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Cover Band Rules

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by MrBruce, Oct 16, 2020.

  1. MrBruce


    Oct 16, 2020
    What are the legal requirements/limits for being a cover band doing old school R&B and southern soul music. Do bands have to pay to play other people's stuff? Thank you
    JRA likes this.
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    In the USA the venue has to pay, not the band.

    Surprise, lots of venues don't bother to pay a penny.
    legalbass, Pdaddy1978, DWBass and 5 others like this.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yeah the venue is supposed to have a BMI (or similar) membership and pay fees.

    Some songs are not bound by those regulations. We used to play for a club owner who refused to pay. He had a lost on the back of the house PA speakers of songs we couldn't play.
    juancaminos and Pdaddy1978 like this.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    ^ This. ^^ And this.
  5. 4 Strings Good

    4 Strings Good Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2014
    Winoman, Artman and JRA like this.
  6. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I'm gonna put it out there, I'd be blown away if 10% of live music club-sized venues pay a cent for licensing of live music. For (recorded) house music it's probably closer to 25%.
  7. It gets worse. Some festival organizers will try to get bands to sign for having the performance rights, when it's actually their responsibility.
    Winoman and Ellery like this.
  8. Wilmingtonian


    Aug 20, 2011
    Considering how aggressive the music-rights groups are with enforcing their licenses, I'd guess it is significantly more than those numbers.
    QweziRider, gln1955, justjake and 5 others like this.
  9. Cutter8

    Cutter8 Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2018
    It is.
    Wilmingtonian likes this.
  10. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Same rules here in Canada: the venue pays. Much easier to go after the bars/clubs than individual bands.
    jmhaslip likes this.
  11. RickyT


    May 29, 2015
    Dee Why
    I know in Australia you send/provide a set list to the venue/promoter and any covers on there are paid through APRA by the venue/promoter not the band.
  12. Aceman


    May 1, 2020
    Tampa Bay
    If this is an issue - find somewhere else to play.
    CB3UK, Rip Van Dan and J Gold like this.
  13. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    IME, the aggressive pursuit of fees for performing other’s songs is a very spotty thing. Where i lived for so long, a place BTW not known for tourism, enforcement of those rules was nonexistent, but just over 200 miles south on the Florida gulf coast, a live music venue would be harassed out of business for failure to pay the required fees, but less than a hundred miles west on the same coastline there were plenty of tourist destinations where no one was trying to collect those fees. Was it because it was Florida and the other Gulf coast places were in Alabama and Mississippi? If so, why was Pensacola not being as aggressively regulated as Panama City Beach? I finally gave up trying to figure out why enforcement was so uneven and decided it was individual areas and whatever rep the local enforcement body had for said enforcement, that determined which places paid and which didn’t.
    Troy Eggen likes this.
  14. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    This is a fascinating topic. I've never once run into this in many years of playing covers at different types of venues. I'm not semi pro like some of you guys are so maybe our places fly under the radar.
    foolforthecity likes this.
  15. Droopy_TX


    Jul 17, 2016
    I wonder how many dozens of people Don Henley employs to travel the country shutting down bands playing “Life in the Fast Lane”???
    John M Ewers and Renaissance like this.
  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    One local venue owner told the BMI and ASCAP reps that as soon as they showed him the royalties actually being paid to the artists playing original material in his room, he'd be glad to pay the fees. No surprise they were unwilling or unable to do so. His venue did not hire cover acts.

    I don't know if the algorithms for payment to writers (not the performers, just the writers) have improved over the years, but back in the 1980s BMI and ASCAP would take all the money and divvy it up based on what songs were most popular at the time. So the year that MJ dropped Thriller he got all the money :roflmao:

    I've worked with a singer/songwriter who's been recording since the early 1960s and been on major labels, too. He told me he never received a penny of for airplay or live performance of his songs (whether by himself or numerous covers) in the USA but regularly gets checks from the EU for radio play. Go USA!!! :banghead:

    He's also never seen any mechanical royalties for his over a dozen recordings. :sour:

    Attached Files:

  17. foolforthecity

    foolforthecity Supporting Member

    We came across this at an establishment we played at in South Texas that got hit for this, and hit hard. We Haven’t heard the final tally on this yet.

  18. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    Man that's brutal. I get 5K annually for a bar isn't a huge expense but jeez... We're talking about the bar band circuit.
    foolforthecity likes this.
  19. MD-BassPlayer

    MD-BassPlayer Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    We've had contracts that seem to attempt to put the performance rights on the band, but that's just not the case and they know that. Not even sure there is a mechanism for a band to purchase performance rights for music. Another thing we've seen is certain venues that want only cover bands thinking that they won't need to pay performance rights since the bands are playing their originals. Well, that's not the case either. If the music is on iTunes or Spotify it's likely covered by BMI / ASCAP / SESAC and performance rights need to paid even though the bands are playing only their own music.
  20. Or my own favorite: The skinflint owner who decides to bill the band to recoup some of his money after the licensing reps have made their fly-by and he had to pony up the $$$. I keep wondering who he was trying to skin for the background music on the overhead speakers the nights we didn't play . . . . .
    bassfran likes this.

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