What’s the difference between ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange?

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The difference between ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange[This article was written by Dae Bogan and it originally appeared on his website.]

I received an email this morning from a reader who had read my piece, “Demystifying The Music Industry: What’s This About Public Performance Rights?.” He asked, “If SoundExchange was designated by the Library of Congress as the sole PRO to administer public performance licenses and also collect public performances fees for Sound Recording Company Owners, then why do artists still utilize the services provided by the other 3 US PROs (ASCAP / BMI / SESAC) – is [SoundExchange] not sufficient by itself?”

A lot of indie artists are confused about the difference between ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and SoundExchange. I’ll attempt to break down the most important differences between these groups and elaborate towards the end about other considerations and other royalty collection entities. Feel free to comment with any questions (or corrections). 

Traditional performance royalties vs. digital performance royalties

ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) and SESAC are US public performance organizations (PROs) who collect publishing royalties (performance royalties) for the PUBLIC PERFORMANCE of musical works as stipulated by the U.S. Copyright Act. This includes fees paid by radio stations, businesses, restaurants, concert venues, bars, nightclubs, sports arenas, bowling alleys, malls and shopping centers, amusement parks, colleges & universities, etc. for performing music in the public (within the confines of their establishment). These monies are paid to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for a blanket public performance license that grants the licensee (the business) permission to allow music to be performed in their environment (this includes music over speakers and music performed live by an artist). The license fees paid to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are passed on to the copyright owners in the musical works (song) — PUBLISHERS (50%) and SONGWRITERS (50%) — as performance royalties for musical works.

[Editor’s note: ASCAP considers the publisher’s share and songwriter’s share to each be 50% of total performance royalties. BMI talks about these same splits as 100% for the publisher and 100% for the songwriter. It gets a little confusing, but they’re essentially talking about the same money split up in exactly the same way. It’s just that ASCAP uses percentages that are based on total performance royalties (thus 50/50), while BMI splits those halves FIRST, and then distributes 100% of each half to the appropriate entities.]

SoundExchange is a US public performance organization (PRO) who collects royalties for DIGITAL PUBLIC PERFORMANCE of sound recordings stipulated by the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recording Act of 1995 and Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

[Editor’s note: SoundExchange only collects these digital performance royalties for NON-interactive streaming (the kind where a DJ, algorithm, or other outside force is determining exactly what you hear).]

This includes fees paid by music service providers (MSPs) to stream music over satellite (SiriusXM), internet (Pandora, Rhapsody), cable (Music Choice, Verve) and other digital means as stipulated by law.

[Editor’s note: Spotify, iTunes Radio, and Rdio have struck deals with labels and distributors to pay digital performance royalties directly to rights holders — thus bypassing SoundExchange. But again, digital performance royalties are only owed for non-interactive streams which occur within those services’ radio-like features, NOT in their on-demand capacities. For a complete list of who paid royalties to SoundExchange in the last 3 months of 2014, click HERE. Thanks to Ari Herstand for that link.]

These fees are paid to SoundExchange for a digital statutory license, under sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act, to stream sound recordings. The license fees paid to SoundExchange are passed on to copyright owners in the sound recording (master) — RECORD LABEL (50%), FEATURED ARTIST (45%), and NON-FEATURED ARTISTS (i.e. background vocalist, session musicians, etc.) (5%) — as digital statutory royalties for sound recordings.

Things to know…

* With some exceptions (mostly political) ARTISTS do not receive performance royalties in musical works (ASCAP/BMI/SESAC) unless they wrote the song. So, Rihanna does not earn performance royalties in musical works when she performs “Stay” or when you listen to it on the radio or in a coffee house.

* With some exceptions (mostly political) SONGWRITERS do not receive digital statutory royalties in sound recordings (SoundExchange) unless they also recorded the song with their vocals. So, Diane Warren does not earn digital statutory royalties in sound recordings when you hear any of the songs she wrote for Whitney Houston, Enrique Iglesias, Faith Hill (and the list goes on) on Pandora or iTunes Radio. [Update: However, Diane Warren does earn public performance royalties in the musical works (ASCAP/BMI/SESAC) for these transmissions (Thanks Professor Surmani of the Masters of Artists in Music Industry Administration program at CSUN for catching this misleading omission!).]

* Pandora, Rdio, iTunes Radio, Spotitfy, etc. must pay both ASCAP, BMI, SESAC public performance fees for musical works AND digital performance fees for sound recordings.

[Editor’s note: Though, as stated earlier, Spotify, Rdio, and iTunes Radio bypass SoundExchange to pay digital performance royalties directly to labels and distributors on behalf of rights holders.]

Terrestrial radio stations, such as KISS FM, only have to pay ASCAP, BMI, SESAC public performance fees for musical works, but not SoundExchange digital performance fees for sound recordings because of special stipulations in the US Copyright Act for broadcast radio. This is part of the reason why Pandora wants to reduce the royalties it pays.

[Editor’s note: However, many terrestrial radio stations also have digital broadcasts or offer alternative playlists on a counterpart digital station. Those stations DO have to pay digital performance royalties to SoundExchange for those non-interactive streams.]

* Royalties collected by SoundExchange can expire if the artist does not register to collect them!!! [See THIS article for more details, and to learn how CD Baby can help you collect unclaimed digital performance royalties BEFORE they expire!]

