Near the top of the list of the worst karaoke songs of all time is Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away.” No one but Anthony Kiedis can fumble through that lip garbage, so don’t even try.
Unfortunately, a lot of people do try. And a popular Chicago brewery and pizza spot is being sued for not paying royalties to acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo when their songs are performed during the venue’s live band karaoke night.
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria is a popular spot in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, home to a bunch of in-house brews and customizable pies—medium to thin crust, none of that deep-dish stuff. But they’ve found themselves in hot water recently for letting people wail on a mic at live band karaoke without coughing up the necessary moola to royalty agencies. Broadcast Music, Inc. and Sony are suing Piece after a representative for one of the royalty agencies stopped by Piece on August 23 and saw patrons singing Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away,” Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” and Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” to name a few.
As the A.V. Club explains, if a song isn’t in the public domain, karaoke performances count as live performances. When you queue up Gin Blossoms’ “Hey Jealousy” at 2 AM, technically, the venue that you’re treating to a performance should have to pay royalties.
Though royalty agencies stop by businesses from time to time to make sure they are getting their dues, it wasn’t chance that brought them to Piece. Piece had been failing to pay royalties for some time.
According to The Chicago Tribune, BMI reached out to Piece more than 70 times since May 2014 to tell management to sign up for a music license, which costs $300 or more depending on the size of the business, how often they play songs, and in what format they play music. The royalty agencies aren’t suing for a crippling amount of money, and are hoping to simply collect what they are owed.
Coincidentally, one of Piece’s co-owners is Rick Nielsen, the lead guitarist of Cheap Trick. An artist profiting off the hard work of another artist without sharing any rewards? Nielsen is taking his band’s name to a whole new level. Say it ain’t so.