No Not Really! We usually refer to them as PRO's (although some of my experiences with them was as if I were dealing with a UFO.
Who are they? ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and Sound Exchange are Performing Rights Organizations that collects and distribute public
performance payments. They help to ensure that the copyright law is upheld. Representing the musical works of songwriters and music publishers, royalties are collected and paid whenever there is a performance of the copyrighted musical works on radio, broadcast, cable TV, restaurants or anywhere music is performed publicly.
The history of each organization and their services are as follows:
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers) is a membership organization founded in 1914. It consists of thousands of composers, authors and publishers. Every week, hundreds of new members are added to this organization. ASCAP collects fees on gross receipts of the broadcasting stations, less agency commission and wire charges. The organization shares revenue equally between writers and publishers. There is a one-time fee of $50.00 to join ASCAP.
BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) represents thousands of writers and publishers and was founded in 1940. The organization is owned by broadcasting stations and is a competitor of ASCAP. BMI charges broadcasters a fee based on adjusted gross receipts. BMI makes payments to its affiliated composers and publishers less operating expenses and reserves. It's free for songwriters and composers to join BMI. For individual Publishers the fee is $150.00. The Fee for corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies is $250.00
SESAC is the smallest of the three organizations and is a private licensing company founded in 1930. They represent hundreds of publishers and writers. SESAC allocates to its members a percentage of the profits of their operation less overhead. The organization charges fees based on fixed determinants. In addition, they license and collect fees for domestic mechanical and synchronization rights. There is no fee to join SESAC, however they are selective of their members and chose quality over quantity.
Sound Exchange is the first organization formed in the United States to collect performance royalties for sound recording copyright owners (SRCOs), featured and non-featured artists. Sound Exchange is an independent nonprofit performance rights organization that currently represents over 3,500 record companies, their 6000 labels and thousands of artists united in receiving a fair price for the licensing of their music in a new digital world. Members include small, medium and large independent record companies, as well as the major label groups and artist-owned labels.
In addition to collection of performance royalties, these organizations offer resources, information, songwriters’ panels and showcases to assist their members in the development of their musical careers.
You can register as a songwriter/composer or a publisher. You can be a member of only one PRO at a time. If you want to switch your PRO's for any reason, you will have to make a request in writing to cancel your membership. Visit the PROs website to learn more about each. If you would like us to handle the process for you, visit our page on publishing by clicking here.