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  #1  
Unread 21st July 2004, 10:38 PM
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Looking for classic public domain gospel bluegrass

My gospel/bluegrass band, Ploughshare, is heading into the studio this fall. We have a number of original songs that we will be recording. However, we would like to do a cover tune or two from the "classics." We obviously do not want to run into copyright issues, so we are looking for classic gospel bluegrass tunes that fall into the category of public domain.

Does anyone here have any suggestions? Our only criteria at this point is that it MUST be gospel....it must be bluegrass (fast or slow or inbetween)...and it must be conducive to a trio (mando, banjo, guitar).

Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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  #2  
Unread 22nd July 2004, 12:43 AM
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posted by Clement:
Looking for classic public domain gospel bluegrass.
Be very, very careful about the "public domain" stuff. Make sure it is "PD", because lately, ASCAP has been buyin up the "rights" to PD tunes, thus rendering them no longer "public domain".

Even innocent fiddle tunes like "Soldier's Joy", "Whiskey before Breakfast", and "Fischer's Hornpipe" are no longer Public Domain, since ASCAP now has the "rights" to them.

Please be careful, and research any "PD" tune you may wish to record. Given the underhanded dealings of ASCAP (as of late), you may record something in all innocence, only to have them hit you upside the head with a lawsuit.

This is exactly what happened to a friend of mine who runs a coffeehouse. Myself, and some others played there reguarly on a Tuesday night (no pay, it was fun for us to do), yet even though we did the traditional tunes, ASCAP came in, and threatened to close him down, if he did not pay the "royalties" owed on the tunes we were playing. We had no idea that ASCAP "owned" these tunes. The tunes had been around forever.

The name of the coffehouse is the Amazing Grace Cafe, and is run by a man who is a recovering alcoholic who loves music. We were there to do our thing, and help him do his thing, and ASCAP had to rear it's ugly head.

Upshot of it is, we had to quit playing (our choice) so as to keep him out of trouble with these bozos, cause we had no clue what was, or was not public domain anymore.

So ---- any suggestions you get for "PD" music --- PLEASE (for your sake), make sure it is.

We got bit in the hind end by the ASCAP group. I just don't want to see the same happen to you.
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Unread 22nd July 2004, 12:53 AM
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That being said -- two of my favourites are:

"Where Could I Go" --------- vocal; and
"Church in the Wildwood" -- instrumental

Don't know if these are PD or not, but they are great tunes!
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Unread 22nd July 2004, 10:43 AM
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Yikes, that now scares me to death. Does this mean that when we play in churches that we are in danger of lawsuit if we play tunes that have copyright?

What about something like a hymn from a hymnal that is dated to the 1800's? Does ASCAP have a website that lists ALL of the tunes in which they have an interest.

Here is one that we were considering...."Working on a Building" (sometimes titled other things). It has been done by everybody (Hot Rize and now Nickle Creek come to mind). We really like that tune and have a unique arrangement of the tune. Where would I start to find out if it is a usable tune?

Thanks for the heads up.
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Unread 23rd July 2004, 02:07 AM
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"Working on a Building" is a wonderful tune, I believe it was first done (or at least has been done by Bill Monroe, and all his stuff is ASCAP, or BMI (same thing).
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Unread 23rd July 2004, 02:17 AM
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posted by Clement:
Yikes, that now scares me to death. Does this mean that when we play in churches that we are in danger of lawsuit if we play tunes that have copyright?
Yes it does. The "good" side of this coin is that ASCAP doesn't (in general) hit up churches, just public venues, such as bars, or (in our case) coffeehouses.

They are looking for the "paying public", and so far -- they do not see Christians "paying tithes" as paying public!!

But -- the CD might be a different story entirely.

Seriously -- check out ASCAP online (I used to have their web site) and see what they list as to what they "own".

They are getting viscious, and greedy. Try Google. If I find their site before you do, I'll let you know.
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Unread 23rd July 2004, 02:24 AM
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Just found them. they are at www.ascap.com. You will have to click around on the site to find "ownership". good luck!!
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Unread 23rd July 2004, 08:41 AM
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Oh my.....maybe we will just write a couple more tunes for the album to stay away from these legalities.

Here is another question for you dmiller: How DO these bands that play in public regularly legally get to play "cover tunes?" They all do it. I saw Ricky Skaggs recently and 1/2 his show was cover tunes??? What about going to a local bar/club/coffeehouse and hearing "cover bands?" Who pays? Does the venue owner pay to be a member of ASCAP thus protecting himself/herself from lawsuit in case a band would play a cover tune? Does the band pay a royalty to the song writer or is there a blanket fee to ASCAP? I am a real novice here and just want to do what is right in God's eyes and also not jeapordize our band from a legal standpoint.

I know....lots of questions, sorry.
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Unread 25th July 2004, 12:35 AM
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posted by Clement:
I know....lots of questions, sorry.
T'is ok!! No problem!

I can tell you what I do know. "Club" owners are responsible for the ASCAP fees, if they provide live music, or even have a jukebox for their customers.

This is what happened to my friend who has the coffeehouse. Most of the folks he has hired to play there, were nationally, and regionally known artists, doing their own compositions.

Then there were others (like me and my friends) who showed up every Tuesday (and other days), to have fun picking before a live audience. Am not sure what you mean by "cover tunes", but the stuff we play, is all traditional stuff, and as I said before, we had no idea that ASCAP had bought up the rights to those tunes. Those tunes had been around for over a century, and we just assumed they were "Public Domain", since the authors of them all were long since deceased.

Actually -- the fiddle "fake"-book I have, lists all the tunes we do as PD, but ASCAP has been buying up the "rights" to a lot of these tunes, and then extorting "club" owners to pay royalty rights.

Now -- the good side of this coin is that they (ASCAP) don't go to churches to do the same, since folks going to church are generally not there for the performance, but are there for praise, worship, teaching, etc. So I think you have no worries about Ploughshare doing songs at a service at your local church.

Your CD might be different though, but then again, since there are so many "private label" CD's these days, they may not notice. Better to be safe than sorry. Record what you will, and if you need a few more tunes to "fill the bill", go ahead and add what you wish to. But I would still check into the PD aspect of the extra tunes.

ASCAP is a viper hiding in the leaves alongside of the trail you are walking. Your walk (before God, as well as in real life) is threatened by them, and when they strike, they are venomous.

We found that out first hand. But the group I pick with is not Christian Gospel like you are doing. I would suggest prayer, seeking guidance, and go with the revelation you all receive.

God honors prayer, and He is a lot bigger than ASCAP!!!!

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Unread 25th July 2004, 06:19 AM
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I think this sounds awful. Pd's are supposed to be Pd's and nothing else!!! It's just sick! How can I know if "my" tunes are public domain? I've tried to search on that ASCAP database, but I don't understand what it says really. If there's a composer name, does that mean the tune is copyrighted?

Btw, Church in the wildwood does have lyrics. Loretta Lynn has recorded it but it is a PD. Nice song.
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