Evo's hosts show to offset licensing fees

Two months ago, a cash-strapped coffee shop downtown received notice that it would have to stop holding music events — or pay a $300 licensing fee.

Evo's Coffee Lounge paid up — but the owners had to raid the funds they had saved to support live gigs to do so, said Daniel Cooke, who owns the café with his wife, Brigette.

So on Monday night, license in hand, the Cookes decided to hold a music event to raise money for local artists through a live concert that was recorded onto CDs, now for sale at the café.

"Essentially we are trying to make lemonade out of lemons," Daniel said. "It's an attempt to respond to this in a fairly positive manner."

The move was ironic because the licensing company, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, also works to support artists by collecting fees from venues where its members' music is played — live or through broadcasts — and using the funds to defend their copyrights.

But Daniel said he felt ASCAP only helps big-name musicians — and actually hurts local ones who are not members of the nonprofit advocacy organization.

"We have musicians in this room who have been associated with some of these copyrights and they get nothing," he said.

Thirteen local musicians played two songs each on Monday night in the small café, where the walls are lined with paintings and obscure light fixtures hang from the ceiling.

Audience members paid a $5 cover charge to watch the live-recording event. One song from each artist was selected and put onto CDs, which cost $10 at Evo's, 376 E. Main St. All of the money raised will be divided and given back equally to the musicians that performed, Daniel said.

"This is about respecting these local artists," he said.

In past years, the Cookes have placed $20 in performers' tip jars at Evo's, but after paying the licensing fee, the money budgeted for tip jars has been wiped out, Daniel said.

"That $20 we put in the tip jar — suddenly it was, 'How are we going to do that?'" he said.

Gene Burnett, an acoustic guitarist who performed at the event, said he was thankful for the opportunity to play a community gig with a captive audience.

"The audience was really listening," he said. "That's extremely rare. They're always texting and talking and broadcasting."

Because the music was being recorded live, audience members were instructed to turn off their cell phones and keep quiet during the sets.

While some of the musicians have been recorded many times — such as Burnett, who has made 19 albums — others walked away from the event with their first CD of their music.

Brent Florendo, a professor of Native American studies at Southern Oregon University, led five others in powwow drumming and recorded his music for the first time.

The group sang and drummed inter-tribal songs and family songs from the Wasco tribe, he said.

He said he appreciated the chance to share the songs and hopes Native American drumming will become more accepted in the music community.

"It's a good thing that's happening in this community tonight," he told the audience after finishing his second song. "I hope you will continue it."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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