——

There are lots of other sound recording royalties (besides the digital royalties collected by SoundExchange) that are collected on behalf of featured recording artists, non-featured artists (ie. background or session vocalists), instrumental musicians, etc. They include:

* sound recording revenue (also known as DART royalties, which stands for Digital Audio Recorders and Tapes) generated from the U.S. Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 (AHRA). Manufactures and importers of audio home recording devices (such as tape recorders) and audio home recording media (such as black CDs) pay a royalty to the Copyright Office;

* sound recording revenue generated from reciprocal Private Copy agreements with numerous foreign collectives in countries that also have legislation providing these royalties such as: Japan, the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany, Latvia, and Estonia, just to name a few;

* sound recording revenue from record rentals remuneration from Japan, where sound recordings are rented in much the same manner DVDs are rented here in the U.S.;

* sound recording revenue generated digital public performance from the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 (DPRA) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) paid to SoundExchange (as discussed above);

* sound recording revenue generated from a treaty with AIE, Sociedad de Gestión – the Spanish Rights Collective. The Audiovisual Division of the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund (established in 2010) distributes payments collected from any television show or motion picture that is broadcast on Spanish television and contains the performance of an AFM or SAG-AFTRA vocalist;

* sound recording revenue collected by the Symphonic Royalties division of the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, which are royalties for performers on Symphonic sound recordings, including musicians and singers of an orchestra.

* sound recording revenue from master use licenses between record companies and film/TV production companies (TV shows, movies, and web series), advertisers (commercials and products), video games; and

* sound recording revenue from compulsory mechanical licenses for sample use in other songs, copies and re-distribution, and ringtones.

—-

There are lots of other musical works royalties (besides the public performance royalties collected by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC) that are collected on behalf of songwriters, music producers and publishers:

* publishing revenue from synchronization rights of music to film/TV, video games, or commercial. (Collected by publisher);

* publishing revenue from lyric print rights used in music apps, books and magazines, apparel, websites (like the lyric websites), or sheet music (such as MusicNotes.com. (Collected by publisher);

* publishing revenue from compulsory mechanical licenses for record labels or indie artists to record and distribute music works (such as going a song placed with a major artist or an indie artist doing a cover of a song previously performed by a major artist) whether posted on YouTube or sold on a CD. (Collected by Harry Fox Agency);

* publishing revenue from DART royalties from Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 distributed to the Music Publishers Subfund and Writers Subfund (collected by Copyright Office);

* publishing revenue from public performance via ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC (Note: A songwriter can only be registered to one of these guys);

* publishing revenue from foreign monies via sub-publishing agreements and other licensing arrangements in foreign territories. (Collected by PROs, publishers and other collecting entities depending on the nature of the royalties and legislation);

* publishing revenue from hundreds of other licensing sources (collected by PROs, publishers and other collecting entities depending on the nature of the royalties and territory)

And there’s more, but I’ll leave it at that. Any questions?

 If you want to make sure you’re collecting all the publishing royalties you’re owed worldwide, sign up for CD Baby Pro!

And be sure to register yourself with SoundExchange to collect digital performance royalties!

Author bio: Dae Bogan is a serial entrepreneur, professor, startup advisor, and industry speaker at DaeBoganMusic.com. Featured in YFS (Young Fabulous & Self-Employed) magazine, Dae has founded and operated a music publishing company, independent record label, artist management company, event production company, and two music tech startups. Prior to consulting and collaborating with some of the biggest music companies in the world, including Universal Music Group and Live Nation, Dae was Vice President of Marketing at Shiekh Shoes where he launched Shiekh Music and oversaw all in-store and digital music retail, artist sponsorships, musical events, and an independent artist support program. Dae is currently the Professor of Entertainment Marketing at Emerson College in Los Angeles and advisor to several music tech startups including Floshare, Tuneport, Sonabos, Requext, Language Zen, iQnect Music, and Manglers. For more information and industry insights, visit www.daeboganmusic.com.

Publishing Guide: Get Paid the Money You Are Owed

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  • Great article! Very informative and condensed the relevant information!

  • Linda Vee Sado

    I always wonder who keeps track of who played what in bars live and the like. How can they possibly know that someone did a cover of so and so somewhere is some little bar or coffee shop or whatever?

    • dave holt

      Here in Prescott Az. these performance rights orgs. strong-arming businesses to buy a license while they can barely keep their doors open and musicians being turned-down as live music is break-even at best; would not mind submitting song list and paying .03 cents per song and bearing the burden in salary/tips but I don’t think this will fly…

    • PROs use a number of methods to determine how much they’ll pay out to composers, writers, and publishers. PROs receive a variety of income streams that are all considered “performance fees,” but come from fundamentally different sources (e.g. TV programs, terrestrial radio, digital radio, concerts and events, websites, mobile apps, audio-visual sources platforms, restaurants and bars, etc.). Many of these sources are required to report their music usage via cue sheets, quarterly reports, logs, XML feeds, etc. PROs also do their own surveys and airplay monitoring. They also look to singer-songwriters to submit set lists from live shows.

      All of this information is taken into account when determining who to pay and how much to pay. Unfortunately, it is not a 1 play = 1 pay unit scenario. There is weighed payouts based on popularity of songs as measured by radio airplay. And because some sources of royalties do not have to report their music usage (because they license the PRO’s entire catalog), millions of plays are uncounted.

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • They have ears everywhere! No, just kidding. Well, some artists submit their playlists to BMI and ASCAP’s live music programs. I think besides that, the PROs just assume you’re covering music by their top earners and…

    @ChrisRobley

    • RandyGunter

      According to the ASCAP website, they create their own lists based on set lists from top grossing concerts. Or, if you are performing your own songs, you can submit this information to the PRO that you are affiliated with to get paid. If you are a writer and others are performing your songs, and your songs aren’t being played at the top grossing concerts, I personally doubt you’ll ever see a dime. (Would love to hear otherwise if anyone has any experience contradicting this thought.)

    • THX1136

      I was led to believe that a PRO like BMI takes the monies received from a venue – like a bar – and distributes those monies as determined by a matrix they use internally for that purpose. In other words, Jagger/Richards do not necessarily get paid when you perform Brown Sugar at Bob’s Tap and Grille.

