When they are participating in an event that has ASCAP fees attached, a nonprofit organization must pay the required amount. Some companies and municipalities extend nonprofit organizations discounts or other considerations as a matter of courtesy on a case-by-case basis. Although ASCAP exacts fees from nonprofit organizations, understanding how the group works will give a better insight into whether using ASCAP material is necessary.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is the royalties body that makes sure that artists receive payment for the commercial use of their work. ASCAP offers subscriptions based on the size and reach of a particular client. For example, a large college will pay a higher subscription fee than a small, independent church, but all are required to pay for the work they use commercially.
Commercial use means that an entity is earning money based on the performance of a particular piece. Even though they are not making a profit as an entity, a nonprofit organization that charges for a performance must have the performance cleared through ASCAP. For example, holding a benefit concert requires an ASCAP license, but having music played at a fundraising dinner does not.
Nonprofits are required to pay ASCAP if the vendor they select hasn't already. For example, if a nonprofit has a disk jockey entertain at a dinner dance, the D.J., not the nonprofit, is responsible to ASCAP, since he is the one profiting from playing the music. Similarly, if a nonprofit subscribes to a music on hold service, the service will be responsible to ASCAP. If the nonprofit provides these services itself, it must obtain ASCAP licensing.
Even though smaller nonprofit organization's need to pay ASCAP fees, the costs are usually such that using an intermediary is more economically sustainable. Weighing the price of paying an ASCAP fee versus hiring contractors who already pay ASCAP is part of a nonprofit's due diligence. The ASCAP website has a fee finder that delineates which fees are due under what circumstances, based on an organization's size and intent.