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In short, ASCAP requests that Dad's Donuts pay several hundred dollars per year in licensing fees, back-dated to last February. The payment's basically a form of insurance that will prevent the venue from being sued if a band were to play a cover version of an ASCAP song -- say, "Welcome to Paradise," by Green Day. Buddy swears the bands play only originals, and he resents ASCAP's interference.
"They're like high-pressure telemarketers," Buddy says of the representatives who have phoned him. "To me the whole thing is a crock. These are just kids trying to learn how to play."
Exactly how ASCAP discovered that Dad's Donuts was hosting live music isn't clear. The Crawfords don't advertise their shows, save a small announcement of upcoming bands taped to the front door. But Vincent Candilora, senior vice president of licensing at ASCAP, points out that his company employs about 150 people across the United States who look through local newspapers, magazines, and even community newsweeklies for potential infringers. "Who knows," says Candilora, "maybe one of them stopped in for a donut."
Candilora agrees that Dad's Donuts owes nothing to ASCAP as long as the bands play on-ly original material. He also notes that ASCAP does not willingly turn a blind eye to small venues. "If they are unwilling to sign a license, we'll say, 'You don't have to use music, and we'd like you stop using it if you're going to use it illegally.' And if they continue to use it, we'll send investigators who will literally listen to the music, and when they hear our members' music being performed, they will document it, and we will take that venue to federal court and pursue the venue under copyright law."
Buddy has no intention of paying, and this week the Crawfords will reopen their doors to local bands, albeit with a severe caveat against cover tunes. On Saturday, May 16, the rock band Harrison Bergeron will play at 9 p.m. Others are sure to follow in the coming weeks: The venue's recent hiatus didn't make a dent in the number of bands calling for gigs.
"The acoustics are not great, they don't have a PA, or a stage, or anything," says Morgan. "But it's there, it's a venue, and it's somewhere to play and get your stuff out. That's basically Dad's Donuts for you.