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BMI vs ASCAP – How to Choose a PRO (and Why It Matters)

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Whether you’re new to making music, or have been writing and producing songs for a long time, you’ll eventually come across a situation where you need to register your music with a performance rights organization! There are two main choices for PROs, and in this article, we’ll go through the pros (no pun intended) and cons of each, help you decide which one to go with, and make sure you’re all set up to start getting paid for your music!

What is a PRO?

You should sign up for BMI or ASCAP if you're performing live!

A Performance Rights Organization (or PRO) is responsible for collecting royalties on behalf of songwriters and publishers. As their name suggests, PROs are responsible for collecting a specific type of royalty: performance royalties. 

PROs bridge the gap between songwriters and “users” of a song like radio stations, TV shows, live performances, etc by collecting royalties anytime a song is performed. If you’re involved in writing music that will be available to the public, you should sign up for a PRO as soon as possible.

Why You Should Sign Up for a PRO

The main reason you should sign up for a PRO is to ensure you’re getting paid for your hard earned work creating music. Whether you’re writing songs in a band or specifically creating sync music intended for TV Shows and movies, if you don’t have a PRO you’ll be missing out on any revenue if someone uses your songs.

Now that you’re ready to sign up for a PRO, you might be wondering which one to go with. Thankfully it’s an easy choice since there are only three main Performance Rights Organizations in the United States.

Benefits of ASCAP vs BMI

ASCAP, or the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, has been around since 1914. ASCAP has a long history and has worked with some big names over the years. It was also the first PRO to collect royalties for performances on the Internet, so even though they’ve been around for a while they’re keeping up to date with the times. ASCAP offers a lot of in-depth data like song plays and such so you can get an idea what to expect for a payout.

ASCAP also offers benefits to its members such as: health and wellness, educational tools, instrument and studio insurance, and more. ASCAP recently waived its $50 application fee for new applicants, so now might be a good time to sign up.

Benefits of BMI vs ASCAP

While ASCAP might be older, BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) has been around since 1939 and was founded as a direct competitor to ASCAP. Today BMI is the biggest PRO and boasts big names on their roster like Taylor Swift. BMI also has a long reputation of supporting new genres of music as they’ve emerged over the years. Because of this, BMI is a bit more streamlined and can be more useful to newer artists with its simpler website and broader data offerings.

BMI also offers similar benefits/perks to its members along with no membership or application fees.

What About SESAC?

SESAC, the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, is an invite only PRO that keeps a smaller, high-profile catalog including the likes of Adele. Additionally, unlike ASCAP or BMI, SESAC is a for-profit organization, so they retain part of the royalties collected as profits. With that all in mind, just stick to choosing between ASCAP or BMI.

Why It’s Not a Huge Deal

At the end of the day, both ASCAP and BMI are going to ensure you’re getting paid quarterly for your placements. So really, don’t stress over deciding which one to go with. Check out their websites and get a feel for things, then just go with the one that feels best for you. The best part is you’re not locked in forever once you make your choice. It’s possible to switch from one to the other if you want to change things up.

My Personal Choice

My personal pick is BMI when it comes to Performance Rights Organizations. Not only is their website simple and easy to use, but I’ve been using them for years without any issues. Again, choosing which PRO is not a big deal, the real important takeaway is making sure you have a PRO.

Are you looking to license your songs for TV/Film?

Once you’re signed up for a PRO, it’s time to start looking for your first sync placements!

This video offers some great tips to get started with sync placements!

So now that you’re signed up for a PRO, it’s time to get back to writing! Feeling stuck? Check out our top 10 creativity tips to write more music!

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About the Author: Thomas Filbert

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Thomas is the owner of VRATIM, the Drum Shoe company, and a member of tour bands like Secret Keeper and Conversation Piece. With over a decade of experience in the music industry, Thomas brings his touring and managerial experience to Make That Louder.

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