      • I just explained this in detail as a reply to the original question. I hope that helps. =)

        – Dae Bogan
        @DaeBoganMusic
        Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

    • Beats54

      Hallo i nee help I am a musician and i produce my own songs so which advise can you give me , where can i register? thankss

      • Are you wanting to register for publishing administration services? CD Baby Pro can handle that for you. Sign up at http://members.cdbaby.com. (I would recommend you also sign up directly with SoundExchange).

        @ChrisRobley

        • Beats54

          Thank you bro
          but i have a challenge with this sound exchange forms, can you help?
          thanks

          • I would suggest contacting SoundExchange’s artist support team. They can probably help you with any questions about their signup form.

            @ChrisRobley

  • Nice, glad you enjoyed. Thanks for reading.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Helen

    Thank you very much for the article and for the answer below on live performance in bars! I thought CD Pro does sound exchange as well? Do I still need to register with Sound Exchange?

  • any clues as to when ascap, bmi and sesac are going to be audited for what they’re collecting vs what they’re paying ? you’re comment “the pros just assume you’re covering music by their top earners” has been true as long as they’ve been in business.

    but indie artists get shafted. ascap/bmi/sesac don’t take actual numbers and divide royalties like soundexchange does, or at least attempts to. instead, they gather partial data and make assumptions for all of the royalty payments based on those partial numbers.

    i’ve been registered with bmi for more than 25 years and have received exactly one royalty check from them, despite knowledge that my music was and is being played and generating royalties. but because i’m not (insert top 40 artists here,) no part of that pie makes it onto my plate. (the one check i did receive was for airplay in canada.)

    it is a broken system that needs some serious overhauling. especially with the capabilities of computers to keep track of “everything”. it is time that indie artists, and all artists, were treated more fairly, instead of being neglected in favor of the chosen few.

  • Greg Perryman

    I am registered with BMI, but it sounds like I need to sign up to “Sound Exchange”?
    I thought CDBaby was doing this for me?

  • Mike Felten

    As performer and songwriter – why do I collect Spotify royalties (from CD Baby) but so far nothing from Sound Exchange? I am registered but show nothing collected. I imagine they have a threshold for payments but I don’t know what that is and if they are collecting at all.

  • If I want to do a Christmas TV show in my local community as a thank you to my customers and it is not for profit purposes who can give me permission to do that or can I buy a blanket permit to produce this non profit show. I have an ASCAP license but it is only for the business with three performances a year on premises. I am a Chevrolet dealer and was fined because I used a lyric and changed the words and thought I could do a satire or parody due to Fair Use but obviously I could not. What should I do. Thanks. Danny

  • Jim Fiegen

    I have been an ASCAP member for several years, have joined and registered my 3 CD’s with SoundExchange and am a CD Baby Pro member. I have never heard a peep from ASCAP or SoundExchange and my accounts with them show no activity, even though my account reviews with CD Bay show hundreds of plays and downloads. So much for the new music reality! Wish I were Taylor Swift!

  • Willy

    If I’m already signed up with BMI and Sound Exchange, what more could CDBaby do for me?

  • Jay Zimmer

    When I was in broadcasting the stations I worked for had to do a “BMI LOG” each year. We would log every song we played along with its composer and artist. From this data, BMI (which shared its information with ASCAP) sampled airplay and charged stations accordingly. As a songwriter I am a member of BMI and find it very satisfactory.

  • SoundExchange does not work with Spotify, Rdio or iTunes Radio anymore. They have all struck direct deals with labels and distributors for the licenses and report to them directly. It should be clarified that SoundExchange only works with non-interactive digital streaming services. So if Spotify or Rdio were working with SX they would only be paying out for their non-interactive radio service (not the “i want to hear this song right now” interactive service).

    In addition, Kiss FM DOES pay SoundExchange – for their webcasting service. Nearly every radio station in the country has a digital version and they must pay SoundExchange. And Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio also pays SoundExchange. You should clarify that Kiss FM (and other terrestrial radio stations) do not pay for the terrestrial plays. They DO pay for their digital service plays.

    See the complete list of who SoundExchange pays here

    • Hey Ari,

      Appreciate the corrections and the link to the list of entities paying SE. I just added a bunch of editor’s notes to the article. Thanks! Hope you’re doing well, and warm. (It’s in the negatives in Maine today).

      @ChrisRobley

    • Dae Bogan

      Thanks for the comments Ari.

      I originally wrote this piece in 2013. At the time of writing, Spotify and Rdio were both paying SoundExchange. They have since struck direct deals with labels. iTunes Radio was just over 2 weeks old at the time of publication. I was not aware of their direct deals at that time.

      Yes, SX only works with non-interactive services; and the non-interactive component of music services that have on-demand components. I left that information out, but yes it should have been made clear.

      In regards to terrestrial radio, yes they pay SX for their digital services. I didn’t want to confuse my readers by diving deeper into terrestrial radio (looking at their webcasting component), but wanted to present the general contrast between traditional terrestrial (the way most music listeners consider radio) and Internet radio. The biggest difference is tied to U.S. Copyright law and how terrestrial radio is defined for the purposes of license obligations. I also wanted to draw reference to Pandora’s campaign to pay lower rates, which was a hot topic at the time of writing.

      This piece was not updated prior to it being syndicated here, so I appreciate Chris making the editor notes and comments like yours.

      Best,
      Dae

      @daeboganmusic

  • Ray DeTone

    Good article ! A side note: while ASCAP considers the total WRITERs share to be 50% and the total PUBLISHERs share to be 50%, BMI calls the total WRITERs share 100% and the total PUBLISHER share 100%. This can be confusing when an ASCAP writer collaborates w. a BMI writer but its only semantics.

    • That’s a great point. ASCAP is talking about the TOTAL performance royalty pie, while BMI breaks it into those halves.

