Film Music Magazine Endorses ASCAP Composer Candidates

Film Music Magazine • February 4, 2009

Film Music Magazine endorses the following composer candidates in the 2009 ASCAP Board of Directors election:

Doug Wood
Bruce Broughton
Richard Bellis
David Vanacore

We believe that these candidates represent the best interests of composers and will create positive change for composers at ASCAP, where discrimination against composers and their music is perhaps best evidenced by the ASCAP weighting formula for television which pays a one-minute background instrumental cue used within a show only 20% of what is paid to a one-minute song used in the same show.

We remain seriously concerned with the overwhelming secrecy which the ASCAP Board surrounds itself with, and the Board’s choice to leave in place language which has virtually eliminated the nomination by petition option for ASCAP members, as well as ASCAP’s choice not to release vote counts in the election. These undemocratic policies, while serving to protect the incumbent board who maintain them, have severely compromised the transparency and accountability of the ASCAP election process, and cast a shadow over the results.

We urge ASCAP members to look closely at the individual records of those who ask for your vote, and only vote for those candidates that you believe will openly and fairly represent you and your music.

We urge the ASCAP Board to end the unnecessary secrecy policies and enable members make informed decisions about who they vote for by releasing voting and attendance records for all board members rather than keeping this information secret, especially at election time. Elections should be about accountability and results, rather than popularity and name recognition. This cannot be achieved as long as ASCAP members are deprived of basic information about how their elected Board members perform individually.


By Terry Herald on February 4th, 2009 at 9:44 am

I strongly support the positions expressed by Film Music Magazine and urge ASCAP to adopt the same policies of transparency that President Obama is attempting to implement in governmental agencies.

By Phil Kelly on February 4th, 2009 at 10:27 am

The inclusion of the four WORKING film composers can only be an aid in trying to get some traction with the many issues facing instrumental composers at ASCAP;

My Ballot is going in the mail today!

Phil Kelly
NW Prevailing Winds
SW Santa Ana Winds
Origin Records

By Fernando Periera on February 4th, 2009 at 12:13 pm

As someone who worked at the corporate headquarters for three years while attending music school as a research analyst, I have chaffed at the accusations hurled at ASCAP. The fundamental issue is not a weight formula that discriminates but an understanding of basic copyright law and the foundation upon which rests all of our compensation. i intend to write an article that will hopefully shed some real light on how that formula is constructed. I hope you’ll print it!

By Gael MacGregor on February 4th, 2009 at 1:52 pm


A piece of music used for a specific purpose in a film (whether it is played over a huge montage scene, opening/end title, or simply in the background [jukebox, radio, TV, restaurant, etc.]) should be paid on the back-end at exactly the same rate. ASCAP does not do this.

A background vocal played under a scene is paid at a higher rate than a background instrumental in the same scene. I know. I’ve separated the SAME song into two sections on a cue sheet to reflect that one section had a vocal and the other did not. When back-end monies came in for the two (equal) ASCAP writers, they were incensed. The vocal section was paid more per minute than the instrumental, and there was NO difference in HOW the two sections of music were used. They were both in the background, and no more than one continuous atmospheric use in a restaurant scene, but because of cue sheet ‘rules’ had to be noted as part BGV and part BGI. As such, part of the cue was paid at a higher rate, even though the actual USE of the music was the SAME. The USE is what should be the criteria for payment, NOT whether it has “ooh wee baby” repeated over and over (or even a clever, well-written lyric).

So to tout “an understanding of basic copyright law” as necessary for comprehending the foundation of ASCAP’s computations and payments to their writers is a spurious claim. It is simply NOT so. Payment is proof.

Copyright law is different in various countries. Case in point? Italy. They do NOT divorce the lyrics from the melody in a copyright — meaning that even if the composer died first, the lyricist’s date of death is the year used in computations for PD purposes (which is why lots of Puccini music is NOT worldwide PD, including “Turandot” [Nessun Dorma] and “Gianni Schicchi” [O mio babbino caro]. There are also works by Denza, Saint-Seans and even some Sousa in question because of various worldwide claimants and non-U.S. copyright laws in effect). With that in mind, and since we’re dealing globally with music (non-U.S. theatrical, satellite/cable TV, Internet, etc.), it’s NOT just U.S. copyright law in play with respect to royalties. With reciprocal agreements with non-U.S. PROs, just WHOSE criteria is ASCAP using? Oh… that’s right… they won’t make that known to their writers.

Gone are the days when virtually every composer had a separate lyricist — many composers do both — more often it is now a truly collaborative effort instead of two guys sitting in their own rooms banging out a tune on the piano or scribbling words on a pad, and then getting together to shove the lyrics into the melody (or vice versa). This is not Tin Pan Alley any more, or even the Brill Building. The record labels and the PROs are all working on antiquated business models and need to get their collective behinds into the 21st century. They need to be open and up-front about HOW they do business, HOW they pay their writers/artists and HOW they plan to use today’s technology to EVERYONE’s advantage… not just their own.

And I’m curious… were you an intern or a regular employee? Did you have access to ALL the data from which computations were derived? If so, you were privy to lots more info than ASCAP composers — who, by rights, should have complete access to such information, since it is THEIR work being used, THEIR work making the money, THEIR work filling ASCAP’s coffers.

IMHO, of course…

By Mark Northam on February 4th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Hi Fernando –

We’d love to hear more on your position regarding ASCAP and the elections. But keep in mind one very basic thought: ASCAP is paid the same by the broadcasters for all the different types of music it represents. It is ASCAP which introduces whopping differences in the rate at which different types of music are paid royalties. And what do you know, the same type of writers that control ASCAP (songwriters) are the same type of writers – songwriters – that massively benefit from these rules and formulas at the expense of all other types of music.

Copyright law forms the basis by which ASCAP and BMI exist and collect royalties. But I sure don’t see anything in the copyright law that justifies the massive discrimination that ASCAP targets at those who write instrumental music.

By Brian Lee Corber on February 4th, 2009 at 2:18 pm

When you rally understand how this works, you understand thqat 1) urging the boaerd on anything is a useless gesture; 2) the blanket license is fraudulent from the get go; 3) members who are paid are at the cost of members whose music is used to generate the invoice for the blanket license but who do not get paid. Ther only way anything will change will be in a lawsuit, not in the pages of film music or fmpro. Composers have wasted years hoping for change because it’s right. Get your heads out of the hole. ASCAP gets away with it because its members, who are ascap, consent to it. The fault dear Brutus, is not in the suits, it’s in yourselves.

By J Maris on February 4th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

I gather that ASCAP has a list of specifics that constitute what is and what is not a ‘vocal’.
‘La’s’ and ‘ooh’s’ do not.
A made up (i.e. invented but with no meaning to anyone on the planet) sung language does.
So, ‘Whepfji dsabaa aaakfdd’ when sung, will get substantially more payment than ‘Ooooh la la ooooh’
Funny, if it were not so bananas.

By George Fontenette on February 5th, 2009 at 7:17 am

I have experienced 1st hand this disparity in BGV and BGI with ASCAP. Further, I always found it curious, coming out of the commercial jingle writing arm of the industry, how ASCAP arbitrarily changed the rates for commercial royalties by a whopping 40%. It has always been like pulling teeth to get them to do any type of accounting for jingle writers’ royalties, and now, I’m hit by this double whammy. It’s time for these disparities to be addressed, and corrected.

Leave a Comment