BMI Music... anyone getting these letters?

Hey all,
I keep getting letters for a BMI saying that I need to pay them $320 for a music license because we have Karaokee… does anyone know if this is legit or just trying to scam more money out of the little guys?

Thanks all!

They are the real deal! They will never back down, and they will hound you until you are miserable! They will take you to court if they have to as well! Then when they are done with you they will refer their cohort ASCAP to you so you can go through it all over again!!! Check with your state restaurant association to see if they have a negotiated rate for you.

gotcha, well i looked into the Illinois Restaurant Association, and yes they have a 10% discount… but I have to pay $285 to become a member of the Restaurant Association to get it… and from skimming through their site, i dont see any benefit other then saving a $35 on this license… am I missing something?


I think you had this same issue almost two years ago: … 0ded159c12

Nothing has changed and the fee is legit. You should really get this worked out, because they’ll be more than happy to sue you. The entire purpose of ASCAP and BMI is to protect their artists’ copyrights.

I thought that if your restaurant was < a certain size, OR the mix came out of no more than 6 speakers, 4 in 1 room, then you didn’t need to pay any royalties??? I read this in a restaurant book.

The exception applies to music played via radio, television, cable or satellite. It does not apply to mechanical music, which is what karaoke would fall under.

So the exception also does not apply to you playing your own iPod or CD’s in your establishment.

Yeah i got them a while back then they stopped coming… now i’m getting them in force.

What about Internet Radio?

Doesn’t look like that is exempt. The entire exemption is explained here: … S21107.pdf

It actually specifically says TV and radio, so I’d even scratch what I said above about cable and satellite - cable and satellite broadcasts are not exempt.

From the link:

These exemptions, however, do not authorize an establishment to originate its own broadcasts of copyrighted material. That is, an establishment may play the radio or show a television broadcast without violating copyright law, but the act still does not shield the same business when it plays, for example, CDs protected by the copyright laws.

So no part of the exemption is going to cover karaoke.

After you take care of BMI, expect ASCAP to start sending letters too!

A little off topic, but another important point for anybody using the exemption for radio:

and if the reception is not further transmitted (for example, from one room to another) from the place in which it is received

That means you can’t have a receiver in your office or in the back room and be sending it to speakers in your dining room. The receiver must be placed in the dining room.

I was listening to music when I wrote this post… BMI probably wants a royalty since the music may have helped inspire my writing :roll:

There is actually a third one, as well (although a little less known), which is SESAC. Between the three (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC), they cover copyrights of SONGS as well as artists. That means that one artist could have material under copyright protection with ALL THREE of these companies! :shock:

We are currently paying an annual fee to all three because we have cable radio, and we also have live music. Anytime you have live music, you have an additional liability for these licenses, because whoever is playing could theoretically cover a copyrighted song… What an enormous PITA! :x

It dosent say anything about an internet Jukebox though… in the bar we use an Internet Jukebox but it displays the BMI and other logo’s right on the screen showing that it’s licensed , I assume thier licenses cover us? (assuming that I stop karaokee and only use the Jukebox.)

because whoever is playing could theoretically cover a copyrighted song…

Now that sounds like their problem… whoever is re-playing the song illegally is liable, not the nearby business or pedestrian.

The problem arises when you aren’t a “nearby” business… If they are commissioned by you to play in your establishment, the liability falls on you. We have live music every weekend in the restaurant, so we have to have a different level of coverage by these companies.

Understood… I guess I would not ‘hire’ a business to play who wasn’t ‘insured’ or ‘licensed.’

It’s no different than the license requirements for playing music over the radio… It’s just another level to it. It allows us to be very flexible with the artists we get to choose, without the liability of me having to verify their legal ability to play the songs they wish.

Considering our live music is on Sundays, and Sundays are our second busiest day of the week, it makes sense for us to incur the extra license expense. I am 100% sure that the live music is the driving factor to Sundays being such a busy day for us.

Give them a call and find out. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the BMI and ASCAP logos are indicating that the jukebox service is licensed to broadcast the music to you, not that you are licensed to use it commercially.

I got tired of dealing with all of this stupid crap, so I had Muzak installed a couple of weeks ago. $50 per month and it covers the licensing.