Eat in silence, ASCAP’s listening

Bluesman Chickenbone no longer entertains Tasty Truck Tuesdays.
  • Bluesman Chickenbone no longer entertains Tasty Truck Tuesdays.

From a Facebook entry dated June 24: “Chickenbone has to say he is both sad and happy today. Sad, because an ASCAP representative is putting the hammer down on Smitty’s Service by threatening to charge a weekly rate and large back fees totaling hundreds if not thousands of dollars, effectively killing music at Tasty Truck Tuesdays for the time being.”

ASCAP is an acronym for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. They collect licensing fees from users of music created by ASCAP members, then distribute that money back to members in the form of royalty payments.

Chickenbone is a blues musician named Larry Teves. “They’d been doing Tasty Truck Tuesdays for a couple of years at Smitty’s when I asked the owner, what do you say we come over there and make some noise?” which he and his band, the Biscuits, did for the next several months. But the music came to an end after an ASCAP representative handed Smitty’s owner a bill for past-due royalties.

Mike Magers owns Smitty’s. “The ASCAP representative, Chris Pisano, told me he’d found out about it on our Tasty Truck Tuesdays Facebook page.” Each Tuesday, up to eight food trucks park on his lot and sell food to the neighborhood. “He left his business card on my desk a couple of weeks ago. He claims he sent an email back in November that I didn’t respond to, but I don’t remember ever seeing it.”

The bottom line is that ASCAP wants $42.50 each time there is music played at Smitty’s, live or not, and retroactive to last November when Chickenbone began performing. Magers countered by asking if he could beat the licensing rap and have the band perform only originals. “Pisano said that everybody that performs for more than an hour usually plays covers, and that if I wanted to play that game, he’d spot-check us and the fines would be huge. I didn’t ask how huge.”

Magers estimates that in order to fulfill the ASCAP requirement, he’d need to pony up $537.50 per quarter. “I told [Pisano] he’d be crushing a pretty cool family night. But he said it’s his job to represent musicians and that there would be no playing of copyrighted music at my location without a license.” Magers say he has no idea whether or not ASCAP will continue to hound him for the back-fees even though there is no longer live music on Tuesdays. “It sure feels, like extortion,” he emails later.

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


As an ASCAP member, I side with Chris Pisano. Protecting the copyrights of songwriters is the right thing to do. Bigtime singes/songwriters affiliated with ASCAP make $millions, but an average ASCAP member (like a SAG actor) doesn't make much money. So why steal money from them? The streaming services like Spotify are already ripping off ASCAP members, by paying a pittance. But ASCAP President/songwriter Paul Williams is now kicking butt and taking names. He's mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore. You GO, Paul!

As as ASCAP member I'd think you might have a problem with the agency scouring facebook to shake down smalltime BS like Smittys. If that's the route Williams is going to take, you might as well write off the live music scene in San Diego, which is already on lifesupport.

what will happen people will push back, and there will be a low suit against ascap and they going owe millions to people, just like bank of america had to pay settlement for ripping off customers. people dont mind paying fee if it a reasonable amount and to only one agency

Ditto, pay to play. Chickbone doesn't own or have rights the music he is playing. If the music isn't worth $42.50 in extra biz, then you don't need it. BTW - had Smitty's Service asked ASCAP to start fresh, ASCAP would have dated a current license with no back fees. Their goal is to get you licensed, not be a bill collector. ASCAP has various forms of licenses, perhaps a standard restaurant license would be cheaper than a per performance license, which is what it sounds like was initially offered. Will ASCAP sue you for what they are entitled to under federal law - $50,000 per infringement (maximum $250,000)? No, but the local ASCAP rep. will be hounding you forever, and every other bar and restaurant in town pays ASCAP and BMI royalties, why not Smitty's? Yes you could get by without an ASCAP license by playing all originals, the undercover ASCAP guy won't be able to ID any songs by an ASCAP member, but eventually Chickbone will slip up and sing Happy Birthday to someone, one of the most copyright protected songs in the world.

I should know. I used to be the ASCAP Rep for San Diego County (1984 - 1990)

Hey ASCAP: Get of my lawn! There is not enough room on this page for me to post all of the lawsuits ASCAP has lost due to not paying artists money they supposedly represented. Their history of prioritizing the interests of the major label system (monetization, lobbying, etc) over indi-artists is abysmal. While ASCAP has had a strong arm in San Diego to collect fees from venues (large and micro... such as Smitty's), it's history of paying writers (unless you have sold millions of physical media copies) is terrible.




Hey bom619 - ASCAP has nothing to do with "physical media copies" royalties. That is between the recording artist and the record label. ASCAP and BMI only collect for "public performances" such as on radio and in clubs, which is not shared with a record company. ASCAP royalties are split between the publisher and the writer, which in most cases of contemporary music, is not the recording artist who made it popular. Writers are at the bottom of the royalty food chain. Some of America's greatest writers (turn of 20th century) died penniless because they could collect $ for their songs that other singers made popular until ASCAP came along.

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader