Music Company Suit Triggers 19 Nervous Breakdowns

6/5/2013 12:50 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
0604-sonny-cher-mj-gaga-lil-wayne-getty-tmzWhat do Sonny and Cher, Kansas, Michael Jackson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bono, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys, Lil Wayne, Lady Gaga, Toby Keith, Jefferson Airplane, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Amy Winehouse, Weezer, The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Redding, Air Supply, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, Bob Seger and Fleetwood Mac have in common?

They're all responsible for a bunch of small town bars possibly getting forced out of business for the capital offense of playing their songs.

Here's the deal.  BMI -- the famous music licensing company -- has filed lawsuits against 12 bars and restaurants around the country, claiming the establishments have been playing their songs without paying a licensing fee.  And it gets a lot worse.  For every BMI song that gets played on a bar jukebox or by a DJ without the proper fee being paid, BMI is entitled to $150,000 in damages.  So "Love Child" could literally put a bar out of biz.

As for how BMI picked the places to sue -- it appears to have been pretty random.  Some of the targets are The Fox Hole in West Jordan, Utah, Mojo Main in Newark, Delaware, Whiskey River Ranch, (we think it's in Springfield, Oregon), Whiskey Bones Roadhouse in Rochester, Minnesota, Kildare's Irish Pub in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Pig 'N' Whistle in NYC.

BMI is obviously sending a message to hundreds of thousands of bars and restaurants across the US of A -- playing "Free Bird" ain't so free after all.