What is a Performing Rights Organization?

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ASCAP or BMIA Performing Rights Organization (or P.R.O.) helps songwriters and publishers get paid for the usage of their music by collecting one of the most important forms of publishing revenue: performance royalties.

As a songwriter, composer, or lyricist, you’re owed what is called a “performance royalty” any time your music is played on radio stations (terrestrial, satellite, and internet), used on TV shows or commercials, or performed in live venues.

Those performance royalties are paid by radio stations, venues, and TV networks to Performing Rights Organizations like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SOCAN (in Canada) who then distribute the money to their affiliated songwriters and publishers.

For a complete list of copyright collection societies worldwide, click HERE.

Performing Rights Organizations collect:

* performance royalties for publishers and songwriters

Performing Rights Organizations do NOT collect:

* mechanical royalties

* sync fees

* digital performance royalties associated with the creation of a master recording (paid by SoundExchange to labels, session players, etc.)

How can you make sure you’re getting paid ALL the publishing royalties you’re owed?

If you’re  affiliated with ASCAP or BMI, they’ll pay you performance royalties, but you’d be leaving your mechanical royalties on the table — since it is not their mandate to collect mechanicals. To collect ALL the money that’s owed to you, sign up with CD Baby Pro!

Publishing Guide: Get Paid the Money You Are Owed

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  • Yes. You can choose between ASCAP and BMI (both perfectly fine options). If you haven't done so already, we'll be sending you an email shortly with further details about choosing which PRO you want to affiliate with.


  • I initially read your question as if you had already signed up for Pro, but just in case you haven't — Yes: when you sign up for CD Baby Pro, you choose which PRO you want to affiliate with and we'll handle the rest. The songwriter affiliation process AND the individual song registration process.


  • Pingback: Music Publishing Royalties: What is a Performance Royalty? DIY Musician Blog()

  • Jeff Pitts

    If I signed up for CD Baby Pro are you automatically making me a member of a PRO? I wanna join one, but it’s kinda confusing.

  • KSmiley

    But understand that venues have to pay in to the PROs, but rarely does that money go to those who wrote the songs played there. The PROs don’t sample venues. They sample mostly clear channel and pay out from that. You can, however, chronicle the where and when of performing your own songs and get paid for their public performance. That’s a way the PROs can find venues that are not paying. Unfortunately many venues have had to stop having live music because they can’t afford what BMI or ASCAP want them to pay. This happened to 4 venues in my small town. I believe this severely harms the seedbed for new songwriters and musicians…. and yes, the venue has to pay even if every performer sings their own originals. Legally you should be paying in even if you are busking your own songs on the street.

    • “Legally you should be paying in even if you are busking your own songs on the street.”

      I heard that technically the city government would be the owner of that “venue.” That might qualify for the PEG exception.

  • Gerard Rozario

    And how does CD Baby Pro specifically help someone like me in Australia, a member of APRA?

  • so if someone uses my music on youtube whats that…hows that covered or not covered please

  • Patrich Parmatow

    My songs have been played quite extensively on Internet radio during the last 2 years. Will CD Baby help me collect performance royalites for these plays if i upgrade to CD Baby Pro?

  • Andrew Murray Scott

    …yeah, great, but it seems not to be possible to upgrade to CD Baby Pro if you live outside the US, like me for example living in Scotland. Pity.

  • Mike Hongo

    What if your song is being played on an internet radio station?

  • Paul Steward

    Please let everyone know that CD Baby keeps 15% of the revenue they collect for you as a fee.

    Beware artists, if you are filing your performances with BMI Live or ASCAP Live and are getting paid, you may not want CD baby to take this over for you unless you have sufficient mechanical royalties that they can bring in for you to make up for that lost 15%.

  • Right now CD Baby Pro is only for US-based artists, but we're going to be expanding it beyond the US very soon.


  • YouTube plays generate both a performance and a mechanical royalty. If you're a CD Baby Pro artist, we'll collect those for you.

    If you're looking for more general info about cover songs on YouTube, this article might help: http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2012/03/on-posting-

    Also, another way you can earn money from YouTube is through micro-sync licensing: http://members.cdbaby.com/license-your-music.aspx

    Our sync program allows you to be paid for the usage of your music on YouTube, and not just in your own videos — but ANY time your tracks are used on YouTube, in anyone's videos.


  • Right now, CD Baby Pro is only available for US-based artists.


  • Yes, though for performance royalties, we can't guarantee that we can collect for previous performances. Only moving forward.

    For mechanical royalties, we WILL be able to get you money for previous sales/streams/etc.


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  • Pingback: 2 Reasons Why You're Not Getting Paid All the Performance Royalties You're Owed « DIY Musician Blog DIY Musician Blog()

  • Billy Bergmann

    BMI – great organization!

  • T.D medicina

    Hi, as you know most royalty free music are not “truly royalty free” because their authors are part of PRO (ASCAP, BMI etc..) and when you buy a royalty free music (from an on line library) you only buy a “sync” and “mechanical” license but not the “performing right”.
    If you upload a video on YouTube with this type of royalty free music, YouTube as the broadcaster pay this license to this PRO for us?

  • Yes, YouTube is licensed by the PRO’s so they would take care of paying performance royalties on registered works performed there out of advertising revenue.

    Where the Royalty Free designation helps you is if you want to use the music on a site or service that is not licensed by a society. A royalty free license proves that the licensee has been given a direct license by the writer waiving their performance right.


    • T.D medicina

      Thank you for the reply.
      If you use a royalty free music with no content ID claim or the claim will be release (because you buy the license to use it) you earn from advertising not the owner of the track.
      In this case you have to pay the PRO or is Youtube that provide with their license?

  • If a third party is claiming your content through Content ID, YouTube will pay them. You don’t have to worry about paying them a share of your ad revenue directly.


  • I’ve never used it, so I’m really not sure.

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