Publishing PRO BMI ASCAP

Published on January 2nd, 2010 | by Hugh Hession

46

Performing rights organizations 1 – ASCAP and BMI

What is BMI and ASCAP?  This is a popular question that I get asked frequently. It’s bit detailed, so to give a quality answer, it’s going to take more than one post. Hopefully after this series is done, you will have a clear understanding on the function of performing rights organizations, or more commonly called PRO’s.

Like most kids growing up in the middle to late 70’s, I made it point to collect anything related to KISS. I mean, KISS was the Taylor Swift of music back in those days (Ironic that Hard Luck Woman would be covered by Garth Brooks years later). Of course the genre was rock, but comparable in popularity.

I was a fanatic when it came to KISS and every piece of information linked to them, was relevant. I remember reading the vinyl record labels and wondering what those funny acronyms were after the songs. BMI? ASCAP? I thought they were a special club that KISS was a part of. I was eight. What did I know?

ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc) are the two largest performing rights organizations in the United States.  They are not related to each other (both are separate organizations) but they do perform the same services for the composer, songwriter, author and publisher.

So what do they do? Well, in simple terms PRO’s collect money for your songs, on your behalf.  That’s cool.  But for what?

Let’s go back to the word perform. Both ASCAP and BMI use this word in a broader sense than is typical.  A performance could be radio or internet airplay, a live concert (including night clubs performances by a local act), a song on television or a song you hear in a restaurant. To enhance this point, here is ASCAP’s definition of a performance:

A public performance is one that occurs “in a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.” A public performance also occurs when the performance is transmitted by means of any device or process (for example, via broadcast, telephone wire, or other means) to the public. In order to perform a copyrighted work publicly, the user must obtain performance rights from the copyright owner or his representative.

Note that PRO’s do not deal with motion pictures. This a different subject which I won’t get into now.

On your behalf, ASCAP or BMI negotiates the license (often referred to as a blanket license) for your songs (think of this as a permit) to various performance mediums, including radio stations, concert venues, television, you name it.  Then, they track the performance (remember that word?) based upon their nifty formula (more on this later) and cut you a check for your share.

Just look at it as having your own personal agent (don’t confuse this with a booking agent) looking after the performing rights of your songs and giving you money. Not a bad deal.

hands
“Umm…Hugh  – I have a question. When do I join, who do I join, how do I join and (drum roll…) does it cost money?”

All good questions. Here it goes.

  1. WHEN? You should join a PRO when you have recorded songs ready to be released to the public. PRO’s like to refer to it as being “commercially released.”  This can be in a digital format or in a fixed format, such as a CD.
  2. WHO? Which PRO you join is up to you. There are minimal differences, but they all perform the same function. Which one has a better ring to it? :) You can only register with either ASCAP or BMI. You can’t be a member of both.  BTW, A BMI member is called an Affiliate. ASCAP members are referred to just that, a member.
  3. HOW? By going to their website and registering. It’s straight forward.
  4. COST? To register with BMI as a songwriter is free. There is a $35 processing fee with ASCAP. Your call.
“Hugh…one more thing.  Aren’t there other PRO’s?”

Oh yeah. I purposely kept this post specific to BMI and ASCAP as those area the two major PRO’s in America. There is another in Nashville known as SESAC and still others that represent artists in their specific geographical territories, which are for the most part, government owned. Examples include PRS (The UK) and BUMA/STEMRA (Netherlands). There are also PRO’s that represent specific genre’s, such as CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc.); which represents the Christian music genre.

Let’s summarize

  1. Performance right’s organizations are commonly known as PRO’s.
  2. Growing up in the 70’s, I thought KISS was pretty cool.
  3. ASCAP and BMI are the largest PRO’s in America.
  4. A performance is broadly interpreted. It could be radio or Internet airplay, a live concert (including night clubs) a song being played on television, or perhaps your wife freaking out on you after she found out you bought a 1959 Sunburst Les Paul. Well, not sure ASCAP or BMI would cover that one.
  5. PRO’s act as agents for your songs (Not booking agents – this is a different function). They give permission to perform the song by negotiating/issuing a license (often called a blanket license) to the various venues, radio stations, television networks etc.
  6. PRO’s track the performance of a song through a nifty little formula that decides who get’s what.
  7. When do you join? When you have a commercial release, such as CD or in digital download format available for the public. Also, if you are performing in registered venues.
  8. There is not much difference between ASCAP and BMI. It’s your preference who you want to join. They perform the same duties.
  9. You either join ASCAP or BMI. You can’t be a member of both.
  10. To join, you go to ASCAP’s or BMI’s website and register.
  11. Cost to join.  BMI is free to songwriters (Publishers are different). ASCAP charges a $35 fee.
  12. There are PRO’s other than ASCAP and BMI. SESAC is the other US PRO but is considerably smaller in comparison. PRO’s can be found all over the world and represent those in their specific regions. There are also genre-specific PRO’s such as CCLI.

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About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch (www.talentwatch.net). He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.



46 Responses to Performing rights organizations 1 – ASCAP and BMI

  1. Nancy Chalmers says:

    One more try in getting information on this ascap topic! Is it okay for an ascap band to play a club that is not a registered ascap member?

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Nancy. It’s ok for an ASCAP band to play a club that is not registered. Ultimately, it’s the club’s responsibility to register. This is per ASCAP’s guidelines. Thanks for stopping by! -Hugh

  2. BRBistro says:

    Are you required to have BMI or ASCAP AND SESAC?
    It seems like we’re getting hit left and right for all of these organizations; we want to do the right thing however it’s becoming a BIG expense, to the point where we’re going to do away w/ live music altogether. Can someone offer clarification?

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi. Thanks for your question, and for stopping by. The answer is this. If you plan on playing songs from artists who are members of different PRO’s, then legally, you will need to obtain a license from each PRO. I know this isn’t exactly what you want to hear and I understand your frustration :( However lawsuits do occur from time to time. Last year, Taylor Swift and BMI (along with a list of plaintiffs a mile long), sued a North Idaho bar for not paying license fees. They did it to make an example out of them. -Hugh

  3. Drew Wagner says:

    Is it necessary to become a member as both a publishing company and a songwriter if I’m going to own my own publishing company solely for my music?

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Drew. Thanks for visiting Making It In Music. If you are going to own your own publishing company, regardless if you are the primary songwriter, you will typically want to register as a writer and a publisher. The reason, is that PRO’s pay out to both the publisher and writer, individually to avoid anyone getting ripped off. But that being said…the details are different between ASCAP and BMI. In your case, ASCAP requires you to sign up as a publisher if you want to claim the publisher’s share. However, BMI will pay the publisher’s share to the registered writer, if there is no other publisher listed as being affiliated with the writer. You can still sign up as a publisher, but it’s an extra $150 for sole-proprietorship or $250 if it’s a partnership or corporation. Your call.

      Also, don’t forget to register with Sound Exchange as well…the PRO for sound recordings.

      Thanks Drew. Hope to see you again, and feel free to drop me a line anytime.
      Hugh

  4. JGreen says:

    why is BMI free and Ascap charge? if they do the same thing, why doesn’t BMI charge (songwriter only). I have been trying to find the answer online with little success. Do you know?

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi. Thanks for stopping by JGreen. That’s a good question. Although BMI doesn’t charge, they do charge for publishers, and it’s significantly more than what ASCAP charges for the same. It’s just what they choose to do based upon their models. Remember, they are two separate companies and really, one of three in America. The last is SESAC, which is harder to gain membership in, as they are very selective about who they choose. -Hugh

  5. Jeff says:

    Hello, so ascap fee is $35 to join as a writer, but do they charge you to publish your songs??? If so what do they charge? Thx

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Jeff. Thanks for stopping in. ASCAP, or any performing rights organization for that matter, never charge you for publishing your songs. That is not the function of a PRO. ASCAP charges $35 to join, whether you are a writer or a publisher. -Hugh

  6. Lincoln says:

    Hi Hugh,

    Questions:
    1.) Does a composer need to register works that are music beds for TV, radio, web commercials? In other words with music under voice over?

    2.)What about tracks placed in music libraries?

    3.) What if you have a commercially released CD that is available in terrestrial as well as on-line stores that has music and voice over in the same track; not just music?

    I apologize if you’ve already addressed this and I missed the answers…
    Thank you Hugh.

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hello Lincoln. Sorry about getting back to you so late. I must have missed your question!

      1. Yes, songwriter’s typically do register these types of works with their PRO. This is assuming that you negotiated a synch license and (if using the original sound recording) a master use license to the party using your work. Now, if you sold the work as a work for hire, or if you gave them exclusive rights to your song in terms of the copyright, then technically, you would no longer own the song. I say this because many contests and other agreements sometimes include a transfer of copyright ownership.

