Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.
Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson and this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. Those of us who make music and listen to music (which is most of us) have seen many, many times these five capital letters, ASCAP, ASCAP. We see them on printed music. We see them in other places. Most of us see them so often and understand so little about them that they become sort of like the wallpaper of music visuals. They just sort of blend into the fine print and we don’t really give much thought to them. I’ve taught piano lessons for 30 years and I cannot think of one conversation that I’ve ever had with students about what those letters stand for, even though we see them at the bottom of some of their printed music, by the copyright information.
I have with me today a member of the ASCAP board of directors, Alex Shapiro. Alex holds the symphonic and concert writer members seat on the board of directors of ASCAP and also serves on the board of the ASCAP Foundation. Alex has woven a dynamic composing career with avid pursuits of wildlife photography, non-fiction writing and a devotion to advocacy. Her works are heard daily in concerts and broadcasts, and can be found on over 30 commercially released recordings from around the world. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music, Alex!
Alex Shapiro: [00:01:31] Hi Mindy! Thank you. I’m looking forward to this conversation.
Mindy Peterson: [00:01:35] I am too. I’m looking forward to you enlightening us because, like I said, I feel like I’ve seen ASCAP so many times in so many places that they do sort of blend into this kind of like wallpaper for me where I don’t really think much about them, but I see them all the time. And I was kind of thinking to myself, where do we see these letters? And like I mentioned already, we see them at the bottom of scores, musical scores by the copyright information. In fact, I have a book of music right with me that I grabbed from my shelf and I’m looking at it’s a Harry Potter movie songbook. And one of these scores has ASCAP at the bottom by that copyright information. And I was realizing that another place that I’ve always seen those letters is less common for today’s generation because I’m thinking of those liner notes that we would see on record albums or CD albums. And with all the streaming that goes on today, we don’t necessarily see those anymore. I know I also see ASCAP on Sundays at church services when they put the credits for the worship songs up on the screen. And when I’m playing for church services again down at the bottom of the page by the copyright information, you see that. Are there any other common places that those letters show up?
Alex Shapiro: [00:02:56] You’ve named a lot of them. And I think basically what ASCAP is, every place everybody’s seeing it, is affiliation. And you also kept talking about copyright, and that is the magic word— because we’re so lucky that in this country intellectual property is protected and we have copyright laws. So ASCAP: the magic letters ASCAP stand for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. ASCAP is the oldest US performing rights organization, otherwise known as a PRO. Sometimes people have heard that term, a PRO. It was founded over 100 years ago in 1914 in order to protect the rights of composers and to collect fees that creators are due for the public performances of our music. All those performances generate income for the people who own those copyrights. So our US Constitution protects creators, right? And the founders really, really believed in the principle that in order to encourage creativity and to encourage advancement in the arts and the sciences, there had to be laws to protect creators by giving them rights to their own creations. So the rights of songwriters and lyricists to be paid for the performances of their music was affirmed in the US by the Copyright Act of 1909.
Alex Shapiro: [00:04:20] So this has been around for a while. So what ASCAP is and where we see all those affiliations next to people’s names or publishing companies, it’s a very sophisticated non-profit collection agency. It’s able to track whose music is being performed where and then pay the copyright holder accordingly. So to give you an idea just how huge this is, in 2022, ASCAP collects as of right now and pays out money for over a trillion, with a T, trillion performances. It’s unbelievable. It’s really mind boggling. And as you can imagine, this isn’t a task that most composers would be able to do on their own. Right? It’s very, very hard to track your own music or all the uses of your music. So that’s where an organization like ASCAP comes in. And so in accordance with intellectual property and copyright laws, ASCAP collects the royalties and the licensing fees from music presenters and performance venues and broadcasters, and it distributes these monies to its members who have created the very content that is helping these venues earn their money: composers, lyricists and music publishers. I can tell you a little story about this if you want, but it’s a really great kind of collection agency to enforce the law.
Mindy Peterson: [00:05:41] Sure. Yeah. Tell us your story.
