Live music, and even recorded music, comes with a price tag for pub owners, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and Tailfins hasn’t been paying its fair share.

DESTIN — Tailfins Ale House & Oyster Bar on Destin Harbor lures visitors by advertising “local food and live music on the water.”

But live music, and even recorded music, comes with a price tag for pub owners, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and Tailfins hasn’t been paying its fair share.

 

ASCAP claims Tailfins’ owner, JMF Destin Harbor Development LLC, has failed since it opened to properly compensate the independent songwriters, composers and publishers who share their talents with ale house clientele, and on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against the company.

Tailfins is the only Florida business among 11 that ASCAP announced in a Thursday news release that it was suing.

ASCAP is a professional membership organization representing 650,000 in the business of providing musical entertainment, according to a news release announcing the lawsuit.

“Tailfins has never had a license,” said ASCAP legal counsel Jackson Wagener.

“For two-and-a-half years we’ve reached out to the owners at least 40 times by phone, mail and email,” Wagener said. “We have people go in person and speak to the owners where possible. Despite all these significant efforts, Tailfins has ignored its obligation to ASCAP.”

ASCAP collects royalties for songwriters and other music professionals by charging annual license fees to bars, taverns, restaurants, nightclubs, even radio stations, Wagener said.

“If a business wants to play music as part of its business or in its establishment, they need to have permission from the copyright owners and songwriters … we’re able to offer licenses for establishments like Tailfins,” Wagener said.

The cost of a ASCAP license for most bars and grills, taverns and nightclubs averages about $2 a day, Wagener said.

John M. Fuller is listed in state records as the managing partner of JMF Destin Harbor Development LLC. He did not personally respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit, but a company spokesperson provided a short statement.

“The establishment has neither heard anything regarding this nor been served appropriate notice of initial legal action at this time,” the spokesperson said in an email, adding that the company would be looking into the issues raised by the ASCAP news release.

ASCAP’s lawsuit against Tailfins alleges copyright infringement, and Wagener said the association will not only seek to have a judge force Tailfins into obtaining a license and begin paying fees, but also pay compensatory damages and legal costs.

"The goal is not to put someone out of business, but we do expect payment," Wagener said.