Contrary to popular belief, Jersey Shore bars do play music that isn’t by Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi from time to time. But playing that music isn’t free; bars actually have to pay for the rights to play songs you’ve heard roughly 3,456 times.
Broadcast Music Inc., the company who handles the licensing of songs by the Stones, Lady Gaga and others, has sued a slew of New Jersey watering holes for playing songs without paying, a copyright violation. And apparently this has become somewhat of a yearly tradition. In 2014, BMI sued more than 160 New Jersey businesses for the same thing.
Now you may be wondering: How is something like this governed? Well I have an answer for you, courtesy of myCentralJersey.com.
Violations could be a result of music played on speakers, DJs spinning records or patrons screeching out karaoke. The copyright laws are so complex that it takes into account the square footage of a public venue and how many sound speakers and television sets a venue has in order to determine whether a license is needed to just turn on the radio or TV.
BMI is a leader in the song-licensing game, handling licenses for at least half the songs you hear daily on the radio. The annual rates that they charge your local bar can go from $357 for a jukebox to $2.90 per person (based on the bar’s maximum occupancy for a DJ) to $5.85 per person for live music. That means that the Police song you hear in the background, the DJ spinning “Turn Down For What,” and the sweet sounds of the B-Street Band, New Jersey’s preeminent Bruce Springsteen band, are all costing your favorite bar money you most likely had no idea they were forced to pay. In some cases even the musicians didn’t know this was a thing, as was the case in 2010, when Springsteen was all sorts of mad that ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) had included the Boss in a lawsuit against a Manhattan bar that was playing his music.
And as for ASCAP, they have merely shrugged off the whole thing, saying that the licensing of music and the fees associated with are simply “one of the many costs of doing business.”
So the next time you’re at your local bar sipping on a cold Yuengling and “Honky Tonk Women,” or “Billie Jean,” or “Bad Romance” come on, think twice before you leave a tip. You might feel inclined to add an extra buck or two.