Monday, June 11, 2001

Big bucks spent
in the background

The music you hear in a restaurant or bar costs big bucks, whether the song is live or recorded.

One of the three main music licensing organizations that collect the money, Broadcast Music Inc., is offering a discount package to the 52 members of the newly formed Hawaii Food and Beverage Association.

While discounted, the fees represent another cost of doing business and are required under U.S. copyright law.

Association Executive Director Paul Bowskill said one 200-seat restaurant in Kona pays $490 a year, just to BMI. That doesn't count annual fees to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; nor does it include fees to Sesac, which is no longer an acronym, but a company name.

"Small business people occasionally are very startled to find out that this portion of the copyright law exists," so BMI forms partnerships with trade associations to educate members, BMI Media Relations Director Jerry Bailey said.

Fees are calculated using several factors, Bailey said, and range from $256.50 a year up to more than $7,000. "The huge difference in fees is based on how music is used," such as the size of the space and whether there's dancing.

He said the average restaurant pays $600.

"If you break it down per day, it's about the price of a soft drink," Bailey said. "In the typical restaurant, they spill that much beer on the floor every night, it's not a huge cost."

Hawaii Food Industry Association President and HFBA founder Dick Botti disagreed. For his one night of entertainment for next weekend's HFIA convention, he must pay about $100 to each organization. He doesn't begrudge songwriters their due, but wonders how much they actually receive.

Bailey said BMI sends about 83 percent of revenues collected to copyright holders, and uses the other 17 percent for administrative costs.

Alan Yamamoto, president of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Artists, said the copyright holders also include companies that publish the songs and receive 50 percent of the royalty.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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