You might be asking yourself what Performing Rights Organizations are and what purpose do they serve. The short answer is these organizations collect and distribute money (aka royalties) when your song is performed in public. This can include many forms such as a live concert, TV broadcast, radio, playlist at a bar, or anywhere in public your music can be heard. If you write the lyrics, music or compose, you are qualied to join a PRO. There is typically a small application fee to join a PRO and they distribute 100% of the royalties collected to both songwriters and publishers. The membership cost, if there is one, is such a small fee in comparison to the amount of revenue you could potentially bring in. PROs also work to distribute licences to business to allow permission to perform music in public.
There are multiple PROs that serve different territories but who also work with other PROs in retrieving royalties globally where your music is being performed. The three major companies in North America are ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Inc) and SESAC. These companies are based in the US and have partnerships globally with sister companies that work together in collecting your royalties. There is also SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) in Canada, PRS (Performing Rights Society) in the UK, GEMA in Germany, SACEM in France, and the list goes on. Choosing the right PRO for you should typically be based on where you are located and where you are registered to work
Here’s some general information and the benets of each PRO mentioned above:
- Offices in New York, Miami, Nashville, Los Angeles, Atlanta as well as Puerto Rico and London, England.
- The only PRO in the US that is owned and governed by its members.
- Reciprocal agreements with more than 100 PROs around the world, including SOCAN and PRS.
- One time fee of $50 for writers. This applies IF you have a publishing deal. Publishing companies join at their own cost.
- One time fee of $100 for writers and publishers.
- This applies if you don’t have a publishing deal then you are entitled to receive 100% of the royalties.
- Other benets include discounts on physical and mental health programs, educational classes and mentorship programs.
- Ofces in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Austin as well as Puerto Rico and London, England.
- Largest PRO in the US. Non-prot organization.
- More than 90 sister societies with which it has established reciprocal representation agreements including SOCAN and PRS.
- Membership is free for songwriters on a 2 year agreement.
- Fee of $150 for individual publishers on a 5 year agreement. If you don’t have a publishing deal then you are entitled to 100% of the publishing.
- Headquarters in New York and Nashville. Ofces also in Santa Monica, Munich, Germany and London, England.
- Originally the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers. Second oldest PRO in the US.
- Invitation only company. Your representative whether it be a lawyer or manager must contact the company on your behalf. They DO NOT take unsolicited submissions.
- Headquarters in Toronto. Branch ofces located in Montréal, Vancouver, Los Angeles as well as subsidiary ofces in New York and Seattle.
- One time membership fee of $50.
- Membership benets including free accommodation (SOCAN House) in multiple cities for songwriting purposes, affordable health, home and car insurance, Berklee online educational courses, multiple discounts with afliated companies and more.
- Agreements with over 90 afliated PROs around the world.
- Operates out of two locations in London, England.
- One time fee of £100 to become a member.
- One time fee of £100 to join MCPS (Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society) if your music is released on a CD, DVD, LP or is being downloaded online. It is recommended to join both if you plan to release in these formats.
- Representation agreements with a society network spanning over 100 countries.
Joining a PRO should be at the top of your list if you are planning, or have already, released music. You don’t want to be missing out on royalties that should be going directly into your pocket. Do your research, weigh the pros and cons of each, and choose the right PRO for you.