The Partnership Between Songwriters and Venues

The panel included publishers, performing rights associations and even a songwriter. However, the title mentioned venues but it took a little while for them to get involved. 

Photo: Barry Brecheisen

One audience member running a college venue in Missouri just wanted to know where the licensing fee money goes.

“How is it being tracked at BMI that it’s a legitimate dollar amount you’re asking for from us?” he asked. The answer depends on many factors including venue size and tickets sold, but you’re paying it anyway so it might as well get spread around to the actual artists and songwriters behind the music.

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BMI’s Perry Howard was praised for doing just that by being instrumental in setting up BMI Live. It allows artists to upload setlists for each and every performance of each and every song so royalties can properly be distributed. And there are no additional costs to venues for this program, as it’s taking money “off the top” of existing licensing fees, Howard said.

Touring country musician and songwriter George Ducas says BMI Live helps keep him in business, especially during the dry years when that hit song just doesn’t come. “As a content creator, or as a publisher, we don’t want to just give it away,” Ducas said. “The hard thing about music is it’s in the ether – in your ears and gone. Whether downloading a file or playing a venue. You want to see something from it. “Part of BMI’s mission and why I’m a BMI artist … is they try really hard to let those that they ask licensing fees from, to show them first hand where their fees are going,” said Ducas, who has written songs that became hits for artists including Sara Evans and Eli Young Band.

“They help connect the dots. Most of us are not making six or seven figures. One percent of people are killing it, while the rest are not exaggerating when they say it’s brutal.”

Small publishers like panel moderator Leslie DiPiero’s AAM rave about the program. “Every little bit that can help nurture the career of a songwriter is a treasure,” she said, jokingly adding that it sounds like she’s running a charity. “It’s amazing when those fees are being paid toward the development of songwriters.”

with beer-stained setlist

“It’s kind of line online banking,” Howard said in describing BMI Live. “We want a setlist as it happens. If you do covers, hopefully you would include that. You want those writers and publishers paid just as if someone was playing your song.

“With sales declining it’s a good time for a program like this to exist,” Howard added. 

“I don’t have to understand it all, I just have to enter my setlist,” says Ducas, who proceeded to play three or four songs and showed the crowd his beer-stained setlist that he would be entering to BMI Live after his next show.

DiPiero and AAM colleague Emily Peacock said they would enter the impromptu panel performance right then and there.