Can house concerts be subject to fees from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC?

This information is edited from a statement negotiated by the Folk Alliance Advocacy Committee, which met with ASCAP & BMI at the National Folk Alliance Conference in February of 2007.

The goals were:
1) To make sure House Concerts are not subject to PRO licensing fees
2) Define what is a House Concert for the purpose above. 
(PRO stands for Performance Rights Organizations, i.e. ASCAP/BMI/etc.)

This discussion hinges on “Public performance” vs. “Private party”. Since the PRO’s have come up with what is a Private Party (basically following Copyright Laws), if house concerts meet these criteria, they can be assured of being considered private for their purposes, and hence no worries of being asked to pay licensing fees. The official wording of what was negotiated and discussed is below. But, basically, it isn’t about whether a presenter has a website, or advertises, etc., but more about HOW you word that website, and your advertising (free advertising in public service announcements is fine, paid is probably not, etc. ).

The PROs indicated that if the following criteria are met, the performance will be considered private and not subject to any public performance license:

1) The event must be held in or on the grounds of a private residence, or at a public venue by invitation only. An example given at the meeting was a wedding or private party held at hotel, which is an establishment that is open to the public, however the event where music is performed is private and only invited guests may attend.
2) Any and all advertising should contain language indicating that the event is private and not open to the public.  One example would be to use words such as “by invitation only,” or other words to the same effect.

3) No advance tickets or reservations may be sold.

A house concert presenter who follows these guidelines will be deemed to be presenting private performances in her/his home, and will not run afoul of the PROs.”

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