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On behalf of the
May 8, 1996
My name is Pat Alger, I live in Nashville, Tennessee, I
Composers, Authors and Publishers, and I serve as President of
the Nashville Songwriters Association International.
attached a biography to my statement which lists some of the
songs I have written over the years, songs I hope the members
of the Committee have enjoyed.
I am proud to say that I have
been an ASCAP member for many years.
It is fitting that I testify before this Small Business
Committee, because I am about the smallest businessman you can
Songwriting is my profession and my livelihood.
what I have to say applies to just about every songwriter you
can think of, from the most successful to the rank beginner.
I say I am a very small businessman because I have no one
(other than my co-writers)
co-writers) to help me earn my way in the
I have no staff, no secretary, no factory, no office.
The intangible "product" that I create comes solely from my
songwriters are not hired to do their job, they must find work to support themselves and their families while they are
attempting to create their music.
After they have put words
and notes together in a way that they think may have a chance,
they have to find a publisher willing to publish it.
they must find an artist willing to perform it.
need to convince a record company to record it.
If my songs are successful, businesses are using them all
across the country
using them to enhance their appeal to
the public and make money from them.
When my songs are used
by a radio station in Oregon, or a restaurant in Illinois, or
a hotel in New Hampshire, it is because they think that music
will help their businesses.
Oliver Wendell Holmes said it
well 80 years ago -- "if music did not pay, it would be given
Payment for the use of my musical property is the only
thing that enables me to stay in my profession.
And I have
always believed that payment for the use of property is the
core concept of our country's economic system.
As I told you, I live in Nashville.
There is no way that
I, or any songwriter, can individually know if those businesses all across the country are using our music, no way
can individually contact them all, and no way we
collect fair payment for
property. There's also no way that I can deal on a level playing field with these powerful businesses like chain restaurants or broadcasters that are represented by various
associations before you.
That's why songwriters
Victor Herbert and John Philip Sousa
together with their
publishers formed ASCAP in 1914, and why organizations like
BMI and SESAC exist.
Through ASCAP and
organizations, we can find uses of our music, license them at
a fair fee, and, if the user refuses to comply with the law,
protect our rights in our property.
The royalties songwriters like me earn from ASCAP form
the largest single source
source of our income.
royalties, I and my colleagues would have to do something else
and we wouldn't be able to create America's music.
sort of burden do these payments for my property place on its
users? The average cost to a restaurant for the right to use
my music and the music of all my fellow members of ASCAP is
$1.58 a day.
Indeed, 80% of ASCAP's licensees pay less than
You can imagine that I therefore get pretty hot under the
collar when I hear music users say that there's something
unfair about the system.
Surely it can't be
$1.58 a day is less than the cost of a drink!
Surely it can't be that ASCAP must allow anyone who requests
a license to use my property even if they don't agree with the
price. Surely it can't be that ASCAP must treat similar users
Surely it can't be that in a legal dispute over price
ASCAP, not the user of my property, must prove its fee is
Surely it can't be the fact that the amount the
music users in the United States pay to perform the world's
most popular music is practically at the bottom of the scale
disadvantage in comparison to the users of their music.
ASCAP's illustrious, late president Morton Gould put it:
never met a music user who thought he was paying too little
for music, nor a music creator who thought he was earning too
They pay lip service to the notion that creators like
me should be paid for the use of the property we have created,
but what they really want to do is pay less and less and less,
if they think they can get away with it, nothing at all.
That's an outrage, and you should be as outraged about it as
Now let's look at the particular gripes of the people who
are seeking to tilt the playing field in their favor through
the pending bills.
Please remember that I'm a songwriter, not
a lawyer and not one of the business people who operate ASCAP
on my behalf.
I can't tell you the legal niceties, or the
operational details, but I do know unfairness when I see it,
and that's what I want to talk to you about.
exemption if they got music from radio broadcasts, and used it
to enhance the atmosphere of their places. First, they said
my music was just "incidental" to their business. Well, let me say there isn't a songwriter alive who wakes up in the
morning thinking "today I'll write some incidental music that
no one wants to pay for."
Go into any restaurant or tavern
and you'll see parsley on plates, pictures on walls, peanuts
on bars, rugs on the floor, tablecloths on the tables.
are incidental to the meal.
All are paid for.
And just as
they are paid for, music must be paid for.
of course, if the
music is so incidental to the meal that it is meaningless, the
"incidental" the music is to their business.
Then they said that the radio station had already paid