      @ChrisRobley

  • roxybeast

    This article is still not correct. Master Use licenses cover samples, full, & other derivative uses of the original sound recording of a particular artist and are due to the record label holding the master rights (which nowadays can also only be the indie artist themselves if they have no record label). Compulsory Mechanical Licenses are what you would obtain from the Publishing company (or the Songwriter directly if they have no publisher) to perform your own cover version of that writer’s song/work. Most of the PROs allow you to search their catalogs with the name of the song, writer(s) name(s), and sometimes the artist name, in order to find the publishing contact information in order to obtain a compulsory mechanical license to cover the song/work. Interestingly, if you only cover a portion of the writer’s original song/work as a part of your otherwise original song, neither of those license paths apply, and instead you have to work out a derivative work license with the original songwriter and their publisher, if any. We had this very situation on one of the songs on our most recent album. Which is how David Bowie ended up owning 50% of our 4.5 minute original song for our including a 20 second cover of one of his songs as part of the bridge in our song. (Hey Chris, originally he wanted 75% of our song, lol). So we know for real, lol. 😉

  • Nu_Wri456

    The “Silver Conductor” here. Great article. full of need to know content for those in the know and those newbies too. As they say, you learn something everyday when open your eyes and Listen closely.
    MusicLuv,
    The SC.
    http://www.thesilverconductor.com

  • Nu_Wri456

    The “Silver Conductor” here. Great article. full of need to know content for those in the know and those newbies too. As they say, you learn something everyday when open your eyes and Listen closely.
    MusicLuv,
    The SC.
    http://www.thesilverconductor.com

  • Johnny Don’t!

    I noticed the mention of the dinosaur Harry Fox Agency but nothing about LimeLight.com. If there are any artists out there who wish to record a cover tune or tunes for an upcoming album or need to clear samples prior to release, check out LimeLight and avoid Harry Fox like the fucking plague. They overcharge like you wouldn’t believe. Like I said, they’re dinosaurs and will be extinct soon.

    • Steve Ockpuppet

      “Limelight will no longer provide new license orders effective March 31st, 2015. Please download all existing licenses before June 30th, 2015 as site access will be unavailable after that date.”

    • The 4th Mrs Draper

      I just got an email from limelight saying they are closing and exisiting licenses info needed to be downloaded before June 2015.

    • Since your original comment, LimeLight has stopped licensing and HFA has been acquired by SESAC. Oh how things change! =)

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • Katie Colpitts

    Thank you for the excellent breakdown! I am registered with BMI and Soundexchange and collect royalties from both companies. I have a few songs placed in films and collect “200%” from BMI as publisher and author but is there an advantage to creating my own publishing company and collecting as the publisher that way rather than collecting “200%”? Also, you mentioned AIE collecting for films broadcasted in Spanish…who collects on that behalf or who does an author/publisher register with for those royalties. Lastly, I’ve done research for collecting royalties from DVD distribution and have found that the Harry Fox Agency does that for publishers only and artists/songwriters can not register with them and the publishing agency has to have a song released on label…is this the only way to collect from DVD distribution or is there a way for songwriters or artists to collect? My apologies for the long winded comment! Thank you!!!

    • AIE, Sociedad de Gestión pays royalties to AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Fund. You can get more info on that here: http://www.afmsagaftrafund.org.

      We, TuneRegistry, have a promotion with AFM & SAG-AFTRA IPRD Funde as described on our blog http://www.tuneregistry.com/#!blog/coh1.

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • John Brokaw

    I operated a recording studio for more than 10 years and am a BMI registered publisher. We had about 50 tunes with BMI and had a few placements in movies and TV shows as well as college radio airplay. I have been impressed with BMI and their tracking and payment. In my limited experience I would say of the two BMI might be slightly more reliable about tracking and paying for performance. From what I have seen ASCAP might offer a bit more as far as helping the small artist to obtain exposure. If asked to choose between the two I would simply say I have been very happy with the service I have received from BMI.

  • Giorgio Prager

    Very informative, thanks! As an artist, all I can say is THANK YOU Sound Exchange. Just got a couple of unexpected checks

  • If you use CD Baby Pro, in addition to your performance royalties, we’ll make sure you’re paid all the mechanical royalties you’re owed too (for international downloads, global streaming, etc.). Check it out at http://members.cdbaby.com/pro.aspx

    @ChrisRobley

    • Willy

      Doesn’t CD Baby already pay for international downloads and doesn’t Sound Exchange do global streaming? I’d like to use CD Baby Pro but I wonder if it will cost more than I will earn.

  • So you’re going to broadcast the show on local TV? If that’s the case, I believe the TV station will have paid a blanket license for performance/airing of songs. But you could always talk with them about the details, and they’ll probably need you to file some paperwork with all the songwriter/publisher info for each song.

    @ChrisRobley

  • For non-interactive streaming (via Spotify radio), they’ve arranged to pay labels and distributors directly. That money doesn’t go through SoundExchange.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, we’ll collect your unclaimed SoundExchange royalties for you should you never sign up directly (because after 3 years they go “poof!,”) but you should totally sign up directly!

    @ChrisRobley

  • Amen. The polling and assumptions and top-earner stuff is dinosaur talk in the digital age.

    @ChrisRobley

  • We will collect unclaimed SoundExchange royalties for you (if you never register directly), because those royalties will disappear after 3 years if they aren’t claimed. But you should totally register directly!

    @ChrisRobley

    • Helen

      Ok, thank you very much! I did not know about the three year expiration either. Very helpful information!!!

  • Mike Felten

    In my case, I am the label/distributor but…
    Sound Exchange seems to be seeking out individual musicians that are due funds. At least, that’s my impression. Seems like they are collecting and not paying.

