Yeah, this is kinda dry… but it’s important.
Please read it, dang it!
HossTheBoss.com does not pay royalties for the music we play on the station. Instead, we get permission directly from the band, or a representative of the band, for every song. We go through considerable work to document this permission and, if you have any questions or concerns along those lines, (ie if you work for BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, Sound Exchange, ect), we invite you to contact us.
As of this writing (September 23, 2008) HossTheBoss.com averages about 2,000 listeners per month, and we realize that’s unlikely to attract a large amount of attention fro the various royalty groups that might object to our policy.Â But we are certainly anticipating a few battles with royalty companies as the station grows.Â In hopes of keeping letters from music lawyers to a minimum, we addressing a few pertinent issues here:
1. HossTheBoss.com’s standard agreement with bands, singers, agents and record labels is that we can play their music, royalty free, until we hear otherwise. In exchange, we offer every band a link in the HossTheBoss.com music store, and we make sure listeners know that it’s up to them to financially support these musicians..
2. Yes we do realize that most of the music we play is currently being also offered under license by several licensing groups. We hope that, instead of getting mad at us about that, the licensing groups examine their systems to find out why the bands would give us special permission to play their music. Could it be that the bands are not being served very well by the groups?
3. Yes, we do understand that each song, technically, has two copyrights: one for the song and one for the recording. And, yes, in the case of many “cover” songs we play on the station, we have not secured permission from one of the two copyright holders. If the second copyright holder finds himself or herself upset about that, here’s our position: we do not believe it’s ethically right for the second copyright holder to deny the other holder the ability to use the copyright as he or she sees fit. But, we will “cease and desist,” playing a song if one of the copyright holders so requests. (You don’t have to hire an attorny to request this, by the way. Just send us a quick email. It’ll have the same effect.) If a second copyright holder is tempted to somehow punish us retroactively for playing the song without your permission, well, given that the other copyright holder DID give us permission, we think that’s being a bit unfair and downright crappy. We will likely say so on the site, and your efforts will likely lead to little that is of any help to humanity — or yourself.
4. When obtaining permissions to play songs, we do not necessarily verify that the person giving us permission does, indeed, have authority to do so. (Given the nature of the music business, such verification would often be impossible.) Once notified of a challenge to the permission grantor’s authority, however, we will take the song off the station immediately until the permisison can be verified.
5. Anyone who does not appreciate our stances toward music royalties, is certainly free to say so in a comment on this page. We will not censor your words — unless they stray well of the topic or become unnecessarily vulgar.
6. Anyone bent on suing us over this policy for some reason should understand that we do not have the money to hire an attorney and, therefore, will be very easy to defeat in court. Our lack of money, of course, also means that we will probably not be able to pay any judgement you may win and that we, certainly, will not settle out of court for any sum. We do, however, have plenty of access to supporters, and media, who will likely be glad to spread our side of the story far and wide. So, pick on us, if you feel you must. But we hope you won’t. We’re confident we’re not hurting anyone.
Hoss’s reasons for not paying royalties:
When I first started HossTheBoss.com in 2006, I did, in fact, pay royalties.Â I should have known better.
When music industry’s Chicken Littles started screaming in 2007 that the government was going to let at least one royalty collection group (Sound Exchange) raise rates for Internet stations to ridiculously high levels, I tried to figure out just how much HossTheBoss.com’s rates would increase. Couldn’t do it. The information dozens of activists sent me was all very confusing and inconsistent. Likewise for the various government sources I checked. And no one I knew in the industry knew what the heck was going on. They all just wanted to make music.
When musicians started contacting me to volunteer their support for my station, should the royalty rates become too high, I thought that was strange. Were not the royalty companies supposed to be working for the bands? Why would musicians volunteer to help fight a rate increase that their own representatives were pushing for?
My first reaction was to tell the musicians that they should probably look into this a little more. They might be volunteering for the wrong side in this fight.
Then I started looking into it a little more myself:
I got out my calculator and figured that I paid at least $360 into the royalty system during HossTheBoss.com’s first 12 months. Given that the station brought in next to zero dollars that first year, the royalty fee was difficult to swallow, but, I figured the bands deserved it. And that wasn’t an unreasonable price.
Still curious, I started calling around to some of the musicians the station was playing asking exactly how much they were each getting from the $60/month I was paying. I’d been dutifully reporting my playlist to the royalty companies each quarter, and I figured that my friends like Dave Kirby, Jim Starr and the Truax Brothers would have received at least a few cents from me so far.
Wrong. No one I talked to had received a penny from HossTheBoss.com. Several people said their annual royalty statements had said no one was playing their stuff even though they knew that they were appearing regularly on several Internet stations, including mine.
“I just assumed you weren’t legal,” one guy said. “It really didn’t bother me any, though. I don’t really care about a few cents in royalties. The exposure you’re giving me is worth way more than that, to me.”
I appreciated the guy’s attitude a great deal (especially since my station was far from profitable) but, the fact is, I WAS paying royalties.
Where the hell my money gone?
Trying to figure it out, I discovered that several of my musicians friends were duly registered with BMI — but none of their songs or albums were. It seems they had assumed that just registering once with the organization was good enough. They didn’t know that, to be paid for a song, they had to register it, too.
In otherwords, several people I knew simply hadn’t jumped through enough hoops to collect the few cents due to them.
“They don’t make it easy to get all of my songs properly registered.Â To do it right, I wouldÂ probably have to hire a lawyer for at least $500. And I’m not going to do that just so I can make 50 cents a year off the stations that are playing my stuff,” one musician friend told me.
In the meantime, a lot of “50 cents” are sitting in banks collecting interest — not for the musicians, of course.
I guess I’m just crazy. I decided to drop my monthly royalty payments and just start asking the bands for permission to play their music.
So far, only one group has told me no. They’re a duo who has moved to Texas from Germany relatively recently and they said they are counting on royalty payments from radio stations for a big portion of their income. When I tell other musicians that, they usually chuckle. “They must be used to an entirely different system in Germany,” one singer said.
If the royalty system overhauls itself, I might decide to get back in someday (the idea behind royalties is not half bad. It’s just the current system that stinks). Until then, all of the above applies.
Don Cudd (aka Hoss The Boss)