      2. If songs placed in music libraries aren’t active – meaning they aren’t being performed in public, on television or radio or released commercially, I wouldn’t worry about registering them to your PRO. You always have time later, if the songs get placed or are included in any type of performance as defined by the PRO. Again, I don’t know about specific agreements you may have in place, so that always plays into it as well.

      3. If you have a song or songs on a commercially released CD, then yes, go ahead and register them. Also, remember that you are dealing with the sound recording as well. If that sound recording is yours, then register that with SoundExchange, They specialize in SR’s rather than performances.

      Thanks for your questions!

  7. I’m just getting started and I’m not a songwriter, so I play covers. I find that there are a lot of potential venues I might play, but they don’t want to deal with ASCAP/BMI/etc. for licenses.

    My question: is there any aspect of being a member that would provide an avenue to self-license my performances and remove that obstacle? I’m just an old guy finger-picking the songs of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Jesse Winchester, etc. in the corner of a coffee shop, bookstore, or cafe. I’m not trying to play dance halls, bars, etc.

    Brett Cammack

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Brett. Thanks for reading and your question. Venues are supposed to obtain a blanket license to cover all the music being played – whether it be by a band, a juke box or even a vocalist/guitarist in the corner. As you mention, there are many venues that don’t have them, but most know they should. You are technically responsible for the license, however with the shear amount of artists out there playing covers in unlicensed venues, the chance of any songwriter or PRO coming after you is unlikely. PRO’s know that it’s the venues that are responsible for getting the license and they are more likely to police them, than you.

  8. Tom Rule says:

    Hugh, gotta disagree with you a bit.

    If songs placed in music libraries aren’t active — mean­ing they aren’t being per­formed in pub­lic, on tele­vi­sion or radio or released com­mer­cially, I wouldn’t worry about reg­is­ter­ing them to your PRO.

    You should get everything you have into the PRO database – I prefer to get them posted when I complete the track and am in the process of stashing the file in my “it be done” hard drive. That way the PRO already knows about the track, and you don’t have to remember to get it there when it “becomes active”.

    Regarding ASCAP charging a fee to join – it is $35 when joining online, but soemthing like $75 if you send in the paper copy. [Guess which way they’d prefer join?]

    I’d like to point out that for you to join ASCAP as both a writer AND publisher (which is generally a good idea) – it would cost $75 [35 +35}. BMI, however, would charge you $150 [0 + 150].

    Just sayin! …. can you tell I’m an ASCAP writer?

    Good work on these articles. Well put, and well written. Hope our paths cross again soon!

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Tom. Thanks for your response. Refreshing to get someone who disagrees. Keeps it interesting and shares another viewpoint!

      I think from an organizational standpoint, what you say does have merit (in terms of going ahead and registering your finished tracks to your PRO right away). If a writer has a substantial library, it can create some work in the long run to register tracks, let alone, remembering to do it! My viewpoint was based upon active vs. inactive libraries. Unless a writer really has something substantial going on with one or more of their songs, income derived from a PRO is unlikely, due to the way PRO’s place weight on payments for performances. Additionally, I do know companies that have been paid out retroactively for unregistered works. However, again, I think that you have a valid point Tom in deciding to immediately register and square everything away, up front, so one doesn’t have to worry about it later!

      To respond to your other comment about ASCAP registration fees. Yes. you are correct in that it is a $35 charge for “each” registration – meaning if you register as a publisher and a writer (which you should) – it will cost $70. I didn’t mention the “offline” registration option, which is $75 as you say, only because it’s not near as efficient (just my opinion!).

      Thanks for your great points, Tom and the compliment on the articles! -Hugh

  9. First off, I really appreciate all the info you’re taking your time to share. Now my question is when negotiating with a venue on playing my music, is it my job to contact ascap or do I tell them to contact ascap? And what is the process?