    • You would have to register with them to receive funds. Which you can do here: https://register.soundexchange.com/welcome

      If you do NOT register to claim your SoundExchange royalties, CD Baby will collect any unclaimed royalties for you. (Because after 3 years they disappear). But we always recommend you register directly.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Peter Davison

        I joined Sound Exchange early on and have been receiving payments regularly. Last year they changed from quarterly pmts to monthly – great!

      • muchness

        And does CDB pass them along to their clients, even if the client has not assigned digital collection to CDB? I had a takedown notice at YouTube, with CDB challenging my own song. Does that mean they have been monitoring/collecting my digital royalties?

  • I don’t think there’s a 1-to-1 payout system, no. So Jagger/Richards probably don’t get paid every time someone plays Brown Sugar at Bob’s Tap and Grille… but, do they get paid a hefty share of collected performance fees regardless of what music was played in that venue?

    @ChrisRobley

    • THX1136

      Yes Chris, you’re right. That has been a source of discontent amongst some members as the matrix is tilted towards folks who are at the top of the heap, so to speak. Not knocking PRO’s; just a fact of life. The folks who “sell” tons ‘o music get the most; those who sell very little get the least, if any at all. (I’m a BMI affiliate, by the way.)

  • Mike Felten

    ….I am registered. ..

  • Hey Roxybeast,

    Thanks for the info and comments, and sharing your story about David Bowie. 75% for 20 seconds, huh? Wow. Regarding your corrections on the article, where do you see the misinformation or poorly drawn distinction between mechanicals (for the composition) and master use licenses (for the recording)? I just want to make sure to put editor’s notes in the right places for clarification.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Colin Henthorne

    A clearer explanation would include how “public performance organization” comes to be abbreviated as “PRO”.

  • Hi Katie,

    If you’re already set up to collect the songwriter and publisher share of your performance royalties, there’s no real advantage in creating a publishing company (unless you actually want to start being a publishing rights administrator for yourself and other songwriters). But why bother when others will do it for you?

    I’m not really sure the answer to the AIE question. Sorry. Some of the details of international royalty colletion is a bit of a mystery to me sometimes.

    DVD rights are considered mechanical synchronization and are negotiated directly with each publisher for inclusion in a commercial video. That is done at the time the music is licensed for to the film or TV show. DVD’s are not included in a compulsory mechanical license that an artist may have secured to record someone else’s music and there is no statuatory rate. The publisher can say no and can ask whatever fee they want. So, I’t’s not true that Harry Fox handles DVD mechanical royalties, although it’s possible they do represent some publishers for sync rights, although this would be a case by case basis. If a writer’s music is being used in a film or TV show on DVD, they should talk to their publisher about collecting the share they are contractually entitled to from that entity.

    Hope that info helps.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Katie Colpitts

      Hi Chris,
      Thank you so much for your response. It is very helpful! I really appreciate your time. All the best and Happy New Year! 🙂

  • HI, I am with ASCAP, and I have registered most of my music there. I also have songs on cdbaby, and have registered with Soundexchange. When I registered, soundexchange’s template for uploading catalog would not open on my computer, so I called them directly. They said, “no problem,” they have the info. How do they have it? I don’t seem to be listed in their directory of who got paid last year, though I show activity through cdbaby. How do I deal with this?

    • SoundExchange receive reports from the over 2,500 digital services that they license. So, for that reason they might already have information about your sound recordings that are being streamed. However, they do need you to register to collect your earnings.

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • Thank you very much! I hadn’t realized that SoundExchange was the one to collect for digital performances.

  • Kenny

    Hi! I’m a little bit confused,
    At the bottom of this article it says this. . .

    “And be sure to register yourself with SoundExchange to collect digital performance royalties!”

    but under the “THINGS TO KNOW” sub heading it says

    “Pandora, Rdio, iTunes Radio, Spotitfy, etc. must pay both ASCAP, BMI, SESAC public performance fees for musical works AND digital performance fees for sound recordings.”

    Is there a difference between a “digital performance fee” and a “digital performance royalty”? If ASCAP/BMI/SESAC collect both public performance fees AND digital performance fees why would a person need to register with Sound Exchange? I write, record, and perform my own original music, wouldn’t I be fully covered by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC, especially if I am registered as both author and publisher?

    Hope you can clarify this for me,
    Thanks,

    Kenny

    • Hi Kenny,

      ASCAP/BMI/SESAC collect performance royalties on behalf of songwriters/publishers. SoundExchange collects digital performance royalties on behalf of sound recording copyright owners, artists, and studio players. So it’s best to register with both a PRO and SoundExchange to make sure you’re collecting both kinds of royalties.

      @ChrisRobley

  • Linda Vee Sado

    If you don’t sign on with SE you must lose whatever they had in the system if you don’t claim it in a certain period of time. We showed that 9 songs had some royalties, but then later I went back to register and they were all gone.

  • Fred

    As a publisher representing more than one artist, can CD Baby handle my account?

    • Are you asking about CD Baby acting as distributor or publishing rights administrator? Either way, the answer is yes. But just want to make sure you get the details you’re looking for.

      @ChrisRobley

      • Fred

        Thanks for your prompt reply. I’m interested in both. How do I register with CD Baby as a company?

  • They hold unclaimed royalties for three years, after which they get paid to the big labels and top-earning artists. Which is why CD Baby has arranged to collect unclaimed royalties from SE on our artists’ behalf. If you have registered directly, you keep collecting directly. But if you haven’t registered to collect royalties, we’ll get them for you before they disappear after the 3 year time period is up.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Linda Vee Sado

      That is great news Chris. What made me reluctant to join is giving out my SS online.

  • Pierre Hafteck

    Chris, thanks a lot for clarifying many points in this complex field!
    Assume a lyricist and composer are writing for a band a tune that is streamed a sizeable number of times. Am I right to understand that they won’t receive any royalties from SoundExchange unless the streaming media has an agreement with the PRO (say, ASCAP) they are registered with? If there is no such agreement, where do the corresponding royalties go and how can they claim them?

