willful, plus attorney’s fees.  This provision would seem to violate the
Eighth Amendment under which “excessive fines” are prohibited.  Not wanting
my employers to become embroiled in lawsuits or shakedown operations, I
stopped singing “cover tunes,” that is, songs written and copyrighted by
somebody else.  I have been a songwriter and a traditional singer since the
early seventies, which left me with a vast repertoire.  In fact, it gave me a
competitive advantage.  I could walk into a restaurant or coffeehouse that
had never hired a musician before, and assure them that if they were to hire
me and nobody else, they would not need to purchase a license for live
performances from ASCAP and BMI.  In this way I found steady employment as
the “house musician.”

I encountered the same situation in San Diego in the mid-nineties.  I found
only two profit-making enterprises whose owners were not afraid of ASCAP and
BMI agents.  Naturally, they became two of my favorite places to play.  The
Inner Change Coffeehouse was legendary as a proving ground for
singer/songwriters.  Jewel Kilcher was discovered there.  The owner simply
chased away ASCAP and BMI agents, correctly pointing out that they were not
at all interested in supporting the struggling musicians who performed at her
coffeehouse.  I recall having heard only one “cover tune” sung there, by an
otherwise all-original rhythm and blues band.  They sang “Mustang Sally,” and
the audience had a wonderful time singing along with the refrain: “ride,
Sally, ride.”  Presumably those at NASA and elsewhere who sang these words
when the astronaut Sally Ride was orbiting the earth were equally guilty of
copyright violations.  Mikey’s Coffeehouse was more imaginative in their
approach to ASCAP and BMI agents.  They posted signs saying: “ASCAP will not
let us pay musicians.”  And they rented the stage for one dollar per night.
In this way it could not be said that Mikey’s was giving the musicians
anything of value for their services.  They were on their own to busk for
tips and to hawk their CDs.  The owner, of course, was as much at liberty as
anybody else to tip the musicians and to buy their recordings.  These two
coffeehouses inspired me to write one of my best satires: “Ballad of the
ASCAP Agent.”  It was such a hit at the Inner Change that I performed it, by
request, three times in one concert.  When I sang it at Mikey’s, people
laughed out loud and asked me if the song was copyrighted.

Actually, all my songs are copyrighted, without assistance from ASCAP or BMI.
It’s easy to do.  Just fill out a form, write a check for $30, and send a
copy of the work to be copyrighted.  These days the forms are available
online at http://www.copyright.gov/forms.  Form TX is for literary works, and
Form SR is for sound recordings.  I copyright an entire cassette or CD at a
time rather than pay $30 every time I write a song.  I specify for each track
which of the following I am copyrighting:  words, music, arrangement and/or
performance.  I state on my CD covers that my recordings are copyrighted in
my name.  All rights reserved.  This means exactly what it says.  As the
exclusive owner of the copyright, I enjoy the exclusive right of public
performance and, BMI notwithstanding, the exclusive right to profit from
their performance.

ASCAP and BMI will tell you it is foolish not to join their organizations,
because you cannot collect royalties unless you do.  But the truth is that
unless you are famous, you are unlikely to collect any royalties even if you
do join.  The distribution of royalties is based upon airplay.  ASCAP
secretly tapes about 0.1% of all radio broadcasts each year, and only 1% of 


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