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Derrick. Thanks for your appreciation of what I do. Copyright law requires that venues acquire all the necessary blanket licenses from the PRO’s. It’s really going to come down on them. Ironically, there are a good majority of clubs and venues that don’t have the necessary blanket licenses and every once in awhile, PRO’s will choose to make an example out of one by bringing legal action. Thanks. -Hugh

  10. matt says:

    hi i am just getting started in doing all this online stuff with my music (as far as selling) and i wanted to konw if im a music producer (make instrumentals) when i join BMI or ASCAP which do i join as? a writter/composer or the publishing one? thank you

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi. Thanks for stopping by. If you have a publishing company established, join as both. Although ASCAP requires you to sign up as publisher if you want the publisher’s share, BMI does not require it. They will simply pay out to the registered songwriter if no publisher is listed.
      -Hugh

  11. Hersh The Hitmaker says:

    Far as being a PUBLISHER & As a record label, if you have a record label entity with a PUBLISHING COMPANY that you have started, with an inhouse production/writing team ……………. can you use more than ONE PRO do to the fact that you might have lets say….6 writers…..4 with ASCAP & the other 2 with BMI?

  12. Hersh The Hitmaker says:

    & If so, how do you go about taking care of that? Because i know that WRITERS, can only have ONE or the other (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC) but is that the case for PUBLISHERS? Cuz im thinkin & knnowing that different songwriters/composers most of the time have different PROs ……

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Hersh. Great question! In order to receive performance royalties, a publishing company must be registered with the same PRO as the writer. Because publishing companies have writers registered with different PROs, multiple publishing companies are typically created for each PRO. Often, you will see a publishing company register multiple DBAs for each PRO (much cheaper). Some choose to set up individual companies (such as an LLC) to keep them truly separate. I have a friend who operates a record label with two registered DBAs that operate as publishing entities for ASCAP and BMI. Another typical format is operating a general entertainment company which includes all other associated companies (publishing, management etc) under that umbrella. I would recommend you consult both an entertainment and tax attorney to get a better idea about what would be best for you. -Hugh

  13. Kim says:

    I’m a little confused….I registered with Ascap in 2009 as a writer (told by a friend to register only as a writer)…. I find out now that I should have registered as a writer/publisher. I write all of my songs and don’t have a publisher.

    I have registered 2 songs with Ascap and will receive 50% as a writer…..since I’m not registered as a publisher…what happens to the other 50% that a publisher would receive should my songs started receiving alot of airplay?

    Also I’m thinking of registering as a Publisher with BMI because…..everyone in my music circle tells me BMI is better and pays better/faster. Is this true? Or do I register as a publisher with Ascap since I’m already affiliated with them?

    Thanks

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hey Kim. Sorry about the lag in response. Been busy in multiple projects that have taken me away from my blog, temporarily.

      Yes, you should sign up as a publisher if you are with ASCAP or you will not get the 100% share of publishing royalties. Also, you register your publishing company with the same PRO that you are registered with as a songwriter. So, do not sign up to BMI, stay with ASCAP. I’ve been in “music circles” most of my life….lol:). Everyone has their opinion about the “best” PRO. And that is exactly what it is…an opinion. Sometimes you have two writers on a song, that are registered with two different PRO’s. One songwriter may get paid more than the other, because they were tracked by their PRO on more cue sheets and vice versa. I know artists that sware by ASCAP and others that sware by BMI. To me, it’s not worth losing sleep over, just as long as you are registered to one of them!

  14. yves says:

    Hey Hugh,

    I’m super new to all this, so pardon me in my question is way too basic. What is the difference between registering as a song writer and publisher?

    Also in order to get radi play is it mandatory to be registered to any of licensing companies
    Finally, if I’m registered with BMI or ASCAP do I still need to register for a ISRC?

    Again sorry for the basic question but I’m really new to this

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hello, and thanks for stopping by! Sorry it took a second to get back to you, I’ve been involved in some ongoing projects that have taken my time away from the blog.

      First, registering as a songwriter and publisher are two separate things. ASCAP for instance, only pays the publisher share to the registered publisher and not to the songwriter. So, if you are one in the same, as an ASCAP writer, it is wise to form a publishing company and register as both a writer and a publisher. It is my understanding, that BMI is different, in that they will pay writers the publisher share, if no publishing company exists. However, it is smart to register as both, as PRO’s pay directly to each party. A word of advice. If you are setting up a publishing company, do so officially by deciding upon what type of business you will set up (sole-proprietorship, LLC etc), and then do so. Too many artists say they have a publishing company, but in actuality, have not properly setup their business in legal form. I see this quite a bit, when artists like to put “LLC” behind their name, when in actuality, no corporation exists.

      Secondly, you do not have to be registered to a PRO to get radio airplay, but it obviously makes sense if for some reason you get on a cue sheet. You can’t get any PR royalties unless you are registered.