  • The Imaj®

    Hey Christopher..quick question.
    I do mostly instrumental music. But all different genres. I have put out a few albums and have an LLC. Ive always known that I should sign up with a PRO. Do I sign up as a writer or publisher? What’s the difference? And if I sign up as a writer, are they able to pay my company rather than me personally?

  • Dae Bogan

    Hi Roxybeast-

    I am the original author of this article. I appreciate your comments on this piece, however your claim that my brief mentioning of master use licenses and compulsory mechanical licenses was incorrect is erroneous. I am working on a piece to elaborate on the various uses of these kinds of licenses to help demystify their functions.

    Know that master use licenses (sound recording) and compulsory mechanical licenses (composition) serve many purposes and are used in many deal structures. I appreciate you drawing on your own experience having obtained licenses for your particular needs, but that does not negate the fact that there are many functions that these licenses serve for artists, film/TV production companies, advertisers, etc.

    Best,
    Dae

    @daeboganmusic

  • Pedro

    I’ve been told that I should register to Resound instead of Soundexchange. Can you help me understand if this is the right move?

    • SoundExchange only collects in the U.S. So, if you have music performing in the U.S. you may be able to join SoundExchange. You should check with SE directly. I know you can be a member of both SOCAN and ASCAP (or BMI, or SESAC), so this might translate for sound recording performance rights as well.

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • Bummer.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Sad news.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Oh sweet Austin sun!

    @ChrisRobley

  • Sure thing. It’s actually the same registration process for companies and individuals. You can just include your company name and details in the signup. To get started, go to: https://members.cdbaby.com/ClientDetails/ClientInformation.aspx

    @ChrisRobley

  • In the US, mechanical royalties for downloads are paid by the retailer to the distributor, so we pass it on to artists as part of the normal payment for downloads. But internationally, mechanical royalties for downloads are paid by the retailer to various royalty collection societies. With CD Baby Pro, we work with those societies to collect that money for you.

    @ChrisRobley

  • PRO = Performing Rights Organization.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Glad to help. Happy 2015 to you too.

    @ChrisRobley

  • We changed our Terms of Service so that we could collect any unclaimed digital performance royalties from SoundExchange on your behalf (which only affects artists who have not or don’t want to sign up with SE directly). And we would most certainly pay them to you. Artists that don’t want us to collect their unclaimed royalties can opt out at any time (but those royalties disappear after three years, so we hope they’ll register with SE directly to collect them in time). As for YouTube, did it say “matched 3rd party content?” Are you enrolled in CD Baby’s YouTube Monetization/Sync Licensing program? If so, all is working correctly. YouTube has correctly ID’d your music and knows that CD Baby is set up to monetize your music across YouTube (and to pay you any owed ad revenue).

    @ChrisRobley

    • muchness

      I did not authorize CDB to collect for me anywhere – not on YouTube nor on SE. If they have been, they should have let us know, right? I’d have to check what the takedown notice said – I remember the complaint was lodged by CDB – I provided my CR PAU # to YT and they lifted the takedown – but I couldn’t figure out why CDB would have that authority, since I never opted in. How can we check to see if CDB is collecting for us “automatically,” and if so, why are the royalties NOT getting to us?

  • The digital performance royalties that SoundExchange collects for non-interactive streaming are NOT paid to songwriters/composers or their publishers. So yes. They would not receive royalties from SoundExchange for those streams, but they should receive performance royalties. And if we look at interactive streams (the kind where you choose exactly what you want to hear) then there will also be a interactive streaming mechanical royalty owed to the songwriters/publishers. Performance royalties are collected and distributed by PROs like ASCAP and BMI. With CD Baby Pro acting as a publishing rights administrator, we can also collect those mechanicals for the writers.

    @ChrisRobley

  • You can sign up as a writer AND a publisher (or as a writer who is authorized to collect the publisher’s share). And I’m not sure about paying to an LLC, but I’m sure you can get a quick answer if you write to BMI or ASCAP.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Well, if they owe you money and it had gone unclaimed, they may’ve gotten your info from us — since we used to do periodic matching exercises with them (now we’re partnered) to figure out if CD Baby artists were owed money. Did you figure out if SE owed you money?

    @ChrisRobley

  • Hey Pedro, are you in Canada? I don’t know a ton about Re:Sound, but it seems like they do a similar service for Canadian artists as SE does in the states (though it seems like they have a broader mandate than just digital broadcasts). Check ’em out at http://www.resound.ca/. If they’re not exclusive, I’d say sign up with BOTH to make sure you’re getting everything you can.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Pedro Barbosa

      Weather is pretty crappy up here Christopher but it will end soon enough. Thanks for the reply, i’ll investigate and probably join both.

      Regards.

      Pedro

    • Pedro Barbosa

      Weather is pretty crappy up here Christopher but it will end soon enough. Thanks for the reply, i’ll investigate and probably join both.

      Regards.

      Pedro

  • Are you opted in for sync licensing/YouTube monetization through CD Baby? If so, that’s why those notices are showing up. As soon as we receive ad revenue payments from YouTube, we add it to your balance (with an activity report) in your CD Baby members account. If you have any questions, give us a call or write cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Are you opted in for sync licensing/YouTube monetization through CD Baby? If so, that’s why those notices are showing up. As soon as we receive ad revenue payments from YouTube, we add it to your balance (with an activity report) in your CD Baby members account. If you have any questions, give us a call or write cdbaby@cdbaby.com.

    @ChrisRobley

    • muchness

      I did not opt in for any synch licensing – I would always want to see what my music was supporting, so I don’t do blanket licenses. I also rep other’s work in compilation albums, so a secondary representative is not in our contracts. I can only imagine this happening because CDB assumes everyone is in their program, and collects for them, but doesn’t tell them unless they opt in? Otherwise, what would spark a CDB “takedown”?
      Thanks much, Chris, for your replies. Just trying to get a handle on how that could happen without ANY permission from me.

