Company Overview: ASCAP was founded by composer Victor Herbert in New York City on February 13, 1914, to protect the copyrighted musical compositions of its members, who were mostly writers and publishers associated with New York City’s Tin Pan Alley. ASCAP’s earliest members included the era’s most active songwriters—Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and John Phillip Sousa. Subsequently, many other prominent songwriters became members. Today, ASCAP licenses over 11,500 local commercial radio stations, more than 2500 non-commercial radio broadcasters and hundreds of thousands of “general” licensees (bars, restaurants, theme parks, etc.).
The ASCAP website is www.ascap.com.
Personal Experience: I have no firsthand experience with ASCAP shops. I was having breakfast with a friend earlier this week. He knows I do mystery shopping and asked me if I had done any work for ASCAP. I told him I hadn’t and didn’t know they did shops. He told me his daughter does shops for them and the general scenario is going into a restaurant, or other establishment, that is playing music but hasn’t paid the license fee. She then makes notes of what songs were being played at what times. During her time at the location she also gets several head counts. Upon leaving, she writes an affidavit, gets it notarized, and sends it to ASCAP for them to take further action.
Requirements: To be successful at this, you must have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of music from Bach to Jazz, Big, Band, Rock, Rap, and everything in between.
Overall: For someone with a love of music, this can be a potential company to work with. I did not inquire as to how much work his daughter gets or how often or how much she gets paid. Based on my talk though, this does seem like a niche market that a music lover could fill.
In the interest of full disclosure, the Wikipedia page on ASCAP does indicate that they tend towards litigation as a way to solve problems rather than negotiation. I don’t know how this would impact an independent contractor.