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Music: B. M. I. Expands

2 minute read

In the music trade ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) is a set of initials to be reckoned with. ASCAP holds the performing rights to most copyright music, collects blanket fees from radio networks and stations, doles out prorated royalties to ASCAP members. ASCAP collects in other ways that few people suspect. For example, Yankee Doodle and Dixie, as usually performed by orchestras, pay ASCAP fees. Reason: although the tunes themselves are in the public domain, the rights to arrangements of them are held by ASCAP for the arrangers. Most orchestras find it simpler to use an existing arrangement than to make a new one.

Last week Broadcast Music Inc., a new music organization set up by National Association of Broadcasters to crack ASCAP’s tune monopoly (TIME, Sept. 25), had 52 arrangers at work. Gleaning the public domain, B. M. I. picked up 150 most popular pieces (Dixie, Home, Sweet Home, Strauss waltzes, etc.), began turning out new arrangements of them which may be used free by anyone who buys the sheet music. B. M. I. orchestrations, “cross-cued” so that they could be played by a group of any size, were offered to the trade as better suited to modern microphone technique than most existing arrangements.

Turning out original popular songs at the rate of 30 a month—big as music publishing goes—B. M. I. last week for the first time got on Variety’s list of network “plugs.” We Could Make Such Beautiful Music and Here In the Velvet Night were each played more than ten times, but by house orchestras rather than popular bands. Variety reported that music publishers affiliated with ASCAP planned to complain to the Federal Communications Commission that CBS was discriminating in favor of B. M. I. songs, breaking its rule against repeating any number within two hours.

This week the Metro Group (Robbing, Feist, Miller publishing houses), controlled by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and turning out a major part of Hollywood’s popular music, was reported ready to sell out to B. M. I. for $3,750,000. M. G. M. has long borne a grudge against ASCAP, holding that ASCAP should make the same vigilant checkup of music played in cinema houses that it does over the radio.

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