Friday, September 22, 2023 Sep 22, 2023
94° F Dallas, TX


By Tim Schuller |

SPATS Some music would be nice.

That’s what BONNIE ITZIG thought when she installed a jazz duo on Fridays at her Dallas coffeehouse, La Crème’s 1683. Mellow music from guitarist BOB ABERG and bassist STONE SAVAGE fit La Crème like biscottis fit cappuccino.

Then, like a Scud in the night, ASCAP descended. ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, demanded hundreds of dollars in licensing fees, followed by BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) with a similar overture. This, for a place that holds 90 max.

ASCAP licensing conveys the rights to play songs by its 45,000 members. Cabarets, nightclubs, and a lot of plain ol’ bars pay ASCAP. So do many stores that play those miserable oldies on in-store sound systems.

Savage, who handles audio-visual presentations and concerts for the Dallas Museum of Art, and hence handles ASCAP paperwork, says he’s “flabbergasted” by the targeting of La Crème.

“It’s hardly surprising that ASCAP would consider the museum, or the Crescent Hotel, or the Fairmont,” says Savage. “But to go after a place that sells cappuccino and smoked turkey sandwiches seems a mite petty!”

Ironically, Savage was once recruited by ASCAP. Had he signed on, his job would have been to flit from club to club “monitoring” music, poised to snitch on establishments that offered ASCAP fare but hadn’t paid ASCAP fees.

One club owner hereabouts says it’s possible to bypass both ASCAP and BMI by requiring musicians to sign statements asserting that they perform their own work exclusively. But he adds that the best tack is just to bite the bullet and pay ’em. “It’s really not that much money,” he says.

Well, it is if you don’t sell booze and can only fit in 90 people. Bonnie Itzig will continue to sell her coffees and teas to individuals and restaurants throughout the city. But a jazz duo lost a gig, La Crème’s patrons lost live music, and the Dallas jazz community lost yet another forum.