an article in phillymag.com.
Every public establishment, whether it's a bar, coffee house or restaurant, has to pay the performing rights organizations (BMI, ASCAP and SESAC) if they want to have music playing, whether it's live, radio, or a jukebox.
The problem is, according to many bar and club owners, that BMI imposes what seems like a random fee that could rise at any time without a cap. If they don't pay, then BMI's deep pocket attorneys take the owner in court, which most bar and club owners just can't afford.
The bars are fighting back though, thanks to their local beverage associations. The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and; Tavern Association, The Food and Beverage Association of San Diego, and the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association have all teamed up to create the Fairness In Music Licensing Coalition, which hopes to change the way this portion of the copyright law is implemented.
Right now BMI charges on the number of people that will fit into the club, but if that isn't available they use the establishment's square footage, which almost always doesn't represent the number of people that the place holds.
No one argues that the songwriters and publishers shouldn't be paid, by the way. It's just how they're being charged that's at issue.
The big problem here is that everyone loses when a venue stops having live music, so this is something that both sides should work diligently to sort out.