Washington State House Democrats


Legislator taking on unscrupulous companies that target live music venues

Bill would regulate music licensing agents that license performing artists

OLYMPIA—In an effort to reign in music licensing companies that have targeted music venues in Clallam and Jefferson Counties, Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) has introduced HB 1763. The legislation takes aim at the companies who own copyrights on music and arbitrarily levies heavy fees against venues that allow ‘cover bands’ to perform.

The issue was brought to Rep. Van De Wege by Dale Dunning, the owner of The Oasis Bar and Grill in Sequim. Mr. Dunning has been contacted by three separate music licensing companies which are demanding he pay almost $9,000 in fees to play live and recorded music, claiming copyright infringement without providing any additional information or documentation.

Since these companies have swept into local areas many of these venues have been forced to stop live music all together. The bill requires that music licensing companies file annually with the Secretary of State, complete a business license application, and pay an annual fee of $1500, money that will be targeted by the state to communicate with restaurants, bars, and music venues to ensure they know their rights when dealing with music licensing companies.

“Live music venues are being unfairly targeted by New York and Tennessee-based licensing companies that force payments at random, threaten business owners, and seemingly vanish once they receive payment,” said Van De Wege. “By regulating their activity and verifying their claim to certain performing rights, we’re protecting small businesses all across the state and generating revenue to make sure these venues know their rights.”

The annual fee paid by the licensing agency would be $1,500 and would cover the cost of a consumer alert campaign to inform businesses of their rights and responsibilities regarding the public performance of copyrighted music.

“In the end the fees that they sought made music not viable for our business.  Nobody wins and one thing that is certain, no one buys music that they can’t hear,” said Dunning.