BMI Live Allows Artists to Get Paid Performance Royalties for Live Gigs

March 7, 2012{ 17 Comments }

BMI Live is a new feature on the BMI website that allows songwriters and publishers to get paid for the performance of their songs at live gigs, no matter how big or small the venue. It’s an incredible thing for touring musicians who can now take advantage of this program to help offset travel costs and other expenses.

According to BMI:

BMI Live allows performing songwriters to input up to six months of their performance data to be considered for payment. Songwriters may input their tour information at their convenience for concerts from the previous six months and receive these royalty payments quarterly. Both headliners and opening acts may input tour information, and the program is open to all BMI affiliates.

Check out this video to see details about how it works:

Pretty simple really. Login, input the band/date/venue info, and type in your set list for that show. Then get paid.

More details HERE.

Have you had any experience with BMI Live? How is it working for you? Let us know in the comments section below.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

Sell your music on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Facebook, CD Baby, and more!

  • At the same time, that is money you are owed as the performing musician. You play your songs live– you're owed a performance royalty. That royalty is supposed to be paid by the venue which is benefiting from the public performance of live music. And it's not a situation where they can (or should) be angry at the band that reports the gig to BMI, because even if they canceled your band for the night and just played some music on the speakers for customers,… that is STILL regarded as public performance of music and a royalty should be paid. One way or another. Better it be YOU getting paid for a live performance.

  • At the same time, if a business is using music as one their prime offerings, should it be paying for that usage? Even if a venue doesn't have live bands, … let's say it's a boutique sandwich shop that plays great music on their speakers,… well, they paid for the plants in the corner of the restaurant; they paid for the magazines on the tables that you can flip through; why is the music (which is equally a part of the sandwich shop's "vibe") free? They should be paying a performance royalty. Now, granted, the AMOUNT of the fees can seem a bit steep, but it seems like the burden should be on small and large businesses alike to organize and lobby to change the scale. Until then, the law is the law, and PROs are going to capitalize where they have the advantage. All that being said, I do hear what you're saying; it's concerning. As struggling musicians, we don't want to be the ones that tripped the wire and tipped off the big bad henchmen to come in and put a struggling venue out of business. But on the flip side, they are a business; paying performance royalties is a legitimate business cost if they're going to use music as a feature of their customer experience. It should've been written into their business plan as an expected expense to begin with. Besides, it's probably tax deductible.

    Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on any of these points. Sounds like you've known a few venue owners who've gone under because of the added expense. But I just thought I'd rant for a while. Haha.

    • Jordan Lee

      Well Chris, First thank you for giving me a chance to give a little more detail and also help to other musicians. My full-time musicianship has dropped from six nights a week to a single gig. That one gig is all I work ouside of occasional wedding or special one-time party. My income has suffered the loss of more than two thirds due to venues who are being hit with fees in a very unorganized manner – including Duffy's of Florida which was one of my best employers. Although I'm an active member/songwriter of BMI since 1971, I've come to see some rather under-handed tactics that at least seem questionable. One of those involved a twenty-year business 'Barrymores Steak House' (Now Closed) – in this specific business BMI agents quoted a huge dollar amount to meet quota. When the owned said he would dis-continue all live music, the agents then dropped the fee signifcantly. I was present when this happened. If I go to a grocery store and buy a loaf of bread but come up short with the money but told to just give me what you can, I would question the professionalism of such a store. Where was BMI and ASCAP twenty years ago. And why are these agency's putting so many musician out of work under the guise of trying to be a musician's friend. My one lone employer tells me the price to keep me there keeps expanding and I may expect to be out of work by next year. If BMI and ASCAP collects fees they should have a standard followed by the letter of the law. Without that it appears "mafia-like". We must also question as to where and how such collections go and benefit the local musician. Without this kind of accountabilty, there's adark cloud over the entire system in general.

      • Thanks for the info. I do agree that the fees should be completely standardized according to something that sounds… reasonable, like frequency of events, capacity, number of days a week the business operates, what capacity music is used (live band vs. radio playing in the background). That would be fair to everyone involved.

  • Danajorge

    BMI and ASCAP will gladly accept your performing location and many other details as well, but there's a price to pay and that price could include the end of your gig!

  • James Wilson

    I think that we'll decide which gigs to report. If the venue has paid BMI we'll report, if not we won't. I can't see a venue paying us to play then asking for more money through BMI. However, if they've already paid BMI…

    I'm assuming if BMI has been paid that our reporting won't cost the venue extra.

    I just tried to sign up, but I cannot get past the first question:


    Please select which of the following describes your relationship with BMI.
    BMI Member / Representative / Employee of BMI Member
    Radio Select / TV Select
    Business Using Music


    By selling a couple of tracks through CD Baby is my band a "BMI Member" or are we a "Radio Select / TV Select"? This doesn't make sense to me.

    • Is BMI your Performing RIghts Organization? If so, you should sign in as a BMI member. If you're not signed up with BMI, you can't take advantage of the BMI Live program.

      • James Wilson

        Aha! I thought this information came through CD Baby and I was already signed up through them. It's all very confusing!

  • I'm going to add my name to the list of gigging musicians recently f#$ked by BMI. Which sucks because I love what they do for me when my music is played on TV. I can't complain when it comes to THOSE performance royalties. I had a very nice one time event gig booked at a winery for 5.5., somehow BMI got wind of it, called the venue (which was going to have music ONCE), and asked for a $1500 annual fee. This included $800 for playing CDs – but as far as the winery was concerned, I'd caused the whole mess. They told me they were outraged, and in an effort to see what was going on (partly also because of my bandmates I'd promised the gig to) I called BMI's licensing office. While the staff there seemed reasonable enough, and even gave me some tips to help the venue fudge the details to lower the fee, I had to call back and offer to pay the $200 fee myself to the winery. The venue decided to cancel at this point. So I called BMI again, and got another agent, who then told me that since it was a one time event if I only played originals (which I would have) they could waive the fee. (I'd have to give the venue written permission to allow me to perform my music). Of course the CDs would still have to be paid, and the winery was fuming about that.
    I called the winery back to let them know I'd worked it out so that I wouldn't cost the extra for BMI fees, but it was too late. They cancelled the gig. And they associate me with BMI and their fees for playing CDs.
    My suggestion:
    BMI: If you get wind of a live performance, and you call the venue, start with only ONE kind of royalty. Then wait a while and introduce the fee for the other kind (live, recorded).
    That way they won't associate and blame us gigging musicians for the CD fees you're charging them.
    Now these people will never have live music.

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  • Robert

    Can somebody give an example of how much you could possibly get for doing 15 originals at a gig? I can't find any actual numbers listed. I am having a hard time imagining that it is even worth the time it takes to fill out the gig info on the site.

  • LiLi

    I don't think the Venues would like this.
    It's a bit like public radio stations that like to play independent artists- because they don't have to pay ASCAP or BMI

  • You know what's funny- One time I actually scared a bartender to panic by simply MENTIONING Ascap and BMI! (in spite of the fact that I also made it clear that I don't like what they do)

  • I believe there needs to be a substantial "not a bar" discount. If bars are the only viable entry-level venues, it's obviously a problem for those not 21, but also it can put songwriters who produce morally-upright content in a severe disadvantage.

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  • Robert Coates

    Just another way for the BMI mafia to squeeze more money from venue owners while ruining opportunities for poor musicians. Stay far away from this scam.

  • You’re certainly not alone in that assessment, or in those experiences. It’d be great if they were super transparent about their payment process, and also open to some common sense suggestions.