Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It’s a fiddle!

MUSIC shop boss Steve Kowalski has been told he will have to pay to play if his customers want to try out his instruments before they buy.

And that, he says, is a fiddle.

The Performing Rights Society claims he needs a licence if he, or any of his punters, want to "have a go" on anything from a harmonica to a harpsichord or castanets to clarinets.

And officers have told him that if he doesn’t stump up cash to the tune of £114 he will have to face the music.

But Steve, 53, who is gob-smacked by the order, said: "They can go whistle!"

He says he wants the threat removing – no strings attached!

Talking from his shop, the well-established Jones Music on Charlotte Street in Macclesfield, he asked: "Has anyone used their common sense here?"

Steve, who took over the 78-year-old established business a year ago, received a call out of the blue from PRS who asked if he or his customers tried out musical instruments.

He said: "I thought, what a daft question, of course we do."

When he said they did, they told him that if anyone played a riff – an identifiable piece of music – he was in breach of copyright and was breaking the law.

"They said it constituted a public performance!" he gasped. "I thought someone was winding me up.

"I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. It means that customers will either have to try something out without the piece sounding melodious or they will have to buy it untried.

"I am certainly not going to pay for a licence. I am making a stand for all musical instrument shops who are just going about their business."

When Steve, who lives in Macclesfield with partner Sally, asked PRS what they were going to do about it, they told him they would send in their copyright protection squad.

"I could tell that meant trouble," he said.

Steve, who himself plays lead guitar in a band, ironically called "Rough Trade", said the cost of the licence was determined by the size of the shop and since Jones Music was 1,500 square feet he would be in for a £114 bill.

"It’s not the money," he said. "It is the principal. I don’t intend to rock over this one."

Keith Gilbert, PRS Performance Sales Director said: "Royalties are crucial – they keep songwriters and musicians writing more music. And royalties are paid by everyone that plays music in public.

"Music shops pay like everyone else, but get a 30 per cent discount if their only music use is for demonstration purposes."


Macclesfield Express
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