Alex Shapiro: [00:05:41] Oh! well it’s a cute story because, you know, ASCAP was actually founded by a bunch of composers, most notably the composer Victor Herbert, who people might remember from the turn of the last century, as being known for his operettas, I think. And he was the leading figure among about 182, I think, original ASCAP members, one of whom by the way, was John Philip Sousa. And the story goes— and I’m going to elaborate for the purpose of just entertaining you— but the story is basically that Mr. Herbert was sitting in a restaurant one day and he heard his music being played, and he noticed that the restaurant patrons were really enjoying it. And hey, they probably stayed in the establishment a little longer just because of it and ordered and paid for more food and more beer. Herbert looked around at the restaurant and he thought, gee. Hmm. The owner had to pay for the tablecloths and for the flowers and for the cute little vases that the flowers are sitting in, all of which enhance the dining experience and make people enjoy being there and spend more money. And he thought, you know, I deserve to be paid for the use of my music, which is clearly enhancing that experience as well. And again, the Constitution provides for this. And the copyright law that was passed in 1909, just a few years earlier provides for this. So that’s kind of how it all started.
Mindy Peterson: [00:07:10] Oh, interesting. And boy, only, I mean, within five years of that copyright law going into effect, they started ASCAP.
Alex Shapiro: [00:07:18] Yup! It’s like, let’s get our money. We deserve this. It’s provided for us. But of course, unless you kind of go after it, most venues are not going to voluntarily just say, here, have a bunch of money. You know, you really do have to encourage them and tell them this is why it’s right for you guys to pay us. This is why.
Mindy Peterson: [00:07:38] You mentioned that ASCAP is the oldest PRO. Is that the oldest in the US or anywhere?
Alex Shapiro: [00:07:44] Probably in the U.S., but that’s a great question. I don’t know about the other countries. That’s a great question. I’ll have to find that out.
Mindy Peterson: [00:07:50] And it’s the largest, I believe, globally, right? I mean, you mentioned over 1 trillion performances.
Alex Shapiro: [00:07:57] It’s a lot.
Mindy Peterson: [00:07:58] Processed by it every year.
Alex Shapiro: [00:07:59] It’s a lot. It’s right up there as at least one of the biggest. It is. It’s huge. Yeah. One of them.
Mindy Peterson: [00:08:06] A link in the show notes to another episode that I did with Song Trust, actually a couple of them, but we mentioned in those episodes some other information about PROs, and so we’ll link to that for listeners who want to sort of dig into this a little bit more. But as you explain so well, ASCAP is a PRO that music creators sign up with so that their royalties can be collected on their behalf and turned back over to them.
Alex Shapiro: [00:08:37] Exactly.
Mindy Peterson: [00:08:37] In exchange for a membership fee, right?
Alex Shapiro: [00:08:40] Right. It’s a very modest, very modest membership fee and you get a lot of bang for the buck. ASCAP is a non-profit organization, so it’s not making money off of us. It’s just wanting to collect the money and get it back to the creators who earned it.
Mindy Peterson: [00:08:53] Are all PROs nonprofit?
Alex Shapiro: [00:08:54] Nope, not necessarily. No.
Mindy Peterson: [00:08:57] No. Okay. Yeah. And one thing that’s sort of unique, I believe, about ASCAP is it’s founded and governed by members. So that really helps ensure that every decision that is made really is in the best interest of its members.
Alex Shapiro: [00:09:14] Absolutely. Absolutely. This is so, so true. Yep.
Mindy Peterson: [00:09:18] Yep. Anything else unique about ASCAP compared to other PROs? I mean, you already covered a lot.
Alex Shapiro: [00:09:24] Oh, yeah.
Mindy Peterson: [00:09:25] Anything else that you want to touch on?
