Busking - playing for tips on the street

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Alex_C, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. kcmt01

    kcmt01 Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 25, 2009
    Polson, MT
    From the ASCAP website:(quote)
    12. Aren't musicians, entertainers and DJ's responsible for obtaining permission for music they perform?

    Some people mistakenly assume that musicians and entertainers must obtain licenses to perform copyrighted music or that businesses where music is performed can shift their responsibility to musicians or entertainers. The law says all who participate in, or are responsible for, performances of music are legally responsible. Since it is the business owner who obtains the ultimate benefit from the performance, it is the business owner who obtains the license. Music license fees are one of the many costs of doing business. (unquote)

    The venue is almost always responsible for compliance. Playing for a wedding in a church is a little different: Christian music is usually covered by CCLI instead of ASCAP. Secular music played in church (like for a wedding) is not covered by CCLI but by ASCAP, and ASCAP has "place of worship" exemptions which seem to imply that they just don't care. I don't fully understand all of this mumbo-jumbo, but it seems to me that the musicians don't really need to worry about copyright too much as long as we're not selling recordings. As for me, I'm going to be studying the ASCAP site if for no other reason than I don't like to be in the dark about anything.
  2. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    Turtle, let me say first that I am not a lawyer! You yourself can access the entire United States Copyright law on internet just via a Google search looking for "Title 17 U.S.C. Other than that, in answer to your question I've copy-pasted from such as I believe answers your question:

    " TITLE 17 - COPYRIGHTS CHAPTER 1 - SUBJECT MATTER AND SCOPE OF COPYRIGHT -HEAD- Sec. 102. Subject matter of copyright: In general -STATUTE- (a) Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories: (1) literary works; (2) musical works, including any accompanying words; (3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music; (4) pantomimes and choreographic works; (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; (7) sound recordings; and (8) architectural works.-----------------
    To "perform" a work means to recite, render, play, dance, or
    act in it, either directly or by means of any device or process or, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to show its images in any sequence or to make the sounds accompanying it audible.

    A "performing rights society" is an association, corporation, or other entity that licenses the public performance of nondramatic musical works on behalf of copyright owners of such works, such as the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), and SESAC, Inc.

    To perform or display a work "publicly" means -
    (1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a
    normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or
    (2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times."
    To this I'll add that it makes no difference if YOU intend to profit or not. It is what the the copyright owner(s)contend they have lost by your performance plus what you have earned, if anything. Too, the Court can order seized all equipment (including your horn or other musical instrument),utilized in the violation, and punitively fine you up to $250,000. I don't know of any case yet, but any business that allows you to play copyrighted music on their premises for which you do not have the license to perform may be named as a co-defendant and may be charged even more severely and/or equally, inclusiveof losing their business license. It just ain't going to happen to me! I haven't got many performance licenses that are still active, but I have quite a few mechanical licenses,the latter to produce CDs.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  3. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.
    As a very old man and a 'wanabee' trumpet player I have yet to bring myself to 'Busking' for money. I, however, have had to practice somewhat in public on many occasions. My wife and I have a rather elderly Airstream travel trailer that we enjoy spending time in during the summer months at various state park campgrounds. At each of these campgrounds I have 'acquired' a reputation,( ? ), for playing one of my many cornets directly from a hymnbook. I have researched the subject and am convinced that I am breaking no copyright laws or am not infringing upon the public peace by playing these hymns. I have yet to ask for or hint at the prospect of being paid for my music.I do have to say that I have often had an audience collect arround our trailer in lawn chairs to just listen. If this is a form of 'busking', I guess that I am guilty of that activity.

  4. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    Old Lou,

    As above IMO, neither as a lawyer which I am not, or usurping a Judge's robes which also I am not, I cite you that excerpt of the U.S. law:

    "(1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered" to say you are NOT violating the copyright law. Moreso, IMO as hymns are your media it would get right "touchy" to say that such a gathering was not a religious congregational retreat whereas my own minister defined a church as is NOT that building down the street, but only a gathering of one or more for such intent to worship.

    Were you to do a Google search of the composer and lyricists of hymns, and or of the hymns themselves you will find that (1) most have been dead more than 75 years, or (2) the music & lyrics (verses) were not only known before 1923, but before 1900 and quite a few before 1800, at least so in hymnals I've in my collection from 5 denominations, and if they ever were copyrighted, such has expired.

    Too, as normally composed for piano or organ (C instruments) accompaniment of the vocal, I find that I can sight read direct transposition to Bb cornet / trumpet of the melody or without any other instrument mix or voices play them as they are.

    For me just playing anything presently would be a pleasure.
  5. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

    Nov 16, 2009
    Near Portland, OR.
    Regardless of any technical considerations on the law, let me just say that anyone who would sue oldlou for performing hymns in public has earned a straight ticket to hell in my book. And I say that as a not-so-religious person who does not believe strongly in hell. Seriously, if there is a hell, it has to be for stuff like this (among other things).
  6. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    I believe I succinctly answered that question according to U.S. law, thus personally, I can concur with you. In addition to much solace hymns have given me great pleasure in my 74 years of life, vocally and instrumentally.

    When I get way way back into hymn melodies as were adapted to plain song, I'm less impressed with the musical quality.
  7. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    No one's going to sue a nice old guy playing a horn out of a hymnbook except for a few statistical outliers like Ed here. And in that case, just give some kids a few bucks to go loiter on his lawn. He'll be so busy shouting at the kids to GIT AWFF MAH LAWWWWWN!!!!!! he'll forget all about you. And Hell needs a guy like that, the place is supposed to be miserable, remember.
  8. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    Yeah same here. No where near a danger yet. Otherwise, I'd probably have brought my trumpet to the swap meet today to play along with the Beatles stuff the guy behind me was playing on a CD player I guess. And to just play some cool stuff, man.

    But it was hot, and BUSY too, not as dead as the last 2 months.
  9. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    OK, this discussion raises another point. For those of us who are not very good yet, if we played something in public - even if it is copyrighted - and somebody from ASCAP happened by, when they hauled me into court and called all of the spectators in as witnesses, do you suppose that the case would be dismissed for lack of evidence (that I actually played a recognizable composition)? Maybe that is an argument for not becoming TOO good.

    Also, just in case I do become good enough that people recognize what I play, is there a master library listing of what is and is not copyrighted or can I rely on the presence/absence of a printed notice on the chart that I am playing? Otherwise, how is someone supposed to know? Also, if an old composition has been re-copyrighted by simply changing a few chords or whatever, how would I find copies of the original that are now in the public domain? Are they identified anywhere?

    One other point. If I purchase sheet music at a store and it does not provide me the right to play that music in public, what rights am I paying for that I don't have if I borrow my friend's sheet music and copy it for practicing in my own basement? (Just trying to protect myself).

    I was at a memorial day concert the other day. I know some members of the band that played and while they played from purchased copies of the music score, I don't recall that anyone said they bought a "performance license". Is such required over and above the cost of the purchased scores?
  10. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    alex c do you need eyeglasses or are you illiterate? If you can read, see my response above re oldlou. No one i know will be suing him or arresting him for playing his hymns.

    You ask and i answer to help you the best that i can. If you chose to ignore the law, face the consequences.

    I believe you or any other haven't enough money to pay a "kid" to harass me. You would have to pay their transportation to and from where i live, provide them hotel accommodations and per diem, and then enough additional money to not tell who sent them. I wont even discuss what law applys to this. You see i know the only four young people who are old enough to rove the streets that live in this town and they are welcome on our property. One regularly short cuts through our property to and from the library or grocery store. His dad is a deputy sheriff!

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