Yesterday I came across this petition on the website of the German Bundestag. It is a petition to the parliament that has been signed by over 83,000 people yet. The main point is to check whether the German music collecting society GEMA is operating accoding to the German constitution. The idea behind it is that the fees for hosting a concert are too high for small concert organizers and that at the same time only a small portion of the royalties actually reaches the composers.
So far so good. I am somewhat surprised that the petition does not address the most apparent problem that concerns *all* collecting societies alike (ASCAP, BMI, GEMA etc.)
At a time when most classical performers are trying to market themselves via websites and social networking platforms, the ability to stream their own recordings becomes crucial. After all, you want to showcase your talent, so that more and more people will take notice of you and come to your concerts. Streaming music from your website is technically no big problem anymore, but this is where the GEMAs, ASCAPs, and BMIs of this world come into play.
Say you recorded three CDs with 15 works by 3 different composers. You host your website in the US. 2 composers are registering their works with ASCAP, one is registered with BMI. In order to stream your own recordings from your own website you would have to pay annual fees in excess of $600 to ASCAP and BMI. And this is the amount you pay if you don’t make a single $ on CD sales. If you earn money, ad even if it is only a tiny amount, you will have to pay much bigger amounts!
Why that? None of the collecting societies offers licenses for individual works or for all works by one composer only. If you want to stream one work, you have to get a comprehensive license that would allow you to stream all (!!) of the works that have been registered with that collecting society. That includes millions of works: all of Van Halen, all of Frank Sinatra, all of Motörhead, all of Björk, all of Steve Reich, all of …. and also the 15 works that you wanted to stream from your website.
How crayz is that? Let me know what you think.
Here is a link to the petition again.
PS: if you are composer and you wanted to stream recordings of your own music, you would have to buy the comprehensive license, too!
PPS: I think composers should definitely get paid when their music is played, downloaded, and streamed. I am just questioning the practice of not making the purchase of licenses more flexible.