  • The sync licensing program is definitely something you would need to opt in for. Hmmm. I’d suggest giving us a call at 1-800-buy-my-cd and we can figure out what’s going on.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Lindsey

    I run a coffee shop and we keep getting calls from ASCAP saying we have to pay them or they’re going to sue us. Is there a way around paying BMI, ASCAP AND SESAC? Can we have a Spotify account and play from that without having to pay these companies? It seems ridiculous to me to have to pay them the amount they’re asking to have light music playing in the background…. it’s all music I have paid for and downloaded with iTunes. Any advice?

    • The only way to not pay ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC directly, is to subscribe to a commercial music service. There are several options out there. If you just want to run music off of your computer, subscriber to Pandora For Business. Spotify does not have a Business plan, so you can not use your PERSONAL account unless you’re paying ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC directly.

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

      • Brandon Ross

        ASCAP has been shaking down and threatening lawsuits at my favorite coffee joint. The thing is, they don’t play any music that would be associated with a big label. This all seems no different than a mafia extorting protection money.

  • Sorry to hear that. I’m not as informed on what kind of wiggle room restaurants/coffee shops/etc. have when it comes to paying their PRO fees. (I don’t think much). I’d suggest reading these links, and then consulting with an attorney:

    http://www.bmi.com/licensing/#faqs

    http://www.restaurant.org/Manage-My-Restaurant/Operations/Regulatory-back-office/11-questions-about-music-licensing

    @ChrisRobley

  • jason1000

    Okay I need some advice. I was offered 3000 dollars to license 8 of my songs. The music is released on my record label so I own the rights and masters, etc. However, the agency that wants to use them states the songs cannot be part of any collection societies. Does this sound okay? Any advice is appreciated. I may just do it considering my music is not played on terrestrial radio anyways so I may not be missing out on not signing up with ASCAP or BMI.

  • Paul Thomas Elliott

    As a songwriter/publisher may you belong to BMI and SoundExchange at the same time?

  • Well, SoundExchange doesn’t collect publishing royalties, but if you (the songwriter) are also the artist, a player on the recording, or the label, then yes — you can (and should) register with both SoundExchange AND a performing rights organization such as BMI.

    @ChrisRobley

  • What are they going to be used for? If they’re aired on TV then you could be making some decent performance royalties there, especially if the shows get rerun. If that’s the case, I’d ask them WHY they don’t want the songs to be registered with any PROs. Sometimes licensing agencies want you to rename the compositions they license specifically for the placements they secure. That allows them to collect a share of your publishing royalties from just the renamed version of your song that they helped place. Is that what they’re suggesting here?

    @ChrisRobley

  • Ana

    Hi, I am a songwriter but I can’t decide between ASCAP OR BMI? this has helped me but at the same time, I still can’t decide. What really marks the difference between them?

    • Honestly, not much. They work in very similar ways. You could boil it down to whichever acronym sounds better and I wouldn’t think you made a bad decision.

      @ChrisRobley

  • AnnaN

    Do I need to have a license if I want to play some songs with my iTunes at my event the first outside of US?

  • I don’t really understand. Are you playing songs in your iTunes library on stage at a show?

    @ChrisRobley

    • AnnaN

      Sorry, mistyped) We plan to have a conference in Colombia and need to play few songs with iTunes. It’s a business event. Do we nee to have a license with either one BMI, ASCAP or both of them?

  • John KIm

    Do you need to have license with all three PRO (SEASAC, BMI and ASCAP) if I am going to service music streaming app with just international music? in this case only Korean pop songs.

    • Is this K-pop app a US app?

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • You should check with the event space to see if they’ve already paid their PRO fees. If so, you’re all set to play whatever you want.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Are you using the app (in your business), or managing/creating the app?

    @ChrisRobley

  • Elena Christoforou

    Hi

    Our company distributes music to various coffee shops. We have a computer at each coffee shop and once a month we update their ‘playlist’ with new songs. We play the latest hits etc.
    I know we have to pay the mechanical rights, do the coffee shops have to pay PRO fees and SoundExchange fees?

    When i went into SoundExchange, i could not find artists such as Rihanna, Madonna etc. Does this mean that they are not registered with SoundExchange and hence SoundExchange cannot request for these artists. Am i correct in my assumption.

    • You should contact me ASAP (www.daeboganmusic.com). You need immediate licensing assistance. Either your company or your customers should be licensed with ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Furthermore, your company does not fall within the eligibility of licensing under SoundExchange compulsory license. SoundExchange (as they state on their website) is unable to tell you if you’re eligible or not for their licenses, but I know since I work with commercial music services aka background music services on these very issues.

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • I would be shocked if Rihanna and Madonna weren’t registered with SoundExchange. I bet they are. As for the royalties your company and/or the coffee shops would need to pay, I’d suggest you consult with an attorney, since it’s crucial to get all the legal stuff ironed out for your business model. I could take a guess, but really I’m not a lawyer, so best to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Madrigal

    Where does the RIAA come into play in all of this?

    • The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) represents sound recording owners; that is record labels. Originally, SoundExchange was a division of RIAA, but it broke off and is now a standalone PRO that collects statutory royalties for the digital performance of sound recordings when performed on non-interactive services such as Pandora, SiriusXM, Music Choice, and over 2,000 webcasts. SoundExchange then pays featured performers (e.g. Artist) and the master recording owner (e.g. Record Label or Independent Artist if no label). In addition, SoundExchange passes on 5% of the earnings to AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Fund to pay background vocalists and session musicians, none as non-featured performers.

