Overview: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC & GMR
May 6, 2016
In a previous article, I discussed what a performance rights organization (PRO) is and briefly described each PRO available in the United States. While most songwriters and publishers know the importance of affiliating with a PRO to secure a catalog name and performance royalties, deciding which PRO to affiliate with can still be quite a challenge. With this in mind, here’s an overview of the PROs in the US that can handle your performance royalties through affiliation.
ASCAP – American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
Type: ASCAP is a non-profit, membership-based organization.
Size: Its membership is very large and governed by an antitrust consent decree from the Department of Justice to prevent coercive market manipulation of performance licenses. This measure has become a liability in recent years due to copyright owners needing protection from digital distributors, completely opposite from the original intent of the decree.
Apps: The application process at ASCAP is open to anyone wishing to apply, provided that they own a published work being performed. There are application fees for both writer/composer and publisher applications ($50).
Pay: ASCAP pays out performance royalties based on cue sheet reports of music performances by their license holders. They recoup costs by deducting fees according to their individual licenses that pay royalties commensurate with how many music performances are on the cue sheets.
Perks: There are many industry related perks to membership with ASCAP, including but not limited to insurance, travel discounts, equipment and service discounts, creative workshops and yearly expos.
BMI – Broadcast Music, Inc.
Type: BMI is a non-profit, membership-based organization.
Size: Its membership is large, though not as extensive as ASCAP, and governed by a similar antitrust consent decree from the Department of Justice. While the decrees for ASCAP and BMI are different, they do serve the same function that is somewhat impractical for modern market practice.
Apps: The application process at BMI is also open to anyone with ownership in music being performed. There are fees for the publisher applications ($150-$250), but applying as a writer/composer is free.
Pay: BMI also pays out performance royalties based on cue sheets from their license holders, and recoups costs by deducting fees per performance.
Perks: There are also many industry related perks to membership with BMI, including many of the same items and a yearly convention.
SESAC – Society of European Stage Authors and Composers
Type: SESAC is a for-profit, clientele based company.
Size: Its clientele is smaller than the membership ASCAP or BMI, but still at a very healthy level. Because of its smaller size and now defunct origin as a European society within the US and a few other reasons, they have never had an antitrust consent decree from the Department of Justice.
Apps: The application process at SESAC is both selective and intensive. They want to get to know their potential clients and the music they create. There is no guarantee that you will successfully affiliate with SESAC as it is “by invitation only,” but there are also no application fees.
Pay: SESAC nominally functions in the same way as ASCAP and BMI, however, royalty payments have been known to be dispersed differently. Because of the lack of a consent decree compelling the issuance of a license, SESAC may deny a license and even negotiate higher royalty rates for their clients. They pride themselves in making sure none of their writers will struggle too much to put food on the table.
Perks: In recent years, SESAC has taken steps to become an MRO or Music Rights Organization representing more than just the performance rights of their clients. They do have similar industry related benefits to ASCAP and BMI.
GMR – Global Music Rights
Type: GMR is a for-profit, clientele based company.
Size: Its clientele is very much smaller than that of SESAC, and serves as a brand new baby brother to the “big three” in the US.
Apps: GMR does not publicize their method of gaining clients outside of making it clear what they do and providing a contact form. The only way may be to have a co-write with one of their writers or artists.
Pay: GMR functions similarly to the other PROs when it comes to performance rights. Similar to SESAC, the lack of a consent decree grants them the ability to negotiate higher rates or simply deny a license. They claim to go above and beyond by making sure their clients understand explicitly where royalties are coming from.
Perks: There is not much to speak of perks, aside from what we have already mentioned. Although, GMR does give the distinct impression of interest in doing more than performance rights licensing for their clients.
While this information may or may not directly provide you with an answer to which organization is best for you, I hope that it helps you identify the things you are looking for in performance rights representation.
If you have questions about performance rights or general licensing needs you may have, please contact us for more information. If you would like to know more about how we can take care of your copyright management needs, please visit INDIEadmin.com.
Jonathan Bryce is a musician, songwriter and blog writer, who has been working in the music industry for several years. As a part of CCS, he has excelled at wearing many hats and currently manages all things INDIEadmin. At home he is daddy to three awesome boys and husband to his lovely wife, Marissa.
About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.