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January 29, 2010

Hexagon to go non-profit, stop paying ASCAP fees

The Hexagon, a live music club in Station North run by a collective of volunteers, will no longer pay fees to music licensing organizations such as ASCAP and BMI, officials announced this week.

The club is on its way to becoming a non-profit, according to board member Leeann Brown. It has reached non-profit status in the state, and is on the path to becoming a 501(c)(3). Effective immediately, bands and DJs who perform at the club can only play music that's original, fair use or in the public domain. ...

If you recall, not long after the Hexagon opened in 2008, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC billed the Hexagon a total of nearly $5000 for the rights to host music licensed by their artists.

If you're not familiar with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, they represent hundreds of thousands of musicians/songwriters/etc. from all genres.

Unable to pay the bill, the Hexagon negotiated the fee down to about half the original sum, and was able to cover the costs for last year. When ASCAP approached the club about paying for 2010, the Hexagon refused.

"It would be going against our mission statement to support these organizations," Brown said. 

The only other club that has publicly refused to pay ASCAP and co. and continued to operate is AS220 in Rhode Island, Brown said. The Hexagon's board looked at AS220's model, which helped them make the decision to stop paying licensing fees.

This decision does, Brown said, present a potentially risky situation for the club.

"If at any point, a musician begins to breach these rules, we'll have to turn the sound off," Brown said. "We're hoping that won't come up."

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:33 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music
        

Comments

Sam, I see you have not taken a position on this practice, which is a low, low strategy I have seen used in the past by club owners hoping to save some bucks. It is not a fair solution. The musicians who "play only music that is original..." etc, are really in the same boat as the songwriters who have registered their original music with ASCAP, BMI, etc. Every "cover" song began as an "original" song. Musicians and songwriters deserve A) to be compensated for their songs, and B) to have the right to perform whatever artistic choices they make, and the club owner is responsible for paying whatever those licensing fees are, because the club owner is making the profit from the club.
Becoming a non-profit is a bogus solution. I confess I know nothing about this particular club, and for all I know, the people who frequent it might be the next Bonos, George Harrisons, and Bob Geldorfs who are in line to save the world, but a performer ought to have the right to make a living, and to play the songs he or she chooses. The club owner needs to take responsibility, given the intellectual property system we have now.
I am dubious about the mission of a non-profit club representing composers of original music saying it would be against their mission to support an organization that provides royalty checks to songwriters. Wha?

Silvio, you obviously have no experience in working within the music industry or as an artist yourself. Your argument makes no sense and it seems that for some unknown reason you fear non-profits. The Hexagon makes a strong statement, which i agree with as most of the money from Ascap, BMI and the liike never get to actual artists.

I wish them luck, but it sounds like thickly sown minefield their treading.

I wonder how long until they get nailed.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at erik.maza@baltsun.com. Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.
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