Called scum suckers and worse. In January it was announced that ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) had sued Jolt’n Joes in La Mesa and the Ramona Mainstage because they hosted musicians without paying licensing fees to ASCAP.
ASCAP, BMI, and other licensing groups collect performance royalties from TV/radio broadcasts that use music and from venues with live musicians, DJs, and karaoke. After ASCAP and BMI pays its staff, those fees are distributed to songwriters.
Orrin Day remodeled Ramona’s movie house into a 600-capacity concert venue. It had become a hotbed for big-name metal bands but now just hosts headliners occasionally (Steve Poltz, July 14; David Allan Coe, July 28).
Day says ASCAP had been dogging him since the Mainstage opened. “I got away not paying them for ten years.” He says he was baffled at how ASCAP comes up with the fees that venues have to pay. “We settled for a whole lot less than what they wanted me to pay.” ASCAP initially was seeking “almost $3000” in annual fees, but the licensing agreement he recently signed was $1300.
“Since I signed up with ASCAP, now BMI will start coming after me. There are, like, four of five of these scum suckers out there. It will end up costing me $3000 to $5000 [annually] to pay off those motherfuckers.”
8076 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa
Phil Paccione, owner of Jolt’n Joe’s, said on June 20 that he was just about to sign the final documents dismissing the lawsuit and would commit the La Mesa nightspot to paying ASCAP fees. He said he would comment as soon as that happened but has not responded since. The Jolt’n Joe’s La Mesa web page notes no scheduled shows.
“Litigation is our last resort,” said Jackson Wagener, ASCAP VP of legal affairs. “We only sue them after years of attempting to explain to them why they need their fees.” Wagener said the annual ASCAP fees are not negotiable. He said there are “two primary factors, the type of music and room occupancy...and it’s the same if you’re in New York or Omaha.”
Later in the conversation he said it was the goal of ASCAP reps to reach a “reasonable settlement” with licensees.
ASCAP spokeswoman Cathy Nevins says ASCAP does in fact set its own rates, based on the “marketplace...the size of our ever-increasing repertoire,” and “our market share relative to our competitors.”
Tom Goettle said he used to have live music at his Longshot bar in San Marcos but ASCAP/BMI fees drove him out of live music.
“If we had music three times a week, we would have to pay $4000 to $5000 a year [to ASCAP and BMI]. “There is no way I can justify that.” When he sold the Longshot he had discontinued music. “We would do anything to avoid paying them.”