      Thirdly, the ISRC is independent of BMI and ASCAP. The RIAA is the registration authority for ISRC, and it’s Soundscan that track sales. It is up to you whether you want to register for that – but I would highly recommend it. Typically, digital distributors offer this service in addition to companies like Disc Makers.

      Hugh

  15. Hiram says:

    Hugh, I would like to know if you register your music with a pro and your music is stored in a music library does that mean that it can’t be played on a different internet radio station even if your music has not been picked to be placed for radio or TV from the company who owns the library.

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hello. Hard for me to comment on this without any further information regarding any prior agreements, particularly exclusivity. Would need more info.

      Hugh

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  17. Jonathan says:

    Hugh — my co-writer and myself have a song that we currently are working on getting used in a TV series. It’s got buzz. We wrote it 15 years ago and now I find out that my co-writer only registered the copyright in his name. (No bad blood or anything — just was expedient at the time and he didn’t know any better) Before we join ASCAP or BMI, should we re-register the copyright in both names or re-register it in the name of the publishing company that we want to start up? Or does it matter at all? We both had a share in it and if we both register the song together jointly with ASCAP let’s say, then is there or will there be a problem when it comes time for royalties to be paid out? Hope this makes sense.

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Jonathan. All good questions! The Copyright Office will easily let your partner amend the registration through what is called a Supplementary Copyright Registration. You will have the choice to “correct” or “amplify” the previous registration. Because there was an omission, your partner would amplify the existing registration and add yourself as a co-author (You can read more on Supplementary Copyright Registration in the link I gave you). If you have a publishing company, make sure to put your publishing company down as the claimant.

      In regard to the PRO’s – you won’t register jointly. You will both register as separate writers for the same song, and indicate your percentage of ownership. Your publishing company should be registered separately as well.

      If you need more clarification, just let me know. Thanks for your comments!
      Hugh

  18. Steve says:

    Hi Hugh

    I have a couple questions regarding PROs and am hopeful you can help me. I am a small business owner and am the first to admit I know next to nothing about the music industry. It’s about as far from what I do as possible. I recently got a letter in the mail from SESAC claiming I need a music performance license for my business.

    Because of the type of business I have (a golf course) I have never played recorded music, such as on a radio or a CD player, at the business. In the entire building we have one small screen TV. However, I HAVE had live music performed at the business. This was done by a small local band, and they played only their original music. They did not play songs by other artists.

    So my quesitons are, is this a legitimate request by a PRO? Is a license required when the original artist plays their original music? Their music is copyrighted but they did not ask for compensation to play. They did it as a favor. Also, would a license requirement change if they (or I) charged an admittance fee?

    To me it seems unlikely that most businesses would get a PRO agreement (such as a coffee shop or tire shop). They play music for their customers while they wait. Since I dont do that (I have no restaurant) it seems strange I would be contacted for what seems a much lesser concern. Since this topic never came up with the band that played before, is it something I should address in the future should they play again?

    Thank you

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Steve. Typically, with live performances, that falls under a PRO license, regardless if patrons pay to see the performance. The artist may have been a local, or an “unsigned” act, but if they play originals and are registered to a PRO, then it’s legitimate. And remember, you can always negotiate the fee. Question: If you’ve just had one artist play there, was that band a member of SESAC? Just curious. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it. They will keep coming and you don’t want any legal action taken. I would secure the services of an entertainment attorney. They will be able to tell you right away and it won’t cost you much at all. Better to be safe.

  19. Hello Hugh,

    I am one of two writers in the band. I joined BMI and he joined ASCAP. How complicated is registering works with this arrangement? What are the nuances? I imagine it can get sticky? We have started to release music for listening only online and we need to get ourselves officially registered asap before the CD is pressed and released… And the publishing thing… I here so much about it and the more I read the more I get confused about it’s necessities. At what point do I need to start seriously thinking about getting an LLC for publishing and why, if we are unsigned and writing and producing songs on our own.

    -eat sleep breathe bleed..music

    thank you in advance
    Joshua

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Joshua,
      It’s not all that complicated. You have to register all names associated with the song. ASCAP refers to this as the “entitled” parties. So, if you are with BMI or ASCAP, there is a space for you to enter the other writer, what PRO they are associated with, and their writer percentage, which is what you work out before you register. The main difference between BMI and ASCAP, is that with BMI, if you don’t have a publisher, it doesn’t matter, They will automatically pay out the publishers share to you. ASCAP however, is different. If you are self-published, then you have to setup a publishing company and register to get paid the publisher’s share.

