Refusing to Pay Songwriters, ASCAP Takes Legal Action Against Meadowlark

Meadowlark Bar and 19 other bars across the country are in hot water from The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). Today, the ASCAP announced that it has launched 19 individual copyright infringement actions against establishments nationwide including Denver’s Meadowlark, due to the unauthorized public performance of ASCAP members’ copyrighted works. According to Jackson Wagener Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs with ASCAP, the allegations stem from Meadowlark’s refusal to obtain an ASCAP license for the public performances the bar typical holds. On average, nationally establishments pay around $750 a year which equates to less than $2 a day.

“Music is enormously valuable to bars and restaurants, creating an emotional connection with patrons and providing the right ambiance to attract and retain customers,” commented ASCAP Executive Vice President of Licensing Stephanie Ruyle. “However, each of the establishments sued today has decided to use music without compensating songwriters. Hundreds of thousands of well-run businesses across the nation recognize the importance of paying music creators to use their music, and understand that it is both the lawful and right thing to do. By filing these actions, ASCAP is standing up for songwriters whose creative work brings great value to all businesses that publicly perform their music.”

ASCAP operates on a non-profit basis and represents 725,000 independent songwriters, composers and publishers. For that group, royalties make up the majority of their living and organizations like ASCAP help facilitate the delivery of such royalties wherever recorded and performed music is offered. A whopping 90% of license fees ASCAP collects goes directly to its members. Licenses vary overall, due to a couple of factors — total premises occupancy, the frequency of live music and the consideration of how music is used in the establishment (iPhone, karaoke, etc.), but all of them are annual.

Over the year’s ASCAP has made numerous attempts to educate business owners to the responsibilities to compensate songwriters, composers and publishers, but reaching a preferred outcome with Meadowlark proved fruitless. As Wagener spoke via phone conversation, “litigation is a last resort,” and one only used when reaching the establishment proves unsuccessful.

“We want every business that uses music to prosper, including bars and restaurants,” mentions ASCAP Chairman of the Board and President, songwriter Paul Williams. “After all, as songwriters and composers, we are small business owners, too, and music is more than an art form for us. It’s how we put food on the table and send our kids to school. Most businesses know that an ASCAP license allows them to offer music legally, efficiently and at a reasonable price – while compensating music creators so we can earn a living from our work and keep doing what we do best – writing music.”

Meadowlark has yet to respond to the allegations, but this article will be updated if one is available.