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ASCAP and BMI Holding Their Film/TV Awards on Same Night, Creating Disharmony

How could two major music organizations manage to tick off an entire community of music industry people?

ASCAP and BMI — the two largest performing-rights societies in the U.S., which represent the vast majority of film and TV composers and songwriters — will both hold their annual film-music awards dinners this Wednesday. And it’s leaving the many would-be attendees who have to make a tough choice between the two humming an unhappy tune.

ASCAP will hold its annual shindig at the Beverly Hilton, while BMI will hold its party at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. Longtime observers say this is the first time that the two big black-tie affairs have coincided.

This doesn’t affect actual ASCAP and BMI members — those who will be honored that night at their respective ceremonies — as much as it does virtually everyone around them: their agents, managers, publicists, attorneys, studio executives, music contractors, music supervisors, music publishers and even members of the music press.

That’s because everyone aside from the members works with both performing-rights organizations (PROs). The reactions of the hundreds of music industry people affected range from disappointing head-shaking to downright furious.

As one prominent agent told Variety: “There are 364 alternate dates that would allow industry folks to support composers from both PROs. I’m surprised ASCAP and BMI couldn’t coordinate between themselves to figure it out.” Adds another disgruntled regular attendee of both events, “They’re doing a disservice to their own members.”

Contacted by Variety, each organization offered a terse prepared statement.

Said BMI: “While it’s unfortunate that there is an overlap in dates this year, we fully expect to have a terrific evening that celebrates our many talented composers and pays tribute to our special honorees. We will work with ASCAP to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Said ASCAP: “We want the spotlight to be on all of the amazing composers being honored on May 15th so that they can experience one of the best nights of their lives as we come together to celebrate their stellar musical contributions to film, television and visual media before their peers.”

ASCAP is honoring composers Michael Giacchino and Pinar Toprak, along with the songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. BMI is honoring composers Terence Blanchard and William Ross. Dozens of other awards will be handed out to composers at both events.

Privately, officials of both organizations say that it was impossible to move to a different date once they discovered the rival group had booked the same night. Basically, nobody blinked.

“There were conversations at the highest level,” said one executive (who spoke on background) about the foulup. Each organization schedules its pop awards and film awards on back-to-back evenings, so that New York executives from both can attend, which further complicates the booking issue. BMI is holding its pop awards the night before the inadvertently shared film/TV date, on May 14, while ASCAP’s pop awards will go down the night after the screen kudos, May 16.

Another prominent member of the music community, who has multiple clients in both organizations, told Variety: “It seems that BMI has always held their dinner during this timeframe, so I’m not sure why ASCAP didn’t check this fact out before booking.

“What is a bit maddening to me is that it forces people to choose and also causes unnecessary confusion and bad blood at a time when the music industry is struggling a bit to be collegial towards composers, musicians and the employers we all must work alongside.

“Choosing loyalty to one side or the other is something we shouldn’t need to be thinking about, i.e., which composers are more important, which agents should we see, etc. Sadly, many of us will lose the ability to share in our one night of the year that brings us all together despite our personal or professional allegiances.”

Both ASCAP and BMI officials insisted that this would not happen again. Doreen Ringer Ross, BMI’s VP of creative for film, TV and visual media, conceded: “The overlap has certainly caused a conflict for the industry in that many will have to make a choice about which event they attend. We truly wish this were not the case, and we’re sensitive to the position this puts people in. That said, our dinner has always been about celebrating our talented family of composers and we are excited to do just that.”

ASCAP senior VP, film and TV music and new media Shawn LeMone put this positive spin on the dilemma: “We’re hoping, in a way, that it will be an evening of the industry celebrating music for film, television and games. The whole town is getting together to celebrate the people that compose it. That’s really amazing.”

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