What the PROs Have to Offer

PRO’s – Performance Rights Organizations

What are they and what do they do? Because you or your publisher owns the copyright to your music people who want to perform or play it in a public place have to pay you as permission to do so. The job of the PRO’s is to grant services to those apart of its organization. The main service is to have those who perform or play your music pay a licensing fee. The PRO retrieve’s that payment of earnings from all who have played your music, for they also keep up and track the plays. They calculate the amount and divide it between you and any other involved. They deliver your payment or royalties to you. The people for the job are Ascap, BMI, Sesac, and SoundExchange.


ASCAP – American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

Ascap was founded in 1914 by songwriters, composers and publishers and has been going strong ever since.  It is a “member-run, non-profit organization who exist to protect our fellow members”, it says on its myspace profile. It is the only PRO with members that are the composers and publishers that also elect the Board of Directors.  Its headquarters are in New York, but there are Ascap offices in Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Puerto Rico and London.

Ascap represents artists such as John Denver, Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones,Janis Joplin, Carly Simon, Ashford & Simpson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Lauryn Hill and Dr. Dre, The Ramones, Slayer and Marc Anthony. 

According to it’s website the last count done in February of 2013 they had 450,000 members. Of you were wondering what kind of contract it will be, it is a non-exclusive agreement, meaning…You must register your songs, after joining to receive payment.

Ascap offers its members benefit packages. They include access to many web tools, software and musical websites such as Sheet Music Direct and more, it includes gear, discounted subscriptions, distribution of Playback Magazine, MusicPro Dental, Health and other Insurances, manufacturing, investment services, online education, travel benefits and associations.

Ascap offers an annual, national conference devoted songwriters and composers called I Create Music EXPO, which includes panels, workshops, sessions and concerts. The next expo is a three-day event starting on Thursday, April 18th, 2013.

Getting Paid
When the song has been performed Ascap retrieves the license fee and the royalties are calculated and split between all parties involved including the writer and publisher. This is through Ascap’s system of Title Registration and Cue sheets. On their website it reads, “A writer’s or publisher’s royalty check is determined by multiplying the number of credits they earned for performances of their works during a quarter by the dollar value of a credit for that quarter. For example, if a writer earned 10,000 credits for performances of her works on radio and television in a three-month period and the value of one writer credit was $7.10, the writer’s royalty check would be $71,000 (10,000 X $7.10).”

The figures are completed and the royalties are distributed quarterly, directly to the writer and publisher involved via the writers choice of payment method including, direct deposit or check. Soon the writer is a happily paid writer.

If you have more questions, click HERE for the link to more information on Ascap.

BMI – Broadcasting Music Incorporated

BMI is a non-profit organization and was created by radio executives. According to the website, “BMI was the first to offer representation to songwriters of blues, country, jazz, r&b, gospel, folk, Latin and, ultimately, rock & roll. BMI was founded by radio executives to provide competition in the field of performing rights, to assure royalty payments to writers and publishers of music not represented by the existing performing right organization and to provide an alternative source of licensing for all music users. BMI has been in operation for more than 70 years, is recognized in U.S. copyright law as a licensor of music, and currently represents more than 550,000 copyright owners and their more than 7.5 million musical works.” They have an office in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Nashville.

BMI represents and has represented artists and writers including Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Rihanna, Shakira, Maroon 5, Pink, Evanescence, Nickelback, Linkin Park, Death, Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson, Fats Domino, Dolly Parton, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Richard & Robert Sherman.

It is not exactly a membership, but the writer can join as an affiliate Upon joining, the writer will have to sign a contract. (HERE is a link to their standard contract). It is free to sign up. You electronically submit the forms and you are apart of the team.

Benefits BMI offers benefits including online education, discounted subscriptions, gear, financial services, MusicPro Insurances, software and more.  BMI also offers bonuses such as the Standard Bonus and the Hit song bonus.

Getting Paid 
After registering the work to receive a payment BMI collects the license fees and combines that with the amount of play your song had to pay the writer. If there are 300 plays a quarter then the payment is based upon those 300 plays. After the calculations are completed the writer is either sent a check, usage of their ATM card provided by BMI or the money is received through direct deposit. http://www.bmi.com/creators/royalty_print/detail

Link to FAQ’s HERE

SESAC – (Once known as) Society of European Stage Artists and Composers. It is no longer called by this title, only Sesac itself. A German immigrant formed Sesac in 1930, and its service has lasted and passed the test of time. Their headquarters are in Nashville, TN with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and London. Sesac is not a non-profit and earns it’s profit by way of receiving an amount of the royalty earnings.

Sesac represents (and represented) many great artists and composers such as Paul Shaffer, Bob Dylan, Shirley Caeser, Cassandra Wilson, Neil Diamond and more.

With Sesac there is no membership like that of Ascap. You can submit an application online and it will be reviewed. In contrast to BMI, you have to be accepted as an affiliate and it is completed at no cost.

Sesac offers benefits consisting of educational courses, discounted studio sessions, CD manufactures, distributions, Rental cars, subscriptions, insurances and more.

Getting Paid 
After registering your work, with all the proper information and song form, you can set up the receiving of your payment from the options: check or direct deposit. The songs and performances are track using cue sheets. Once those cue sheets are submitted and the royalty amount is calculated you then receive your payment.

