Quitting ASCAP

I’m a musician, and I’m against overly-zealous copyright legislation, and I believe in the right of artists to be paid for their endeavors, and I don’t think file sharing hurts music, and I do think file sharing helps music, and I support the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Creative Commons, and I’m against broadcast flags and DRM, and I don’t support the RIAA

…and I’m a registered member of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

For a while now, I’ve felt mildly conflicted.

Recently, ASCAP, along with BMI and the RIAA, filed suit to have the laws changed so that a digital download would be the same as a public performance, in legal terms. Also, the RIAA-supported guidelines on new, exorbitant rates for streaming music providers were recently adopted, which could put many internet radio stations out of business.

All of this has helped me feel less conflicted. The only rights-management organization to which I belong is ASCAP. It’s time to sever my relationship with them. I don’t support many of their decisions, and I don’t support the agencies and organizations they are allied with. As a member, though, I tacitly am showing my support. It’s time for that to stop.

Of course, there is no evident place on the ASCAP web site where one can leave their service. So I’ve written to them, today. We’ll see how long it takes to get a response.

Look, I believe that creativity deserves compensation. If you make something and others consume your creation through experience, you have a right to be paid for their experience.

But everywhere I look, the stewards of that right seem to be on the side of those who want to control expression and, by extension, the free flow of ideas and innovation. I don’t want any part of it.

I’m a musician. I’m slowly putting my entire recorded output on this very site. Everyone is encouraged to download, stream, play in their podcasts, etc., this music. It’s all licensed under a Creative Commons Share Music License — you can download, copy, file-share, trade, distribute, and publicly perform (e.g. webcast) it, so long as you don’t profit from it in any way, change it in any way, and you give me credit any time you use it. If you enjoy the music, please compensate me with whatever you think the music is worth, balanced by whatever you can afford.

If you want to use my music commercially, if you want to cover it in your own band and put it on your own CD, or license it for some purpose that otherwise falls outside of the Share Music License, just get in touch with me. We’ll work something out.

I’m done with ASCAP. I wonder how long it will take them to contact me, so that they can be done with me?

— Update 03-05-2007 —

I received an e-mail from ASCAP today. In order to resign my membership, I need my election date — the date I became a member. The e-mail instructed me to call Member Services to get that information.

The Member Services rep (nice guy, very helpful) let me know that acquiring the election date involved his filing a written request on my behalf. Apparently this has been the case for several years — something the woman who wrote the e-mail was apparently unaware of.

So once I have my election date, I’ll be able to fill out some forms and mail them in to resign my membership.

But wait! There’s more!

The guy on the phone seemed shocked to discover that ASCAP has been holding a check for me… and that they’ve had my money “for some time,” as the Member rep put it.

Just what “some time” means, I didn’t ask. I reckon I’ll find out when I get my check for $27.00.

But wait!

In order for them to send me this money that they collected on my behalf… money that apparently came from broadcast of one or more of my songs (a surprise to me, frankly)…. I have to send them a fax saying “please release my money!”

Needless to say, I’m even more eager than ever to terminate my relationship with this organization.

More to come!

— Update: 03-07-2007 —

Maybe ASCAP had such a good year because they hold on to the artists’ money! I want my $27.00, futhermuckers!


  1. Well written and expressed.

  2. I have felt a similar conflict in applying for SOCAN for many of the same reasons. Although I do feel that I should get my fair share if my music is used for commercial purposes, I don’t wish to give tacit approval to “The RECORDING INDUSTRY MACHINE”.

  3. Greetings, Matthew.

    I just spoke with a small venue owner has been contacted repeatedly be a rude, disrespectful ASCAP rep who demands she pay $900 a year. She runs a 25 seat wine bar, and hires local yokels like me to play a couple hours every other month or so. $900 is an absurdly rediculous fee. BMI in contrast, was nice, and they negotiated a mutually beneficial amount.

    In addition, I have never received a dime from ASCAP although I KNOW my music has played regularly on several radio stations years.

    I’m sick of NOT being represented, and I’m sick of ASCAP’s mafia-like approach to bullying small local venues. I know of several other venues who have complained about this and one in particular (Willett’s Winery, Manito, IL) who stopped having live music altogether because of it.

    Who did you contact for your initial “I’m done with you” request?

    David Berchtold

    • Hi David… wow, that was some time ago. To be honest, I don’t recall who I spoke to. I’m sure I found the information on ASCAP’s website, though. The process is so Byzantine, I was never actually able to disconnect from them. My solution? I simply don’t register songs through them at all. It was never worth the association anyway.

  4. Hi Matthew. Thanks for the response. So who did you go with and are you satisfied with them?

    • No one, David. I’m not the kind of musician who’s likely to get radio airplay, and there are plenty of ways to track streaming play (SoundExchange, for example.) Also, to be frank, music’s not my primary creative endeavor these days. I don’t think about licensing all that much!


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