      LLC’s are actually very easy to setup. The main advantage is liability and taxes can be filed with your personal income tax. An LLC separates you from the entity itself, so if you get sued, the LLC gets sued. At the very least, setup a DBA and get a business license. Always check with an attorney first!

  20. Stanley Clayton says:

    I guess my only question is, (and maybe it was already asked and answered but) where does the producer fit in all of this? Ascap had two categories to join under. Writer or publisher… If I’m a producer would I join under publishing?

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Stanley-
      If you have ownership of a percentage of the “writer’s share” of publishing (meaning, your name is on the song), then you would register as a writer, even if you’re a producer. Note that if you’re with BMI, they will automatically give you the publisher’s share as well, so there is technically no need to register as a publisher unless you actually have a company. With ASCAP, in order to receive the publisher’s share, you have to register as both a publisher and a writer in order to get royalties paid out for both.

      If you are strictly just getting publisher’s share, then you need a publishing company (which you should probably have anyway, if you’re a producer!).

      Thanks!
      Hugh

  21. tommy Laden says:

    Hey Hugh

    My question is it possible to sign up Ascap as a publishing and have BMI Song writer?

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Tommy. Yes, you can do that, provided you have a publishing company. However, it would only be relevant if you are a publisher representing artists that are members of ASCAP. A publisher can only collect royalties from artists within their respective PRO and is the reason why they have separate publishing companies affiliated with each.

  22. Hi Hugh.
    I have written, performed and videod a couple of songs and would like your advice on how I can make some money from them by joining whatever is necessary and releasing them onto the internet early October, but where and how do I go about this to make the most of my efforst cash wise.
    Kindest regards
    Scott.

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Scott. Sorry for the delayed response. Much of 2014 has been devoted to my artist management and consultation companies. But, I do plan on getting back in the saddle in 2015!

      The question you ask is very broad. I help artists with marketing, PR, promotion, album releases, you name it. Contact me with more details.

      Thanks.
      Hugh

  23. Bob Dresser says:

    Hugh, I belong to a non-profit local choir of about 30 people. We perform two concerts a year, each consisting of a classical choral work like Bach’s “Magnificat” or Vivaldi’s “Gloria”, along with some easier sacred music. We charge for our concerts and gross about $1500 a concert–enough to cover our director’s stipend and music purchases. We just received a bill from ASCAP for $1300 for one concert. They calculated the charges based on the capacity of the venues we perform in–usually churches. If we pay the bill, we’ll have to fold. It doesn’t seem right to charge based on the venue’s size. Much of the music we use is public domain. Do we have the right kind of license?
    Thanks
    Bob

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hello Bob. Thanks for reaching out.

      I understand your dilemma, and I sympathize with you. ASCAP requires “promoters” or those who are putting on a show to pay for what ASCAP calls a “concert” license (in reality, all are responsible, but PRO’s typically hold the promoter accountable, since it is a normal business expense). These licenses are for a “one-time” concert or you can decide to get a blanket license to cover several. Even though the “original” music you are playing might be in public domain, you have to consider the hundreds, if not thousands of arrangements of the same songs by other writers that are registered with ASCAP.

      ASCAP calculates their concert licenses on venue size in addition to gross receipts. You are responsible for reporting to them the concert information. I’m not sure of all the details here obviously, but what this sounds like to me, is that you may have not initially applied for the required license before the show (s). Thus, they went ahead and calculated the cost for you, which to me, does not at all seem in line with the ticket gross.

      You may want to reach out to ASCAP and explain to them the issue at hand. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how far you will get, but it’s worth a shot!

      Good luck :)
      Hugh

  24. Nate says:

    Hi Hugh,

    I am registered as a publisher with ASCAP. When I registered, I remember reading on their site that I would be able to work with songwriters from any of the other larger PRO’s. My issue now, is that it doesn’t seem to be the case. Many of my songwriters are registered with BMI, and when I try to register works with them, I am unable to submit. I asked ASCAP about this, but their only solution was to list the BMI’s publisher as “unknown” which actually doesn’t work. Please help

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Nate. Thanks for reaching out.

      As an ASCAP publisher, you can only register works with other writers from ASCAP. Most publishers who work with multiple writers have distinct publishing companies that are registered separately with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. You will have to register a separate publishing company with BMI to properly register works with those writers.

      Hope this helps!
      Hugh

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