Letters to the Editor June 2017

– BMI Demands Tribute from Bix –

To the Editor:

After dealing with just about everything at the Tribute to Bix fest for almost 30 years, music publishing rights and royalties jump up and try to bite me. BMI has now sent two contract proposals and left four phone messages regarding my obligations to provide composer and lyricist royalties for all tunes we perform at the fest that are controlled by them. They fully or partially own over 12 million selections.

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Finding cheap and reliable legal help is not easy. The State of Illinois senior help legal group does not have the expertise, but are looking for somebody. Bad advice is everywhere. A local jazz society has been hit on by ASCAP and has held them off for awhile, but know it’s not over.

I’m a “schedule A licensee prospect” for “0.4% of gross ticket revenue” payments. Seems like a curious way of mixing percents and percentages as this is 2/5 of 1% or .004 times gross revenue. No matter. My cost might be in the annual $50 range for one event. However, BMI wants either that amount or $239 (currently), whichever is higher. I would forever be paying five or six times the actual royalties due. This does not seem right to me!

In over 65 years being involved in this music business as a fan or fest owner, I’ve never seen any articles nor had anyone approach me on this subject. Many people think public domain takes over. I don’t think so. For example, “St. Louis Blues” is now owned by BMI and apparently still active. What to Do? What do you know about these things? Can this be a hot topic for your Syncopated Times? Perhaps things are heating up in the music world. I’d be appreciative of any help. You can go online and find all 12 million BMI tunes along with their percent of ownership or control.

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Regards,
Phil Pospychala
Libertyville, IL
bixguy@hotmail.com

In our telephone conversation that followed my receipt of this letter, Mr. Pospychala added that the $239 fee demanded by BMI was merely for “licensing” and had nothing to do with actual royalties on selections played. We both wondered whether paying this fee would open the door for the collection of royalty fees on tunes performed at the Tribute to Bix Fest.

Moreover, I find it incredible that BMI would consider “St. Louis Blues” under their control, since it was published and copyrighted in 1914. Even the prohibitive US copyright guidelines instituted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act allow for work published before January 1, 1923 to be firmly in the public domain.

I advised Mr. Pospychala not to sign anything nor to make any payments until he had conferred with a lawyer specializing in music performance rights.

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I would, however, like to do a piece on promoters of small-to-mid-sized jazz festivals and owners of venues who have been dunned by BMI and/or ASCAP. What I would like to address is mainly: 1) Who has paid these “licensing fees?” 2) What has been their experience in dealing with either organization after payment? 3) Have there been additional fees after the “license” is paid? and 4) What happens when a promoter or venue owner refuses to pay?
Those responding to this query may be identified or remain anonymous at their discretion. Mr. Pospychala gave me permission to publish this letter under his name because, as he said, “They already know who I am.” – Ed.

– Remembering Bob Erdos –

To the Editor:

I was saddened to read of Bob Erdos’ passing. I never met him (he was in Pennsylvania, me on the west coast), but we often talked on the phone. He was always cordial and generous in helping to build up the trad jazz and ragtime section of the community radio station where I worked. Eventually I was able to buy whatever Stomp Off release I wanted until I just about ran out of room, but I notice Amazon has 43 pages of CDs, vinyl and cassettes available!
My next radio show will be a tribute to Stomp Off, and to Bob.

Mike Schmitz
Carmel Valley, CA
Host of “From Rags to Wishes” KAZU, 90.3FM, Pacific Grove, CA
www.mixcloud.com/mikester

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– Book Sales to Benefit Jazz Club –

To the Editor:

My dad, Pat Carroll, was the editor of JAZFAX [the newsletter published by the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse, NY] and author of the “Pat Says…” column. As you may know, my dad passed away two years ago. I have been working on a book that is a compilation of his columns.

Mainly I did this for my family, but I am also trying to use it to raise some funds for JASS. The books have not yet been printed. My plan is to raise the funds and pay for the books then give the balance to JASS. It is going to cost $5.40 per book to print and then shipping.

Each donation of $25 or more will receive one copy of the book, unless specified that additional copies are requested. For example, if $50 is donated the donor will receive one copy unless they tell me they want two copies. My guess is that approximately $15 of every $25 contribution will go to JASS. Here is a link to the online fundraiser: www.razoo .com/Pat-Says.

For anyone who would prefer to send a check they can make it out to Cindy DeCarolis with JASS fundraiser in memo and mail it to me at 62 West Avenue, Fairport, NY 14450.

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Not sure if at this point you can do anything, but if you can share this I would appreciate it.

Cindy DeCarolis
Fairport, NY
cindydecarolis62@gmail.com

I am truly remiss in not publicizing this book/benefit sooner. I apologize for the delay in doing so, but I hope even at this late date this will have some positive effect. The book you mention also contains a foreword by our own Russ Tarby.

Pat Carroll was a beloved member of JASS for many years and is deeply missed by those who knew him and who read his column. This book is an excellent way to enjoy his company again, if only in print. Also, the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse, like many small jazz clubs around the country, could use a boost in terms of finances and moral support. – Ed.

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