A blow for Mocha Joe

The day the music died: Mocha Joe owner Mike Hopper
Photo: Bill Hughes

The tunes they are a-changin' at Mocha Joe. The independent coffee house on Henderson's Water Street pulled the plug on its twice-a-week acoustic open-mic night last month, after, owner Mike Hopper says, some trouble with the law — licensing law, that is.

The Details

Mocha Joe
117 S. Water St.
Henderson, NV 89015

According to Hopper, he was handed three separate fines from artist-compensation entities ASCAP, BMI and SESAC — fines the new-business owner couldn't afford to continue racking up. Ross Wright, a licensing consultant for SESAC, explains that, according to the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, anytime there's live music happening, fees are owed to all three performing-rights organizations, to ensure artists under their protection get monetary credit. "You cannot ensure that the band that's up there onstage will not play a cover song," Wright says. "Say someone does a Bob Dylan song ... SESAC pays Bob Dylan a royalty. That's why Mocha Joe needs to have a license."

Hopper insists his intentions were pure for his open-mic night, inaugurated last October, two months after Mocha Joe's opened. "We don't make any money, don't charge anyone at the door," he says. "I don't have any business incentive — just a grass-roots effort to help [unsigned artists] and get some culture here."

Is Mocha Joe's music worth saving? Hopper says the odds he'll pay for the required licenses in the future are good. "At the moment I'm just focusing more on the business model," Hopper says. "[But] there's a very strong possibility."


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