyes, and moreover the eyes of more people every day, they see this as a money making machine and somehow, somewhere, someone is lining their pockets with the hard earned money of the songwriters and creators as well as the licensees that pay for it.
Through our technology at VNUE and through education of the public, and working with organizations, artists, writers, and publishers, we hope we can help to facilitate change that will ensure folks are being paid and that the entire process is transparent.