Alex Shapiro: [00:09:26] Well, yeah, sure. That business model itself, the fact that ASCAP is governed, as you said, by the actual copyright holders: the music creators and the publishers, not executives at broadcast and communications companies or private equity firms or corporate shareholders. And so this means that all the money that comes in goes straight out to the rights holders, as opposed to having to be paid out to other outside investors first. That’s a big, big difference. And I think the other thing that I’ve always found really impressive about ASCAP and how tight a ship it runs as a nonprofit is that I’d say that almost 90% of the money it collects, which is well over a billion with a B dollars in royalties every year, goes right back out to the members. And so that’s by far the lowest operating expense of any such organization. I mean, it’s really, really impressively low. And as you said, we’re member oriented and democratically run. It’s a democratically elected board of directors made up of 12 composers and lyricists—some of them are lyricists— and 12 publishers, and it represents almost 900,000 members at this point, just short of 900,000 members, writing in all genres. And I’m just very lucky; I’ve got the sole seat that’s dedicated on the board to symphonic and concert music because they know that the way we do business in symphonic and concert and also even educational music, you know, wind band, things like that, it’s a different business model, and the contracts are different. A lot of things are different about it than film and TV or pop music per se. So that’s why they always want to make sure they have voices on the board that are dedicated to that. Not that we all don’t write all kinds of music, because I write plenty of pop stuff and jazz, and my colleagues on the film and TV side certainly write concert music, but they want to always make sure that they’ve got certain voices representing the needs of the membership.
Mindy Peterson: [00:11:25] Well, and it’s interesting to point out, too, I mean, not only do you have that huge number of songwriters and composers and publishers represented, like you said, almost 900,000, but this includes all genres and it includes all stages of the individuals’ careers. You have the greatest names in music, but all the way down to those who are just sort of in that early stage of their careers— up and coming writers and musicians.
Alex Shapiro: [00:11:52] Exactly. And I think that’s a huge thing. It’s something that I’ve always really admired about ASCAP. I’ve been an ASCAP member for a very long time. I joined probably when I was in conservatory, so 40 years ago or whatever. But what I’ve always admired about the ethos of the of the organization is it cares so much about members. And as you say, Mindy, about up and coming members, developing talent, supporting talent that hasn’t found its voice yet or hasn’t been discovered yet, or whatever. That would be the majority of those 875,000, 900,000 members: the majority of them are still on the up and up and up, you know, and a few of them are not going to get beyond the first “up”! And hopefully many more will get up, and above, and over! It’s so important to invest in talent and invest in the long throw of somebody’s career, you know, because there are almost no so-called overnight successes. The arts are something that you work really, really hard at for a long time. And eventually all that hard work ends up paying off and kind of piles up. And that’s sort of the the issue with royalties in a sense, in that the nature of the business is that it’s a long tail business. You know, it’s not just money up front and on to the next thing. You’re investing for a lifetime of income from the use of that which you’ve created. And royalty income is a huge part of somebody’s financial picture. And the older they get and the more works they have out there in the world, the healthier that financial picture becomes. So it’s a long tail. And that income is very, very, very important.
Mindy Peterson: [00:13:33] Sure. One other statistic I’m just going to throw out there is that ASCAP licenses over 16 million songs and scores, which is a huge number, but they license those to the businesses that play them publicly. And we’ve already implied or alluded to some of the public performances that are covered by ASCAP, but you mentioned TV, radio, music that’s played in restaurants, but also music that’s played in clubs. I mean, we think of nightclubs and things like that, but also fitness clubs.
Alex Shapiro: [00:14:07] Hair salons! Anybody who’s piping in music, you know, anybody who’s earning money and enhancing their venue by piping in music, I mean, literally, a hair and nail salon.
Mindy Peterson: [00:14:21] Websites, too. I mean, you think about all of the changes in technology in the last few decades here, and I’m sure that’s really changed what ASCAP does in terms of the different sources that they’re collecting from, and what’s considered a public performance.
Alex Shapiro: [00:14:37] Absolutely. And that’s been a very, very huge issue because our whole industry is changing. You know, the one thing that doesn’t change is copyright law and the right to earn money from your intellectual property. However, the vehicles, you know, the way the music is being transmitted or the fact that it’s not physical anymore; I think one of the biggest hits, so to speak, that we’ve taken in the industry happened in the mid-nineties when we started having digital music, and no longer did people have to buy a physical item like an LP or a cassette or a CD in order to hear music, right? It was just sort of in the air magically, right? And very, very easy to share with everybody else. And there our woes began. And so something that’s called mechanicals, which is, by the way, a right that ASCAP does not collect, but mechanical royalties have become really problematic in an age of streaming. You know, streaming royalty rates are very, very low given given what’s out there. And this is been an ongoing battle, and ASCAP’s at the forefront of making very good headway for its members. But it’s a different world now.
