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Why they’re not playing your song in Seaside
SEEN FROM SEASIDE
f you walk down the streets of Seaside,
there’s one thing you don’t see much of.
That’s live music. Oh, sure, you see
some bold crooners holding court in Quatat
Park, melodion players, paint-bucket drum-
mers and the like.
But you won’t ﬁ nd too much live music
around town. It’s not that there aren’t
musicians — there are plenty of those.
But requirements by licensing agencies
like ASCAP and BMI have discouraged
would-be musical venues — including kara-
oke, jukeboxes and open mic nights — from
You wouldn’t know that this was the
city that introduced groups like the Kings-
men and Paul Revere and the Raiders to the
Seaside’s Pypo Club debuted some of the great bands from the Paciﬁ c Northwest in the 1960s.
world in the 1960s, with a string of great
music venues like the Bungalow, the Pypo
Club and the cocktail lounge at the Lodge.
The music business may be biting itself
in the foot with licensing rules that end up
discouraging coffee houses, bars, tap rooms
— even farmers markets — from having
In Bend, a small bar called the M&J tav-
ern was hit with a lawsuit from Broad-
cast Music Inc., the licensing agency better
known as BMI, the Bend Source reported
in December: BMI ﬁ led a federal copyright
infringement lawsuit against M&J, stem-
ming from six songs that were played at the
tavern on a Wednesday open mic night —
after the owner declined to pay $378 per
year for a license.
Other bars weren’t so lucky. The Car-
ey-On Saloon in Colorado Springs, Col-
orado went out of business in 2014 when
A sign on Broadway holds promise for music lovers, comics.
it was hit with a $21,000 ﬁ ne for failing
to license with BMI, Denver’s alternative
open to requests for licensing from each of
weekly Westword reported.
very inexpensive and generally cost about
The saloon already had a license with the the licensing company.
$2 or $3 per day.
American Society of Composers, Authors
For a venue that presents a banjo player
Even so, with the potential of being hit
and Publishers and the Society of European
once a month singing “On Top of Old
by fees from multiple licensing agencies,
Stage Authors and Composers but not BMI. Smoky,” the licensing cost may exceed the
club owners are less likely to take the risk
They got slapped after several patrons sang
month’s proﬁ t.
of at best getting collection phone calls or at
Toby Keith songs while a BMI scout was
While the musicians aren’t liable for the
worst facing high and mounting ﬁ nes.
ﬁ nes, the club owners are, whether they’re a
“Sometimes our licensing operations
In November, the Seattle Times reported, 16-seat cafe or a 200-seat club.
are misunderstood, most often by local bar
the High Dive bar — a karaoke spot —
Under U.S. law, any establishment that
owners trying to avoid being licensed,” they
faced a suit asking for up to $30,000 in dam- uses music — whether as background or
write in a frequently asked questions doc-
ages without obtaining an ASCAP license.
with DJs, karaoke or live bands, and meets
ument. “There are more than 100 different
The complaint speciﬁ cally cited the
certain criteria must obtain a license to do
types of ASCAP licenses, and we’ve always
“public performances” of three copyrighted
so, said John Johnson, ASCAP’s senior vice adapted our licensing to reﬂ ect new ways
songs — Stone Temple Pilots “Interstate
that businesses are using music.”
Love Song,” Jill Scott’s “The Way” and
“Nearly 90 cents of every dollar collected
ASCAP has a staff of people that ﬁ nd
Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” — during the
goes back to our members as royalties, so
businesses that are using music, mainly by
club’s karaoke night.
they can make a living and keep making the using the internet, Johnson said. “Many
Close to home, the Newport News-Times music we all love,” Johnson said. “ Hun-
businesses that use music do so to attract
recently reported the impacts of licensing
dreds of thousands of businesses purchase
patrons and will advertise, so we also check
rules: dwindling live music events or venues an ASCAP license to use music in their
to see which establishments are advertis-
establishments and to ensure that music cre- ing in local publications. We’re then able to
Linda Lewton, owner of the Bay Haven
ators get paid for their work.”
