Now, the U.S. Department of Justice is considering making this process even harder. They want to get rid of the few rules—known as "consent decrees"—that protect venues like yours from antitrust actions from the two largest music licensors, ASCAP and BMI. Together, ASCAP and BMI control nearly 90% of all licensable music. Without these rules and protections in place, these licenses will become even more complicated and will certainly cost substantially more. Venue owners from across the country are joining the National Restaurant Association, American Beverage Licensees, WineAmerica, and other organizations concerned about music licensing in sending a message to the U.S. Department of Justice:
Keep the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees in place to protect venues!
ASCAP and BMI provide an efficient way for our businesses to play music while ensuring we compensate the songwriters and copyright holders who create it. Their blanket licenses, made possible by the decrees, underpin the music licensing system, and the termination of the decrees would result in market disfunction, jeopardizing the licensing system as we know it. This disruption would make it nearly impossible to pay for the music played for our patrons’ enjoyment.
Together, ASCAP and BMI control nearly ninety percent of the music licensing business, and these decrees provide essential protections from anti-competitive behaviors by structuring the music licensing market. They prohibit ASCAP and BMI from discriminating between similarly situated music users; ensure fair prices; and require that every business — no matter how large or small — can get a license.
Although many restaurants, bars, hotels, wineries, breweries, and others that regularly play and license music face ongoing challenges when working with ASCAP and BMI, the outcome of terminating the consent decrees would further exacerbate these burdens for our industries.
As it stands today, venues lack access to essential, reliable information about what each performance rights license entails and as a result, cannot make rational business decisions between competing services. Given this long-standing lack of transparency, and the PROs reliance on heavy handed tactics and take-it-or-leave-it demands, many venues have dropped music altogether. Without the consent decrees, many more venues would discontinue music, resulting in fewer places across our communities for musicians to perform and decreased songwriter compensation.
As the Department of Justice concluded as recently as 2016 and after a two-year review, the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees continue to be relevant and necessary today and, in the future, as much as they were years ago. We ask the Department of Justice to protect our ability to play music, host new and upcoming artists, and ensure these pro-consumer decrees are protected.