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Statement of

PAT ALGER
Songwriter

On behalf of the
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS, AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS

Before the
HOUSE SMALL BUSINESS COMMITTEE

May 8, 1996

My name is Pat Alger, I live in Nashville, Tennessee, I

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Composers, Authors and Publishers, and I serve as President of

the Nashville Songwriters Association International.

I have

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

find.

Songwriting is my profession and my livelihood.

And

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

world.

I have no staff, no secretary, no factory, no office.

The intangible "product" that I create comes solely from my

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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.

Then

they must find an artist willing to perform it.

Then they

need to convince a record company to record it.

Then they

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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

up."

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

can

individually collect

collect fair payment for

their

use

of

our

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

like

Victor Herbert and John Philip Sousa

together with their

publishers formed ASCAP in 1914, and why organizations like

ASCAP,

BMI and SESAC exist.

Through ASCAP and

similar

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.

Without those

royalties, I and my colleagues would have to do something else

and we wouldn't be able to create America's music.

Yet what

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

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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.

What, exactly?

Surely it can't be

the price.

$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

alike.

Surely it can't be that in a legal dispute over price

ASCAP, not the user of my property, must prove its fee is

reasonable.

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

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disadvantage in comparison to the users of their music.

As

ASCAP's illustrious, late president Morton Gould put it:

"I

never met a music user who thought he was paying too little

for music, nor a music creator who thought he was earning too

much."

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

I am.

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.

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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.

All

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

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"incidental" the music is to their business.

Then they said that the radio station had already paid

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