contact those businesses and educate them
Inn, told the News-Times she received
ASCAP license fees for smaller estab-
on the need for an ASCAP license. Typically
repeated calls and threats of lawsuits
lishments are very inexpensive and gener-
we contact a business multiple times via
demanding payment. In late February,
ally cost about $2 or $3 per day, Johnson
email, phone and in-person visits to educate
ASCAP ﬁ led 13 separate copyright infringe- added.
them on their obligations under the law and
ment actions against bars and restaurants
The fees are designed to be ﬂ exible
encourage them to purchase a license.”
nationwide — from Baltimore to Seattle —
and are based on the size of the venue and
arising out of the unauthorized public per-
other factors such as whether the music is
My musical cohort, guitarist John Orr,
formance of its members’ copyrighted musi- recorded or played live.
suggests that licensing agencies are trying to
“We use the ﬁ re code to measure a ven-
“recapture royalties lost, “especially now in
ue’s size because it is an impartial number
that is set by a third party and is easily avail- this age of Spotify and Pandora.”
The impact on music at the grassroots,
Vinyl records and later cassette and CD
able,” Johnson said. “We treat all similarly
organic small-town level may be profound.
sales drove a thriving industry, with small
situated establishments the same, whether
Small business owners seeking to open
clubs serving as venues to promote and
they are in a large metropolitan or a rural
their doors to new talent leave themselves
area. Licenses for smaller establishments are grow the record industry.
But, he added, live music in small clubs
is a way to keep help prevent the music
from dying. “Live music is a vehicle for
songwriters to have their music heard —
and not many people are making money
selling records,” Orr said. “If a songwriter
is not getting royalties from a small club,
but his song is getting broader recognition
and familiarity, it may lead to commercials,
movie soundtracks, more popularity on the
Seaside guitarist/composer Bruce
Thomas Smith and his Z.Z. Top Tribute
Band plays big halls that can afford to pay
up to $7,000 a year in licensing privileges.
But close to home, smaller venues often
require him to play only original music
because of licensing fees.
The Astoria Sunday Market, rather than
pay the $1,200 licensing fee to ASCAP,
changed to booking musicians and bands
that only play original music, the market’s
director Cyndi Mudge said.
She said she is pleased with the outcome.
“It has actually been a great ﬁ t for our
market,” Mudge said. “We like promoting
that our music is also fresh and original.”
Only originals and public domain songs
— music published before 1923 — are
allowed, she added.
State seeks action
The state is very aware of the conun-
drum facing small businesses: They’ve
taken steps to smooth the process and pro-
tect club owners from harassment by licens-
A bill passed in the 2018 legislative ses-
sion, advocated by the Oregon Restaurant
and Lodging Association on behalf of Ore-
gon Winegrowers Association and winery
tasting room managers, requires performing
rights societies to provide speciﬁ ed informa-
tion at least 72 hours before entering into,
or offering to enter into a contract with a
The law protects clubs from the most
egregious abuses by licensing companies:
licensing company “spies” who do not
identify themselves, who use “abusive or
obscene language when communicating,”
or harass business owners with after-hours
The bill was passed out of the House
Business and Labor Committee.
Legislation intended to craft the legisla-
tion to protect small venues/musicians from
expensive lawsuits while maintaining copy-
right/licensing integrity, Dan Jarman, a lob-
byist for the winegrowers, said in an email.
According to the bill, performing rights
societies must ﬁ le templates of annual con-
tracts with the Secretary of State, as opposed
to copies of each executed contract. The
Secretary of State has no duty to review or
verify the contents of contracts ﬁ led.
The bill allows courts to impose a ﬁ ne of
up to $1,000 for violations.
