American Society of Composers, Authors and
Publishers (ASCAP) Was Founded
Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Madonna, Metallica, Tom Waits, the
Dixie Chicks, and Tito Puente all have in common? Yes, they are
all Grammy award winners, but they are also members of the
American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).
ASCAP was founded in New York City on February 13, 1914, to
protect the rights of the more than 80,000 composers,
songwriters, lyricists and music publishers who are its members.
ASCAP's function is to make sure that a writer's work is not
used by another artist without paying the proper fee (called a
royalty) or acquiring the proper permission. An author's right
to protect his work is called copyright. ASCAP's first director
was Victor Herbert, a composer and musician who strongly
supported artists being paid for their work. How do you think
Herbert got the idea for ASCAP?
The story goes that
Victor Herbert became aware of the need for protection of
musical creators' copyrights and performance rights when he was
in a hotel and he overheard someone performing a piece of music
he'd written. He knew that he hadn't been paid for the use of
his music in performance, and he felt that was unfair, since he
had written the music. From then on, he worked hard to see that
musicians received a royalty for the use of their work.
Herbert was born in Ireland and studied music in Germany, where
he became a cellist and composer. In 1886, he and his wife,
opera singer Therese Foerster, immigrated to New York.
Herbert became well known as a composer of light operettas
(romantic comedies with singing and dancing). His best-known
work is Babes in Toyland, which opened in 1903 and was inspired
by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Today, ASCAP's main
function continues to be to protect the rights of its members by
licensing and paying royalties for public performances of their
copyrighted works. Next time you hear a Madonna song that isn't
performed by Madonna, you can be sure she is getting a royalty