Everybody that writes music should sign up with a performing rights organization (PRO). Your music could be earning royalties even if you have never made it available for sale. If you ever perform your music publicly and you are not signed up with a PRO then you are definitely missing out on royalties that should be going into your pockets.
What PROs Do
In most countries there is only one PRO. In the United States we have 3: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
The main function of a PRO is to collect publishing performance fees for the public performance of music and pay the songwriters and publishing companies their respective royalties.
The PRO’s collect this money from radio stations, television stations, cable networks, satellite radio, internet radio, websites, streaming services, airlines, concert venues and anywhere else that music is played including bars & restaurants.
Who can join?
Anyone can join ASCAP or BMI as a songwriter member while SESAC allows you to apply to be a member. However, they are selective in who they accept.
ASCAP currently charges a $50.00 processing fee to join. BMI does not charge anything.
They each have their own methods for collecting data regarding which songs are being performed and how the royalties are dispersed. You can learn more about how the PRO’s do this by checking out their respective websites; specifically the frequently asked questions (FAQs).
The PRO’s offer other services to their members including conferences, industry events and discounts on things like gear and insurance.
Songwriters, Composers, Lyricists – You are missing out on money
Many new artists give away their music for free in a variety of ways in an effort to expose it to more people and build awareness of their music and brand.
At this stage of their career, the average up and coming artist is more concerned with being an artist more so than the business aspects of building a career. Most do not realize they can make money from through a PRO while they continue giving away their music at the same time.
There are a multitude of ways that your music can make money that you might not be aware of and joining a Performing Rights Organization you can claim your piece of the royalties.
An artist gives away a song for free through their website or by emailing it to their fans. If or when one of those fans uploads a video to their YouTube channel using your song as background music, you can be earning money every time that video is viewed. If multiple fans upload multiple videos, you could be earning from ALL those videos.
If you are joined a PRO you can earn publishing performance royalties from YouTube streams. By not being a member and registering your songs, you are letting that money slip through your fingers.
Most of the venues that artists perform in are paying yearly fees to the PRO’s.
Both ASCAP and BMI have programs that let gigging artists who perform their own music report each set lists from live shows. This will open you up to receiving performance royalties each time you gig, tour, or perform at a festival.
ASCAP calls its program On Stage and BMI calls its program BMI Live. These programs are accessed through your songwriter account at at your respective PRO. They are simple to use. I know several people taking advantage of these programs resulting in a doubling of their income from live shows in some instances.
If you would like any more examples of how you can earn royalties through the PRO’s just let me know. Just remember, you will never earn royalties if you never join a PRO.