Friday night will be the day that live music dies for many local artists.
After a nearly two year fight with performing rights organizations — agencies that collect royalties on behalf of artists from venues where copyrighted music is performed or played — Paddy’s Coffee House will no longer host open mic and live music events.
The final open mic will be held Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. and will feature musicians and artists who have performed at the venue over the years, including rock band Cosmic Machine, rapper Komical, ukulele player The Eddie and more, according to organizers.
“The fees are too expensive,” owner Paddy Iyer said.
According to Iyer, the independent coffee shop has been hit with more than $900 in annual fees from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Broadcast Music, Inc., SESAC and other performing rights organizations. The agencies are enforcing fees to ensure that artists are compensated if copyrighted material — such as musicians doing covers — is performed or played.
Iyer previously discontinued live music in March of 2011 due to high fees but thanks support from the community, was able to bring back live music last October.
Local event promoters held a Pay the Music Industry Fundraiser Open Mic and collected donations in order to hold events at the coffee shop, which has given a platform for local musicians to showcase their talents for nine years.
While charging a cover fee for attendance could bring in money to pay for the agencies’ fees, Iyer said it goes against the company philosophy.
“I’m trying to let the community enjoy themselves for free by not charging a cover, but people don’t see the good of things,” he said.
Paddy’s will now be limited to only comedy nights and poetry readings, Iyer said.
The muting of music at the venue is a great loss to the community, said event organizers Jose Alonzo and Reyson Sioson. The two are organizing Friday’s grand finale event.
“It’s very irritating that ASCAP and those other groups are coming after Paddy’s,” said Alonzo, who has hosted events at Paddy’s since 2002. “Paddy does this for the community.”
Sioson said the primary concern for performing rights organizations is artists doing covers.
“It doesn’t do any damage. It’s not like anyone’s gong to play a Beatles song better than the Beatles,” said Siosan, a musician who has organized shows at Paddy’s since 2007 and will perform Friday night. “People do covers on YouTube and get famous off it.”
Both said there are no other venues in Union City to hold similar events.
“Where else can we do showcases?” Alonzo said.
For Friday night’s grand finale, Alonzo and Siosan said many artists who have performed at Paddy’s in the past will return to bid adieu to the venue and community.
The list of performers is growing and artists from as far as Tracy have signed up to play. There will also be a surprise during the opening of the showcase, Alonzo said.
Paddy’s final open mic showcase will be held Friday, Oct. 19 from 4 to 9 p.m. Paddy’s Coffee House is located at 3900 Smith St. in Union City’s Old Alvarado district. For more information, visit www.paddyscoffee.com.