It turns out that a number of songs someone else wrote are linked to our BMI account.
It's not a large sum of money and errors do happen, but to us, it actually proves what many small time artists feel. BMI does not provide any care or concern for us at all.
Below I have posted this morning's correspondence.
Hope this email finds you well. I’m writing to you from BMI.
BMI received an inquiry from a publisher that mistakenly used your IPI number (world-wide identifying number) for a number of titles that were actually written by another writer with a similar name. Unfortunately, this resulted in a payment of about $374 to you that was meant for the other BMI affiliate. We have since corrected our database and will be issuing an adjustment debiting your account the aforementioned amount.
We apologize for any inconvenience this error has caused.
Please explain to me how you will debit the $374, I can't afford to have the funds debited directly from my bank account, so I hope you are just going to debit future royalties.
In the 8 years or so that I've been dealing with BMI, I have not had a single positive experience, nor do I feel that the organization does any good to small time artists.
Constantly while on the road we run into scenarios where small bars and restaurants refuse to have live music because of the harassment from BMI representatives. You need to understand that small bars that host small music acts, more often than not lose money by paying and/or feeding traveling musical artists. Overall your organization has done a lot of harm to me as a musician trying to carve out a living as an artist. Now you've made a mistake and I hope it doesn't cause me even more financial strife.
I would like to discuss canceling my future relations with BMI.
Daniel Davies Hallock
I’m so sorry to hear that your experience over the years with BMI was not positive. The monies BMI gets from those venues are used to pay the writers and publishers of the works that are being performed. I’m not sure if you are aware, but songwriters who are performing at these establishments can submit their Setlists through the BMILIve portal (via their online account) and get paid for their original works that are being performed live.
Venues that do not want to pay a license fee can have artists perform as long as they get the rights to those songs from the copyright holder. If you own the copyright to the works, then you can give the public performance rights to the venue. You will not be able to perform covers unless the venue has obtained those rights. If direct permission by the copyright holder is granted to the venue for 100% original works, BMI cannot collect a fee and therefore no payment can be made to the songwriter or publisher. For a bar that has an occupancy of 100 people and live music every night, that BMI license fee for the year would be about $600 (less than $2 a day.) This is so that songwriters like yourself can get paid for music that is adding value to establishment’s bottom line. Our license fee structures are posted on our website if you’re interested in checking it out.
It’s unfortunate that the publisher registered the incorrect information, but sometimes it does happen. We’re just trying to get the royalties to the correct songwriter. The statement that was posted to your account on March 17, 2017 does reflect the incorrect work Fat Stacks along with the amount that was issued for the work that you did not write. This is in addition to other royalties that appear to belong to you from other sources. The debit will be issued against future royalties.
I’m attaching a copy of your agreement. Paragraph 1 indicates what you need to do to terminate your agreement. It appears that we would have to receive your termination request by via overnight courier (Fed Ex, UPS, etc. ) per the window period described in your agreement. Otherwise, it renews for another two years. However, keep in mind that the overpayment balance will need to be paid off in order for any termination to become effective.
Please let me know if I can answer any additional questions.
I've heard the excuses from Performance Rights Organizations a thousand times. I've done a lot of researching, talked to hundreds of artists & venues and put years of thought into my opinion.
I'm well aware that I can give a venue public performance rights to my material and perform songs from the public domain. I have talked venues into allowing us to do this on the road and in one particular case, I received a call from an infuriated owner who was called by BMI the day after we played about payment due to BMI. The venue owner thought I reported them to BMI after agreeing there would be no harassment from PRO's about the show. Many venues just staunchly refuse to allow live music solely because of the calls they receive. Apparently, your employees that call these owners are hostile and threatening.
I will try to break this down for you from my point of view, and I encourage you to share this with other BMI employees.
I'm from Montana and have performed mostly in small town bars around Montana and Wyoming. Please note there are more people in the Nashville metro than Montana and Wyoming put together.
A bar in the middle of Wyoming in a town of 1000 people that has a 100 person capacity will never have 100 people in it at one time so right from the get-go circumstances leave them overcharged. Your fee to them is $600, then ASCAP wants another $600, then SESAC wants another $600. If this bar has music, pays the band $200(which is often the revenue for the night), then there are jukebox fees, plus they're out any food and drink costs they share with the band. Let's conservatively estimate it costs the bar $5-10,000 a year to host music.
To people in Nashville or NYC, that's a piddly sum that many of you probably make in less than a month, but it's not uncommon for people in small towns to live on $30-40k a year. (Small towns meaning a small western town, not the 30,000 plus cities that people back East consider a small town). $1800 just for PRO fees is a significant percentage of that bar's revenue, and because of this cost, the bar is forced to turn artists like me away. I lose venues regularly, and the owners of these venues usually call me directly very sincerely apologize, tell us what a pleasure it is to have live music and then go on to explain how much they hate BMI, and I emphatically agree.
Now I know your company talks very loud and proud about how much you do for artists, but my case alone quite eloquently illustrates that you exercise absolutely no due diligence on behalf of your clients. I just looked at my BMI account, and the majority of the songs on there are NOT mine. This situation is a big mess, and if you would've performed your fiduciary duties to your client, there would be no issue.
I would personally like to wash my hands of this whole situation, but unfortunately, because of the hundreds of dollars that I now owe BMI, I am unable to pay. I realize this is not a personal issue and one of strictly business and since I cannot pay to break this contract I'm obligated for another two years.
I'm just a Folksinger and don't know what the answer is but I feel your business method is flawed. It may be working for Top 40 artists, but it is to my professional detriment. Maybe your methods worked in the analog past, but in the digital present CDBaby has been perfect for me. BMI I can do without. I feel like you're killing live music.
Daniel Davies Hallock