Mindy Peterson: [00:15:50] And very complex, too. I remember when I did my first interview with Song Trust; very quickly, I was like, whoa, this is beyond my pay grade. This is really a complex field. Like, let’s just try to stay out of the weeds as best we can on that. It’s really a complex field and I’m sure it just continues to get more so that way as technology evolves.
Alex Shapiro: [00:16:16] Exactly. When you look at where technology is headed, it’s really head swimmingly complicated and it’s marvelous. And I think there’s so much exciting stuff heading down the pike that for both users and creators, it’s going to be incredible. But tracking those performances and figuring out who indeed is a creator at this point, when you, let’s say, have an implant or a wearable that’s transmitting all the time, and going back and forth. I mean, it’s like whatever we think of social media now is going to be laughably primitive compared to where we’re heading in just a few years. And again, compensating and remunerating the creators who own these copyrights is getting a little tricky. I know that that it can be done, but it is definitely a lot more complicated than back in the days of when somebody bopped into a record store and bought a physical LP and walked out with it. You know, very, very different.
Mindy Peterson: [00:17:13] Well, and that just shows the increasing value that ASCAP has because it’s increasingly hard for individual creators to go back and sort of claw back or collect all of the royalties that are due them for all of these various outlets that could be considered a public performance. Whereas if they can just sign on with ASCAP, they can let ASCAP deal with it.
Alex Shapiro: [00:17:36] Hooray! Yes.
Mindy Peterson: [00:17:39] Well, you talked about some of the up and coming musicians and creators and how that really is a large percentage of those close to 900,000 members that you have. Tell us about some of the benefits and resources that ASCAP membership provides to all of its members, but especially valuable to some of these up and coming musicians.
Alex Shapiro: [00:18:02] Oh, I’d love to. It is a long list, I’ll tell you. It’s amazing. It’s an amazing number of support initiatives that really, really enhance members’ careers with resources and information and direct assistance. And it ranges from all over the map like from technology and wellness and community building, where we’re connecting people to each other, all the way to legislative advocacy and diversity issues. And as I was just saying before, at a time where technology is everything and data is everything. ASCAP is so technology forward. It’s really dialed in to all the new tools that are impacting the future of our music business. It launched not too long ago, I want to say two or three years ago, it launched something called the ASCAP Lab that supports a whole range of projects that are designed to advance the creation and the consumption of music on both the creator and the user sides. You know, for everything from like spatial audio, and biometrics, and wearables, and artificial intelligence, and virtual, and augmented, and mixed realities. And all these other future oriented tools, that are going to just change the way we experience music. And ASCAP is also the only U.S. PRO with a proof of concept on blockchain. You know, it’s because it just wants to make sure that whatever is out there, whatever the tool du jour is, we’re going to be on top of it. And ASCAP has a comprehensive wellness program. I think it’s the only PRO that has this, that supports members’ physical and mental well-being. And that’s huge, especially in the arts. You know, people need care and they don’t always give it to themselves. And so ASCAP’s outreach is fantastic with that.
Mindy Peterson: [00:19:46] Yeah, when I saw that page on ASCAP’s website, the the front page kind of the landing page of the wellness program has a big front and center quote by Michael Franti, which I’m a huge fan of his. I’m like, Oh, you had me right there. He says, “I’m super excited and grateful that ASCAP has made a commitment to helping artists be mindful stewards of their own bodies and hearts so that they can be the best musical messengers of optimism, wellness and healing possible.” But there’s a lot of great resources right on that. I mean, I’m a big fan of wellness, too, and being able to combine wellness and music. So that wellness program component really caught my attention.
