From a Facebook entry dated June 24: “Chickenbone has to say he is both sad and happy today. Sad, because an ASCAP representative is putting the hammer down on Smitty’s Service by threatening to charge a weekly rate and large back fees totaling hundreds if not thousands of dollars, effectively killing music at Tasty Truck Tuesdays for the time being.”
ASCAP is an acronym for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. They collect licensing fees from users of music created by ASCAP members, then distribute that money back to members in the form of royalty payments.
Chickenbone is a blues musician named Larry Teves. “They’d been doing Tasty Truck Tuesdays for a couple of years at Smitty’s when I asked the owner, what do you say we come over there and make some noise?” which he and his band, the Biscuits, did for the next several months. But the music came to an end after an ASCAP representative handed Smitty’s owner a bill for past-due royalties.
Mike Magers owns Smitty’s. “The ASCAP representative, Chris Pisano, told me he’d found out about it on our Tasty Truck Tuesdays Facebook page.” Each Tuesday, up to eight food trucks park on his lot and sell food to the neighborhood. “He left his business card on my desk a couple of weeks ago. He claims he sent an email back in November that I didn’t respond to, but I don’t remember ever seeing it.”
The bottom line is that ASCAP wants $42.50 each time there is music played at Smitty’s, live or not, and retroactive to last November when Chickenbone began performing. Magers countered by asking if he could beat the licensing rap and have the band perform only originals. “Pisano said that everybody that performs for more than an hour usually plays covers, and that if I wanted to play that game, he’d spot-check us and the fines would be huge. I didn’t ask how huge.”
Magers estimates that in order to fulfill the ASCAP requirement, he’d need to pony up $537.50 per quarter. “I told [Pisano] he’d be crushing a pretty cool family night. But he said it’s his job to represent musicians and that there would be no playing of copyrighted music at my location without a license.” Magers say he has no idea whether or not ASCAP will continue to hound him for the back-fees even though there is no longer live music on Tuesdays. “It sure feels, like extortion,” he emails later.