Big time copyright agencies are cracking down on local music venues to either pay costly royalty fees or face legal action.
One local business decided to cancel all live performances because it couldn't afford the fees.
Ken Schultz, owner of Hidden Legend Winery, said he was recently sent a letter from BMI, one of three US Copyright agencies, threatened legal action if he didn?t purchase a royalty license.
Schultz says Hidden Legend recently opened an events room for hosting a variety of live music, stand up comedy, and drama performances. After he received the letter from BMI, he says he consulted his attorneys, who told him challenging the copyright agencies wasn?t a wise option.
"The phone conversations that I had with BMI were very heavy handed,? said Schultz. ?No listening to reason or room size or anything like that. You either pay us, or you're going to be sued out of existence."
Schultz said the only option he had that made financial sense was to cancel all upcoming music performances, and stop hosting live music.
Britt Arnesen, who moved to Missoula to play music, says she was one of the musicians who lost a gig at Hidden Legend Winery. She says, with the way copyright agencies enforce royalty fees, almost everyone loses.
"The fans, the people that come to listen to music are going to lose if venues get shut down. For the musicians, it's already a tough enough go,? said Arnesen. ?Wages haven't changed in fifty years. We make less, or just the same, as musicians did in 1960, so we're definitely losing. The venues are losing. Music is a draw. Music is what gets people into tasting rooms, and it makes people happy."
Arnesen says she supports intellectual property protection, she just doesn't like the way it's being enforced.
"I'm a member of those organizations, and my songs are registered, but if I play my own songs, I still don't see royalties because their system of reporting and allocating royalties doesn't capture the little guy, so to speak."
Wheat Montana owner Kathy Finneman says her business was asked to pay a flat fee, based on their maximum seating capacity. She says it cost her business, where Arnesen plays on Thursday mornings, $1,500 a year.
BMI didn?t return calls for comment left at their office in Nashville.
For a link to their website, click here.
For a link to Arnesen?s website, click here.