Alex Shapiro: [00:20:28] And that is a beautiful quote. I hadn’t seen that. That’s a great quote. So true. You cannot separate your your mind and your creative work from your body and your mental health. All of this. And the older you get, the more you realize that, too. And so I think it’s just so forward thinking of ASCAP to say, okay, we’re we’re going to reach out and make sure that we are helping our members in this regard as well.
Mindy Peterson: [00:20:50] Yeah. And I think as part of that wellness program too, ASCAP partners with MusiCares.
Alex Shapiro: [00:20:55] Yes. Yep.
Mindy Peterson: [00:20:57] So MusiCares is another non-profit.
Alex Shapiro: [00:21:00] That’s right, from NARAS.
Mindy Peterson: [00:21:01] They really exist to help the humans behind the music be as whole and healthy as possible. But they have a lot of safety net programs supporting health and welfare wellness. They have financial grants that are available and crisis relief type stuff. So it sounds like ASCAP has a pretty robust partnership and collaboration with MusiCares so that they can offer a lot of those benefits directly to their membership.
Alex Shapiro: [00:21:30] Exactly. It’s so important, and and it’s really impressive what MusiCares does. They’re just terrific and it’s a great program, and it has helped a lot of people. So yeah, and part of mental health to me is also community, and the fact that even though we might be alone in our little caves creating all this music, ultimately it’s going to get out there in the world because of other human beings, you know, and it’s played often by other human beings (if it’s not purely EDM tracks or something). And so, you know, the concept of community and that tribal sense of getting people together to share and experience things together has been huge. And about 15 years ago, give or take, ASCAP launched this really amazing multi-day conference in Hollywood called the ASCAP Expo, and it brought together thousands of creators in one place, whether they were big, big stars or just starting out— everybody smushed together in the same meeting rooms, you know—to exchange ideas and and perform for each other and learn from each other. And now this has taken on the form of something called the ASCAP experience, which is a whole wealth of webinars and interactive sessions that you can access online and participate in online now; I think that it kind of shifted around the pandemic for obvious reasons, but it’s been just an amazing thing. I’ve spoken at most of the ASCAP Expos and so I’ve been to most of them. I stay for the whole thing because it’s so exciting, and they cover every genre of music, with all kinds of creators coming and learning from each other. And what a great thing to do, to take the initiative to put your members in the room where it happens, so to speak, in the room with each other. And so many people network and meet and end up collaborating out of this. It’s beautiful, and the vibe is so great. I used to love going because— just the happy vibe— you’d go down the hallways, and everybody was so excited to just be there and talk to strangers that soon became friends, and all that. It’s just a beautiful vibe. It’s really a great thing because that’s part of the mental health and human health process, as far as I’m concerned, is community. And as I said, this can be a very isolating profession if you’re writing full time. I mean, now songwriters do collaborate with each other. The concert music composers don’t. We sit in the room by ourselves and bang our heads against the leg of the piano, hoping for a decent idea! So we’re really isolated. But getting people together is a very big part of art, because art is communication and expression. And so, again, ASCAP recognizes that in a really, really big way. The other stuff that ASCAP does, which is huge, is its advocacy work in Washington. ASCAP has got two full time lobbyists. One is a Republican and the other is a Democrat. So they’re working with everybody. Because copyright should not be a partisan issue, right? And throughout the year, they organize meetings with senators and members of Congress on Capitol Hill and also in local state offices, and over Zoom; I’ve done all of these many times. ASCAP lobbied really hard to get benefits like unemployment insurance coverage and also the Paycheck Protection program that helped music creators during the pandemic when they weren’t able— because the venues were closed— they couldn’t perform anywhere. And so boom, here, have some money to make up for that. Here’s something to help. And it really did help a lot of people.
Mindy Peterson: [00:24:54] Yeah.