Johnson said ASCAP “has always con-
ducted its licensing and enforcement activi-
ties in a lawful manner. ... Oregon Bill 4088
added new language to existing law but has
had no effect on the way we conduct those
activities, because we already comply with
Nevertheless, there is a need for clar-
ity in a musical environment that crosses
city, state and federal — even international
The end result: club owners are reluctant
to take a chance on musical talent — and
talent has no stage to be heard, no obscure
songs rediscovered or repertoire to be
Something ﬁ shy in Astoria, and it’s worth the trip
friend in Gearhart who I trade
“Have you eaten here yet?” infor-
mation with recently made a strong
case for a new place called South Bay Wild
Fish House in Astoria.
“Everything is wild caught,” he said.
“You’ve got to try the tacos.”
I don’t get to Astoria anywhere near as
often as I’d like; Astoria, in my opinion,
is a perfect city because it’s close, it has a
scenic waterfront, and there are sea lions.
It is also alive and vibrant with a happen-
ing and diverse food scene, unique shops,
and enough bars, brew pubs, coffee houses,
and galleries to support a burgeoning pop-
ulation of artists, young entrepreneurs, and
South Bay Wild, Inc. is one of the newer
businesses to stake a claim in Astoria.
They are a small, family owned and oper-
ated commercial ﬁ shing vessel, harvesting
and marketing high quality sustainable sea-
food using the triple bottom line approach;
when the boat’s not in the water, you can
ﬁ nd it parked at the West End Moorage
Basin. The restaurant and market where
they sell their bounty is located at 262
9th Street, Astoria, just off Commercial
Fish tacos come three tacos to a plate. You
could share. Or not.
Street. There’s a sign outside that says Fish
House. You can’t miss it.
Mr. Sax and I started with the crab cake
appetizer, two meaty crab cakes accompa-
nied by a small load of fresh arugula and
red pepper salad that was plenty to share.
I am fussy about my crab cakes and these
did not disappoint.
I was sorely tempted to sample one of
the daily specials, that day poached Wil-
lapa Bay oysters or steamer clams, but I
John D. Bruijn
remembered my Gearhart pal’s sugges-
tion and ordered the ﬁ sh tacos, which came
three to a plate. Each taco was maximally
stuffed with delicately fried rockﬁ sh, a
tangy slaw, and avocado sauce.
Mr. Sax and I could have easily shared
one order, the portions were so gener-
ous. I’m pretty sure our server was Tiffani
Seitz, who owns the restaurant with her
ﬁ sherman poet husband, Rob. In addition
to his life as a commercial ﬁ sherman, he’s
a regular participant in the Astoria Fisher-
poets Gathering, and this September will
be traveling to New Bedford, Massachu-
setts, to headline at the Working Waterfront
OK, back to the eats. We also ordered
beers. I had a Fort George City of Dreams
pale ale, which arrived with a frosted glass.
Then our server urged us to try the bread
pudding. Who says no to bread pudding?
Is it weird to say I almost licked the
I learned from South Bay Wild’s web-
site that 90% of seafood harvested in the
United States is exported, and we import
80% of what we consume. Those numbers
seem crazy. Who wouldn’t prefer to eat
what’s caught a few miles from home?
If you aspire to prepare your fresh
caught wild ﬁ sh at home, the Seitz’s are
happy to share their favorite recipes. On
the website are recipes for Wild Lingcod
Chowder, as well as easy directions how to
make your own ﬁ sh stock. For those inter-
ested in a weight-reducing heart healthy
diet, check out the steamed petrale sole
with uncooked tomato sauce, or simple
poached sole; cheese lovers won’t be able
to resist the gorgonzola baked lingcod.
The recipe for their “Rockin’ Fish Tacos”
with Morro Bay avocado sauce is on the
site. The secret is marinating the ﬁ sh for 20
minutes in the refrigerator before cooking
it in a chili powder, cumin, ground cayenne
red pepper and garlic mixture. Yum.
South Bay Wild Fish House has a full
bar upstairs. We went for lunch.
Next time I want dinner.
The Seaside Signal
is published every other week by
EO Media Group,
1555 N. Roosevelt, Seaside, OR 97138.
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