ASCAP’s “I Create Music EXPO” – Avoiding the "hard" Questions?

By • June 4, 2006

While I was unable to attend ASCAP’s recent “I Create Music” expo held in Los Angeles recently due to my teaching schedule in NY and Boston, the glowing press releases from ASCAP certainly told the tale of an information-filled expo experience. Kudos to ASCAP for putting some of our royalty money into what appears to have been a well-produced event.

But were any of the “hard” questions asked of ASCAP’s folks in attendance?

Questions like:

  • Why does ASCAP continue to pay a minute of instrumental score only 20% of what a minute of song is paid during the same television show, watched by the same number of viewers? Or put another way, what justifies diverting huge amounts of money away from instrumental composers and into the pockets of the writers of each and every song, simply because the music has lyrics?
  • Why does ASCAP have any pay differences for score vs. song at all, when the broadcasters who pay money into ASCAP make no such differences in their payments to ASCAP, and their license agreements to not include or refer to any differences in score vs. song?
  • Why has ASCAP spent $15 million of member royalty money on an automated tracking system called MediaGuide, but then apparently put profit motives (making profits from selling tracking data to third parties) before tracking instrumental music on television with MediaGuide?
  • Why has ASCAP chosen to delay, or perhaps eliminate, any chance of digital watermarking technology being incorporated into MediaGuide – this technology would make MediaGuide capable of identifying music (such as score) under sound effects and dialogue – music that is difficult or impossible to track by MediaGuide now.
  • What’s the benefit to ASCAP’s membership of a rule the ASCAP board proposed, and was able to get the membership to pass using vague and misleading language, a rule that has virtually wiped out any practical chance of independent candidates getting a spot on the ASCAP Board of Directors election ballot by now requiring 1,000 signatures (formerly only 25 signatures) of voting ASCAP members unless a candidate is “chosen” by the ASCAP Board’s incumbent nominating committee?
  • Why does ASCAP feel it’s proper to spend time and money retaliating against members who ask questions like these?

These are only some of the questions that likely were not asked at the “I Create Music” expo, perhaps because members were afraid to ask them, perhaps because members didn’t know enough to ask them, or perhaps because members have given up and just don’t care about trying to make things better for themselves – with ASCAP along with music publishers and film companies so massively devaluing instrumental score music and those who write it, composers have a lot to deal with and are certainly facing an uphill climb on the road to reform at ASCAP.

Congratulations to ASCAP for the Expo. Now, about those “hard” questions…

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