Alex Shapiro: [00:24:55] And then the other civic stuff that ASCAP’s really, really into is an initiative called ASCAP Citizen, which is, again, non-partisan. ASCAP is completely non-partisan, and it’s a non-partisan campaign to promote civic engagement and voter registration, and they partner with Headcount. And we’re doing a whole get out the vote thing right now in the weeks we have coming up before the the midterm, and making sure people register, and whatever their thoughts are, they need to vote. They need to get out there and vote and be a citizen. And then ASCAP also is really big on using its platform and its visibility and its voice to combat racism and discrimination. They launched something called Fight for Change— I think that was launched during the pandemic as well, around 2019, 2020, I think, and it’s got its own website, I think. And it’s it’s really terrific. And it raises awareness and it points people to all kinds of ways that they can get involved and help. And there’s this whole range of programs that celebrate the diversity of the music community, and empower underrepresented, as we call them, music creators, and help them lead positive changes in the industry, like the HBCU Internship program and its support for this thing called Amplifying Voices, which I don’t know if you know about it. It’s a program that fosters collaboration and collective action between U.S. orchestras and composers, with a goal of racial and gender equity in classical music. So all these different ways of raising awareness and getting people involved and setting things up with these initiatives and projects as portals, basically, that members and others can step through and say, okay, here’s how I can plug in and make a difference.
Mindy Peterson: [00:26:41] Wow, what a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach.
Alex Shapiro: [00:26:45] Yeah, it really is.
Mindy Peterson: [00:26:47] And I know on the website, ASCAP’s website, there’s also a link for music users. And I’m not sure exactly all that’s on there, but I think it’s for fitness facilities, restaurants, bars, radio, houses of worship, that kind of thing. So I’m sure we could have a really, really long episode just on the benefits and resources that are provided.
Alex Shapiro: [00:27:12] Absolutely. That would actually be great. I mean, here I am a composer and a publisher talking about it, but it would be really great to have a restaurant owner or a salon or spa owner or somebody, talk with you about this as well, because that’s a very important perspective.
Mindy Peterson: [00:27:27] I think they also have a podcast, right?
Alex Shapiro: [00:27:30] Yes. They’ve got something called Versed, I think, right now— I’ll have to double check because there’s always a podcast. There’s different things that they’ve done. They’ve got really great stuff. And yeah, I think that one of them, at least right now, is called Versed.
Mindy Peterson: [00:27:45] And even something as basic as signing up for ASCAP’s email list, I did that and really quickly got an email that had a list of really fascinating resources that they had included in their songwriters workshop. There was a music production boot camp. There’s an article on how to improve your self confidence as a music creator. So for people who just want to sort of dip their toe in the water and learn a little bit more on a not overwhelming basis, like just a little bit of information here and there, that would be even a great way to just start and get those periodic emails. I’m not getting inundated with them at all, but just getting that little bit of information here and there, just enough that you can absorb and stay familiar and learn a little bit more here and there about it.
Alex Shapiro: [00:28:36] I love hearing you say this. This is so great because I really love those emails too, and I tend not to always like those kinds of emails, but I read these articles and I also think to myself, just what you’re saying, Mindy, is that even if you’re not a music maker, you’ll find a lot of this interesting because it kind of shows you how the sausage is made. You know, it kind of gets you a little bit inside to our our end of the business if you’re not in this business, or if you’re obliquely involved with the business in some way. Yeah, I think that the articles, there’s always something of interest, and they don’t overwhelm you with too much stuff in one mailing. It’s just here, click on this. It looks really interesting. And it is.
Mindy Peterson: [00:29:14] Well, and ASCAP does have such a broad audience and broad membership that say if there’s five or four resources mentioned in an email, maybe there’s only one that really pertains to you. So it’s really quick to just be like, oh, that doesn’t apply, but that, ooh, that looks kind of interesting. Let me just click on that article and read the article and glean whatever I can from that little tidbit.
Alex Shapiro: [00:29:35] I think they do a really good job of curating these emails, these newsletters, or whatever you want to call them, these flyers, because there’s something for everybody in them.
Mindy Peterson: [00:29:44] Yeah. Well, real quick, I know you are not only on the board of directors for ASCAP, but you’re on the board of the ASCAP Foundation. Can you tell us just a little bit about what that is?
