PERFORMING RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
PROs are societies responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast. That means PROs track down cash for you when your music is played on television and AM/FM airwaves, through internet radio services like Pandora, at a club, inside a restaurant, at a concert, or publicly broadcast in some other fashion. These places and stations pay fees to PROs, who in turn pay their registered songwriters. In order to receive this payment, songwriters MUST join a PRO. The U.S. has three PROs that you can join, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
Summary: With a 470,000-strong membership of composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers, this non-profit is, according to its website, the only American PRO created and controlled by composers, writers, and music publishers—its Board of Directors is elected by its members. “A music creator is like a small business,” reads ASCAP’s website, “and we exist to ensure that ASCAP members are paid promptly and fairly when their compositions are performed publicly.”
Contracts: For both writers and publishers, contracts exist on a year-to-year basis, and are terminable in any given year. They also automatically renew from year to year if not terminated by the artist.
Fee: One-time fee of $50 as a writer and $50 as a publisher.
Broadcast Music, INC.
Summary: Founded by radio executives as a non-profit, BMI now boasts more than 600,000 members. According to its website, “BMI is the bridge between songwriters and the businesses and organizations that play their music publicly...BMI serves as an advocate for the value of music, representing 7.5 million musical works created and owned by more than 600,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers.”
Contracts: For writers, the standard agreement lasts 2 Years. For publishers, that number is 5 years. It’s important that to know that the contracts will automatically renew themselves if not terminated with certain windows designated for resignation.
Fee: Free for songwriters, $250 as a publisher
Rights. Simplified. Royalties. Amplified.
Summary: SESAC is not open to all songwriters; instead, you must receive an invitation to join. As the smallest PRO in the U.S., SESAC has a selective affiliation process and seeks to signs writers who are professional and serious about their writing career, which they say allows for “personal relationships” between affiliates and the SESAC staff. “With an international reach and a vast repertory that spans virtually every genre of music, SESAC is the fastest growing and most technologically adept of the nation’s performing rights companies,” reads the SESAC site. Note: the SESAC abbreviation is, today, meaningless; the organization was originally founded to serve European composers underrepresented in America before branching out to become a full service PRO.
Contracts: Writer and publisher contracts exist in 3 year spans, and similar to BMI, renew automatically. This PRO must be notified of any resignation no more than 6 months or less than 3 months in advance of the contract’s renewal.