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • What is the better digital distributor………cdbay, tunecore, etc? what your thought on it? here is my eamil: primemanagementproduction@gmail.com

  • Well, you probably know what my answer will be — but check out this page if you’re weighing your options: http://members.cdbaby.com/cdbaby-vs-tunecore.aspx

    @ChrisRobley

  • Fred P!

    Does a restaurant have to pay fees to all three or can you just choose one of the three and be covered? Our restaurant has been enjoying a successful venture thus far with good crowds 6-nights a week. We play a lot of music and have been paying BMI and SESAC since we opened 2-years ago. Should we be paying ASCAP, as well? Or are we overdoing it by paying two instead of just one?

  • Yes, in order to make sure you are covering all songwriters for all performances, you really should be licensed by all 3. A PRO is (in practice, more so than in law) only able to license the portion of the song they represent. This may only be 10%, 40%, or 90%, for example. Without more comprehensive coverage the shares of the other songwriters will be unlicensed.

    ASCAP is a key one to miss. ASCAP and BMI together would give you 100% share of over 90% of the songs anyone might ever play out of a jukebox. ASCAP and SESAC-only may cut the percentage of 100% coverage to about 1/2 that.

    @ChrisRobley

  • Brad Werner

    It seems crazy that even by paying the artist a fee to perform that wouldn’t cover the PRO fees. PROs are there to make sure the artists are getting paid for using their work. Why then do people have to pay them again when they are already directly paying the artist? If a band plays a cover song, shouldn’t it be up to the band to pay for that cover song? A business may pay and artist for original music and if the band chooses a cover song, that should fall on the band, not the venue.

    • Venues are responsible for maintaining active performance licenses and paying performance fees to PROs for enabling music to be performed in the venue by DJ, live act, or background music (e.g. restaurants and retail stores). They are paying fees that go to the writers and publishers. These fees have nothing to do with fees paid for performers to perform on-site. For example, paying a DJ for a 2 hour set has nothing to do with paying the writers and publishers of the songs the DJ used in his set. Paying a cover band for a 1 hour show has nothing to do with the fees due to the writers and publishers of the songs the cover band performed. The band is being paid for their performance of the songs. It is not feasible or possible (at scale) for bands to track down all of the writers and publishers of songs that they cover to pay them the micro penny that was earned during that performance. That is why PROs exist; to aggregate these micro earnings, maintain contact information of the payees, and issue payments.

      – Dae Bogan
      @DaeBoganMusic
      Founder at TuneRegistry.com | Fellow & Faculty at UCLA Center for Music Innovation

  • A few things:
    1) if you have CD Baby Pro on your releases, there is no need to sign up with Harry Fox directly. We will register all of your songs with the applicable societies and administrators for mechanical royalties.
    2) not sure what you means by “get quarterlies from my publisher and label.” If you already have both a publisher and a label, none of these DIY steps should be necessary. Your publisher should be handling all the publishing administration (and royalty collection) work.
    3) Also, if you have a publisher (meaning an outside publisher, not just your own publishing company), you can’t sign up for CD Baby Pro because you don’t control your own publishing rights.
    4) As a performer and/or owner of your master recording, you should definitely sign up with SoundExchange.

    Does that answer your questions? If not, feel free to give us a call (1-800-Buy-My-CD) and we can help out.

    @ChrisRobley

    • Bliebs

      I think I’ve got it, thanks Chris!

  • You definitely do NOT need to register for CD Baby Pro in order to distribute your music through CD Baby. But if you don’t have a publishing administrator, I’d recommend you DO sign up for Pro so that we can help you collect publishing revenue that is almost impossible to collect on your own. This includes mechanical royalties for international downloads and global streaming, royalties that performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI do NOT collect.

    @ChrisRobley.

  • The differences between the PROs (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) are pretty minimal. It’s all your preference, and they all do good work collecting performance royalties for songwriters and publishers. So yes, pick one and register. Then you should also sign up for CD Baby Pro for publishing administration (we’ll help you collect your global publishing royalties, not just performance royalties that PROs collect, but also mechanical royalties that they do NOT collect). And you should also sign up with SoundExchange as well (since they collect non-publishing related digital performance royalties).

    Please follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or Spotify.

  • If you’re an artist or a label, you definitely want to be signed up with SoundExchange. I don’t see any down side. They collect digital performance royalties that are not related to publishing rights, so it’s stuff that BMI is NOT collecting for you. The combo to make sure you’re getting paid everything you’re owed is to: 1) affiliate with a P.R.O. such as BMI, 2) sign up for CD Baby Pro, and 3) register with SoundExchange.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • To go with your comparison though:

    Radio station = bar (the place using the music as a feature of its business)
    The driver of the car = your customer
    The song on the radio = the band playing in your bar

    Plus, the band COULD BE performing their own music that’s registered with ASCAP, BMI, etc. In which case they wouldn’t pay someone else for the usage of their own intellectual property. It’s the venue’s responsibility to pay for that usage, and then the band could collect what’s owed to them via the intermediary organization (BMI, ASCAP, etc.)

    I’m not arguing that everything about the collection of performance royalties is super fair, but that’s the rationale.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • The common (though fairly accurate) joke is: “Go with whichever one sounds coolest.”

    They all do the same thing, in similar ways. All with the exception of SoundExchange. They collect a different, non-publishing royalty, so you’d want to sign up with SoundExchange IN ADDITION to whichever P.R.O. you decide to go with.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.

  • I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking regarding being hurt by putting out instrumentals, but I think in general, no, you won’t get into any trouble by having BMI as your PRO. They’re nearly identical to ASCAP in their function, so I think you’re fine using BMI. Once you get rolling with one PRO there’s very few reasons why you’d ever need to switch.

    Follow me to the end of the rainbow on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter and get a free PDF of my poetry chapbook: I Say Potato, You Say Apocalypse.