Alex Shapiro: [00:29:54] Yeah, the ASCAP Foundation is really beautiful, what they do. I’m going to read you their mission right off their website because it’s just one sentence: “The ASCAP Foundation is dedicated to nurturing the music talent of tomorrow, preserving the legacy of the past, and sustaining the creative incentive for today’s creators through a variety of educational, professional and humanitarian programs and activities which serve the entire music community.” So they’ve got an incredible array of programs for music lovers of all ages, and music education and opportunities for young people to express themselves and maybe get further into this business if they have a spark and want to explore further. We’ll put a link to the ASCAP Foundation on this podcast web page so that people can check it out. It’s wonderful. I’m very proud to be an officer of the Foundation.
Mindy Peterson: [00:30:46] Well, we’re almost out of time here, but tell us, is there something that you wish more laypeople understood about ASCAP and or is there something that you wish more music creators understood about ASCAP? And if you have an answer to both of those, just take one at a time.
Alex Shapiro: [00:31:03] Oh, yeah. Well, let me tell you, the specific laypeople I care about getting these messages across to, are the ones that use our music in one way or another and earn money and don’t understand why they need to pay for it. Those are the people that I hope will listen to this and understand. This is just basic American law and very hard work. You know, these songs— everything that people are hearing in the background— have taken a great deal of time and money and sweat and tears and blood and everything in between to create. And the results from this work— that they’re hearing in the background, maybe— this is what puts food on the table for the very musicians that you like so much, and for the various creators and songwriters and concert music composers and everybody else that you like so much. So I want the laypeople to understand that connection. It’s not a hard thing. It’s just really simple, you know, having the right to be paid for what you create. And then in terms of creators, what do I want creators to know? They need to join. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to even creators. They don’t quite know how this works, and the reason is, who’s telling them, right? If they’re not being told in school, which they often aren’t, how do they find out? So basically, if they’re getting performances of their music, and if they let ASCAP know about all their titles in a very easy process called title registration (which is on the classical side, and then On Stage, I believe is what it’s called for the pop side), there is money waiting for them, basically when their music is played in venues that are licensed— that have blanket licenses, or whatever— they’re going to get some money. But they can only get paid if ASCAP knows that the pieces are there.
Alex Shapiro: [00:32:48] So you have to register the titles. And then in concert music, if you happen to be on the concert music side, you go through a little extra process of performance notification. And we do this in pop too. If you’re doing a set in a club you use On Stage, I believe is what it is. But all you have to do is register the titles and let ASCAP know when you’ve got performances, in addition to what it’s going to find on its own through its amazing technology, and boom, there is a lot more money waiting for you than you might have realized. So that’s what I want creators to know.
Mindy Peterson: [00:33:21] Fabulous. Well, this has been so enlightening. Thank you, Alex.
Alex Shapiro: [00:33:26] Thank you. I’m so impressed with your enthusiasm for ASCAP and the amount of time you have spent, Mindy, looking into it. I am really touched by that, and I know that the folks at ASCAP will be very happy too, because this is such a gift to have you want to have this conversation about it. It’s just great. Thank you.
Mindy Peterson: [00:33:44] Well, it’s been fascinating. Well, Alex, I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending, a coda, by sharing a song or a story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Tell us about the song that you’re going to be sharing with us in closing today.
Alex Shapiro: [00:34:01] Oh, yeah. Well, I thought I’d share the first movement— just an excerpt is what you’ll hear, but I think the whole thing might be on on the web page. I thought I’d share just one minute from the first movement of my latest symphony, my second symphony that premiered last summer, called “Suspended.” And it’s a movement called “Airborne,” which is a frenzied opening statement about the ills of our society. See, in keeping with my activism right, activism in my life and activism in my music! Not all my pieces have a message, but this one did. I wrote this symphony as a four movement symphony, and I ended up writing it during the pandemic. And as one might imagine, I had a lot to say. Whether we’re dealing with social injustices, systemic racism, all the ills of the coronavirus pandemic, all the politics, all the climate change, all the, you know, everything, it’s been a lot. And it’s a lot for anybody to cope with. And I think as creators, we’re very, very lucky to have a way to express ourselves through music. So what you’ll hear is a minute of “Airborne.”
Transcribed by Sonix.ai