PROs are organizations that help musicians to manage their rights and licensing so they can get the royalties to which they are entitled.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and Broadcast Music, Inc., (BMI) are two of the largest in North America.
How do you choose the right PRO for licensing your music? Let’s have a closer look ATSC and BMI to see how they differ and what makes them different. Which one is right for you?
What exactly does a PRO do?
A PRO is something you should consider if you are writing music or creating music in the hope of making money. You are entitled to royalties for music that is performed in public. However, it is impossible to keep track of these payments on your own. This is where a PRO comes into play.
A PRO is a catalog of music that can be used by businesses and other people. It could include music from hundreds of thousands, performed in public on television, radio, or over the sound system at a cafe or retail shop.
What does not do? They collect money from Spotify and other streaming services that are part of online music distribution. These services usually issue their own payments. However, music that is played on radio and television has a wider audience than the average person who listens on their phone. This means that there are more royalties.
A PRO membership is a great first step if you want to become a commercial success.
What are ASCAP and BMI?
Although there are many other organizations that are growing in popularity, like the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers(SESAC), ASCAP and BMI remain the dominant champions.
ASCAP is one of the original PROs. It was established in 1914 as an independent non-profit to protect its members’ copyrighted songs from being made public. It eventually expanded to include radio and television broadcasts as well as live performances.
ASCAP has a reputation for working with composers and artists from all genres including Leonard Bernstein and Stevie Wonder. Their catalog includes more than 735,000.
ASCAP artists charge membership fees for businesses who want to have access to the ASCAP catalog. ASCAP then pays its artists royalties. ASCAP is owned entirely by its members. The Board of Directors includes artists. Every two years, new board members are elected.
ASCAP artists must pay an annual membership fee. The membership automatically renews unless cancelled. Members also get lots of information about how payments are calculated.
BMI functions in the same way as ASCAP. It collects licensing fees from businesses who want to use the recordings of its artists and distributes them as royalty.
Its catalogue includes over 15 million songs by more than 1 million artists from many genres. They are Michael Jackson’s representatives and work with many big names like Rihanna, Patti LaBelle, composer John Williams.
BMI was established in 1939 to replace ASCAP. ASCAP declared that radio stations would need to purchase a blanket license. This gave them a fixed percentage from the station’s revenues, regardless of how many songs they played from ASCAPs catalogue.
BMI was created to be a cheaper alternative to ASCAP. It instantly brought competition and gave radio stations and other businesses an option.
Most radio stations in America cut all ties to ASCAP in 1941 and switched to BMI. BMI also searched for artists ASCAP had overlooked and bought catalogs from independent music publishing houses and artists whose ASCAP contracts were approaching expiration dates.
BMI proposed to pay artists a fixed performance fee instead of using ASCAP’s tiered system. This was in order to attract new talent. BMI was able to represent artists from blues, country, folk, rock and roll, as well as gospel, blues and jazz.
BMI currently works with radio stations, television, podcasts and ringtones.
ASCAP and BMI share a lot today. Both split royalties 50/50 among the songwriters and publishers. You can register your performances online and pay 88 per cent to the artists.
How are they different? Let’s take an in-depth look.
The Differences between ASCAP and BMI
BMI now represents more songs and artists than ASCAP, but ASCAP numbers are still impressive. BMI boasts a million members with approximately 15 million songs and ASCAP, about 735,000 people and 11.5 millions songs.
The payments from both are very similar. Both take a long time to pay artists for songs they have played. ASCAP takes approximately seven months to pay artists for songs played. BMI takes approximately six months.
ASCAP requires a minimum payment in direct deposits of $1 and paper checks of $100. BMI requires a minimum payment of $2 for direct deposits and $250 for paper checks. However, they will send you a check detailing what amount you owe at the end the calendar year if it is more than $25.
ASCAP offers a one-year standard contract that automatically renews, while BMI offers a two-year contract. You cannot register the same song with both PROs while you are under contract with them. BMI is completely free while ASCAP charges $50.
|Songs||11.5 Million||15 Million|
|Payment Time||7 Months||6 Months|
|Minimum Payment||$1 / $100||$2 / $250|
|Contract Length||1 Year||2 years|
|Joining Dues||$50 one-time||No cost|
Below is a quick summary of all the information in this section. Below, we dive deeper into the perks of these experiences.
Are there any perks to joining ASCAP/BMI?
ASCAP and BMI both offer perks for their members to sweeten it.
ASCAP members gain access to the LA “I Create Music Expo” and other award shows. They provide workshops for artists and offer a membership to US Alliance Federal Credit Union.
ASCAP members also receive discounts on life, health and instrument insurances.
BMI offers many similar perks such as access to songwriting workshops and award shows as well as discounts for music products and services and memberships in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The BMI Stage at the 2017 Hangout Music Festival
Artists can also perform on the BMI stage at the largest music festivals in the country.
You’re among the most famous artists, no matter what you choose. ASCAP houses big names like Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, and Ariana Grande, while BMI represents Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
Which is better, ASCAP or BMI?
In a battle between ASCAP and BMI, it’s difficult to decide which is the best. It all depends on what you are looking for.
Arguments can be made for ASCAP being better as they give their artists more information. ASCAP lets you view your cue sheets, which tell you who performed your songs so that you are prepared for when your payout comes.
Export your data to get graphs, charts and insights into which songs have generated the most royalties. ASCAP offers more opportunities for artists to perform live.
BMI can be argued that it is superior. BMI is said to have more detailed data which can lead to higher paychecks for artists. BMI can also be more helpful to newer artists, particularly if they are their own publisher.
Many artists are curious to find out which PRO pays more. Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer. ASCAP and BMI both are legitimate non-profits, which pay artists according the terms of their agreements.
However, the amount each artist makes can vary greatly. Talk to other musicians who are members either ASCAP/BMI to learn about their experiences. Decide for yourself. The results will be comparable for artists who have the same number song plays.
This all depends on you being willing to go out with your marketing plan to increase your fanbase, especially if you aren’t signed to a major record label. They will expect you to do that. The major labels aren’t interested in nurturing artists any more. They want to sign already successful artists and amplify their success.
This is the ASCAP vs. BMI comparison in Summary
ASCAP and BMI both have legitimate PROs and help artists get the royalties that they are due. Both these nonprofits were founded as rivals and are still in competition today.
ASCAP and BMI provide a wealth of perks for independent and working musicians, including the ability to track how often songs are played and to issue royalty payments.
There aren’t many differences between them, truth be told.
BMI is free to join and represents more artists. It also has a larger content library.
ASCAP charges a $50 one-time fee, but gives artists more opportunities to perform at live events.
Both represent many big names, so no matter which one of them you choose, you are in good company.
A PRO membership is essential if you want to ensure that you get the maximum amount of money from your music. Before you decide on the right one for you, ask around to see what other artists have to say about ASCAP vs. BMI.