Link to FAQ’s HERE 


SoundExchange is the newest and smallest of them all; created in 2003. It is a non-profit. Their headquarters are in Washington D.C. They have 74 employees, over 43,000 members and represents over 5,000 labels. The revenue of 2012 amounted to 20,958,592.  Revealed in 2013, $462 million total year-end royalty payments were distributed. “SoundExchange administers the statutory license, (A statutory royalty is a royalty based on a “statutory rate” set by Congress and appearing in the Copyright Act. These “statutory” royalties schemes allow a third party to use a work without the express consent of the copyright owner under certain conditions and according to specific requirements, in exchange for payment of royalties at a rate determined by the Copyright Royalty Board), which allows services to stream artistic content while paying a fixed rate for each play. SoundExchange collects and distributes royalties for the featured artist and the sound recording copyright owner when content is played on a non-interactive digital source,” reads their website. SoundExchange does not cover royalties for songwriting, publishing and composition. SoundExchange’s Board of Directors is a balanced representation of all parts of the music industry. “Major and independent labels, recording artists, artist representatives, and interested coalitions all have a seat at the SoundExchange table.”

SoundExchange represents artists and writers including the Foo Fighters, Cephas and Wiggins, Beck, Tower of Power, Kristine W., Garbage, Common, Queen of the Stone and more.

The membership cost is free and you can submit forms to join. Very Simple.

SoundExchange offers discounted equipment and discounted conference passes. You can also be apart of SoundExchange as well as one of the other PROs.

Getting Paid 
SoundExchange distributes money quarterly (March, June, September, and December). To receive a payment from SoundExchange, you must have accumulated at least $10 ($100 for a paper check) in royalties. Until you have reached this amount, SoundExchange will hold your royalties until you ensue enough royalties. They are keeping track of your songs and keeping the track information updated with Metadata When you receive a payment, through direct deposit or check from SoundExchange, you will also receive a statement that will detail the money you have earned for each track that has been played by various service providers.

Link to FAQ’s HERE 

Difference between SoungExchange and other PRO’s.
On the website in their “Top Ten reasons artists don’t register with SoundExchange” it reads, “Our friends at ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC pay songwriters and publishers. SoundExchange compensates performers and copyright owners for the sound recording itself. If you’re both the performer and the songwriter, you get paid twice. Either way, all performers who also write music should be signed up with either ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, and ALSO with SoundExchange. They’re two separate sources of money and are not in conflict.” This pretty much sums up the difference. You are encouraged to join SoundExchange and a party of the other PRO’s because they deal with different types of royalties. Do your research before deciding to join, but they all have great things to offer.









The Songwriters’ Life-long Partner

The Songwriter
Every songwriter’s goal for their song is to get it heard, sung or played, featured (for example in a film, commercial or on television) or all of the above.  Some writers want to perform their own work and others write for other artists to perform their work. Some do both. Apart from being an artist, songwriting is a great way to still be creative and make a living. In ways it may be better than only performing, because the more successful the song is the better the pay is in comparison to performing. One musical partner the songwriter will learn to appreciate is their publisher.

The Publisher                                                                                                      MP

There are three types of publishers called the administrator, independent and major. They all do the same job, but on different levels and they all take a commission or percentage of your earnings. The administrator tends to not help with the creative process and does not invest money in the beginning or advances. The independents do invest and target to the average successful songwriter. The major has the most money to invest, but will take a very large commission (which is relatively fair), but the rate can be high and difficult to negotiate.

What they do and why they are needed? The publisher’s main job is to promote your songs, sell your songs, and make sure you get paid for when those songs are used. They keep track of the song and track every place it gets played and guarantees the delivery of your royalties.

Similar to publishing companies are performance rights organizations (PRO’s) (AscapBMISesac and SoundExchange, a non-profit PRO). You ask, “What is the difference between a publishing company and a performance rights organization?” They both do similar jobs, but the main difference is that the PRO’s only collect your licensing fees and provide you with the performance royalties (live performances, radio play, etc.). The publishing company does this, but with the mechanical royalties (from CD’s, downloads, etc.). The publisher can also shop your song to artists, labels and organizations, invests in your artistry while just starting out, and can provide you with sheet music (depending on your contract with them).

How to reach the Publisher
The best way to find the best publisher for you is to research what publishers focus in what genre. Research the songs that you love and write similar to and research who their publisher is. Keep in mind the location you desire to be in and where the publisher is located.  Decide, which type of publisher you would like (administrator, independent or major). Discover what you want to gain and why you will choose who you choose. Once you have chosen send them an email expressing interest and along with that some sample songs for them to ponder on. Always, follow-up.

Working for the Publisher
Publishers normally hire a writer as a contracted staff writer, which produces a “work for hire”. It can be beneficial for the writer depending on their preference or copyright ownership and income from the works. The negative fact about “work for hire” is that the songs belong to the company and not the writer due to them working for the company. The writer will be paid a fee for the works created.


Can you publish your own music?  
You sure can publish your songs. The process may not be as easy as collaborating with a publishing company, but it can be worthwhile to start your own publishing company. Many Independent artists publish their own music. You can keep track of your music played through companies such as CD Baby and iTunes. There are also publishing companies that work specifically for independent artists, such as Kobalt and Imagem which will still take a commission, but will be doing the hard work for you. TAXI is a company that, “helps independent artists, songwriters and composers get record, publishing and Film/TV deals,” according to their website. They charge an annual fee for the services, but it seem very reliable and beneficial. Another way to start it is through a performance rights organization, for example BMI offers rates for registering a publishing company. The rates are under $300 for an individual and for a corporation. Being your own publisher has become very popular and the rate of those doing it has definitely increased through the years. So have faith and have the courage to set your own rules if that’s what you desire.