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A REFUGE FOR POETS WHO WRITE IN THE LYRIC TRADITION,

WITH RHYME AND METER, WITH OR WITHOUT MUSIC




BALLAD OF THE ASCAP AGENT

I am a secret agent,
A plainclothes private eye.
I either work for ASCAP,
Or else for BMI.
Every song thatís published
Is through one house or the other;
And you never know if Iím watching you,
Because Iím undercover.

Suppose you own a restaurant,
Or coffeehouse, or bar,
And you decide to have live music
On piano, or guitar.
If I find out about your place
Iíll travel to your town;
And if I hear a song weíve published,
Then I will shut you down.

And if you are a singer,
Your freedom is conditional:
The songs you sing must either be
Original or traditional.
You can copyright the songs you write
By filling out the forms;
But if we ever publish them,
They cannot be performed.

Unless, of course, we make a deal.
This is your only chance:
Once a year you pay me off,
Always in advance.
Do not call it a kickback,
Or blackmail, or extortion;
Think of it as tribute,
The middlemanís rightful portion.

I am a secret agent,
A plainclothes private eye.
I either work for ASCAP,
Or else for BMI.
Every song thatís published
Is through one house or the other;
And you never know if Iím watching you,
Because Iím undercover.

San Diego, California, 1995





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