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Repost – ASCAP, BMI & SESAC: What’s The Difference?



You’re indie. You’re authentic. You’re DIY. But you still want to get paid for your music. Who doesn’t? Admitting that is a crucial first step to a long career as a musician. And affiliating with a Performing Rights Organization, or “PRO,” is the second.

As per the Songtrust music publishing glossary, PRO’s are “societies responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast.” That means PROs track down cash for you when your music is played on television and AM/FM airwaves, through internet radio services like Pandora, at a club, inside a restaurant, at a concert, or publicly broadcast in some other fashion. These places and stations pay fees to PROs, who in turn pay their registered songwriters, most of whom are owed more money than they know.

Songtrust can help you get started with ASCAP and BMI. Find out how!


bmi, pro, ascap, sesac, publishing, royalties

ASCAP, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
Launched: 1914
Official site:
Twitter: @ASCAP
Location: New York, London, Miami, Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta
Vitals: With a 500,000-strong membership of composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers, this non-profit is, according to its website, the only American PRO created and controlled by composers, writers, and music publishers—its Board of Directors is elected by its members. “A music creator is like a small business,” reads ASCAP’s website, “and we exist to ensure that ASCAP members are paid promptly and fairly when their compositions are performed publicly.”
Notable affiliates: Justin Timberlake, Vampire Weekend, Duke Ellington, Dave Matthews, George Gershwin, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Marc Anthony, Henry Mancini
Fee: One-time fee of $50 as a writer (free when you sign up through Songtrust) and $50 as a publisher.
Publishing Companies: In order to collect your publisher’s share of royalties as an ASCAP member, you need to have an ASCAP publishing company (Becoming a Songtrust member will also allow you to collect your publisher’s share).
Pay Schedule: Click here for ASCAP’s writer and publisher pay schedules.


bmi, pro, ascap, sesac, publishing, royalties

BMI, Broadcast Music, Inc.
Launched: 1939
Official site:
Twitter: @BMI
Location: Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, London, Atlanta, Miami, Puerto Rico
Vitals: Founded by radio executives as a non-profit, BMI now boasts more than 650,000 members. According to its website, “BMI is the bridge between songwriters and the businesses and organizations that play their music publicly…BMI serves as an advocate for the value of music, representing 8.5 million musical works created and owned by more than 650,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers.”
Notable affiliates: Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Rihanna, Maroon 5, Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton
Fee: Free for songwriters, $150 as a publisher
Publishing Companies: You do not need a publishing company to collect your publisher’s share of royalties at BMI.
Pay Schedule: BMI pays royalties quarterly. Click here for more info.


bmi, pro, ascap, sesac, publishing, royalties

Launched: 1930
Official site:
Twitter: @SESAC
Location: New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, London, Nashville
Vitals: SESAC is the only PRO in the U.S. that is not open to all songwriters; instead, you must receive an invitation to join. SESAC represents over 400,000 songs on behalf of its 30,000 affiliated writers. “With an international reach and a vast repertory that spans virtually every genre of music, SESAC is the fastest growing and most technologically adept of the nation’s performing rights companies,” reads the SESAC site. Note: the SESAC abbreviation is, today, meaningless; the organization was originally founded to serve European composers underrepresented in America before branching out to become a full service PRO.
Notable affiliates: Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Cassandra Wilson, Rush, MGMT, Mumford and Sons (via PRS).
Fee: None (invitation only to join).
Pay Schedule: Click here for SESAC’s royalty distribution schedule.

Let Songtrust help you professionally register songs with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC!

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4 Royalties You Are Missing, Even With a PRO

Songtrust-International-Royalties (1)

So you’ve set yourself up as a member of a performing rights organization. Congrats, you’re off to a great start! However, there are still many different income sources that they ASCAP or BMI do not collect. Let’s find out what you might be missing.

Mechanical Royalties:
Performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) only collect performance royalties, not mechanicals. When you join Songtrust, we will register your songs with Harry Fox Agency (the US mechanical licensing agency) and other mechanical collection societies worldwide. With your music registered for mechanicals, artists we be able to obtain mechanical licenses to release cover versions of your songs.

Interactive streaming services allow you to choose the songs you listen to (Spotify, Rdio, Beats etc). Most of the royalties generated from interactive streaming come in the form of mechanical royalties. (There are also a small fraction of performance royalties that will be collected by your PRO.) YouTube also generates interactive streaming royalties — more on that here

International Sales:
Outside of the US, music retailers (iTunes, Rhapsody, etc)  are required to pay mechanical licensing societies (think Harry Fox Agency but in other areas of the world) around 9% of revenue earned from each download. This amounts to about 9 cents per digital download, owed to the songwriter. This money sits at the mechanical society until it is collected by a publishing administrator like Songtrust. If you have international sales, you are likely missing your international mechanical royalties.

International Performance Royalties:
ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are designed to collect performance royalties in the US. Songtrust registers your songs directly with international performing rights organziations worldwide and collects royalties directly from these sources. Our direct agreements function faster and more efficiently than ASCAP/BMI/SESAC’s reciprocal agreements.

Not yet affiliated with a PRO? When you join Songtrust, we will help you become a member of ASCAP or BMI!

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How To: Collect Live Performance Royalties

For songwriters and bands performing their own material, there’s an opportunity to earn additional royalties from live performances. All three US Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) can pay royalties from live performances at bars, clubs, restaurants and other music venues.

In order to collect these royalties, each PRO requires writers to alert them of live performances. Below is the best way for writers affiliated with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC to maximise their live performance royalties. Continue reading

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Get Paid for Live Shows Worldwide with Songtrust Setlists

Setlist Submission on Songtrust:
Songtrust is now the first publishing admin service to let clients register setlists from international live shows and collect live performance royalties. Every time you perform your original music in public at a licensed venue, you are owed royalties. Songtrust now makes it easy to track and collect these royalties whether you are on an international tour or playing an open mic at the local coffee shop.


  • Get paid for every live performance, anywhere in the world
  • Easily submit setlist information in your Songtrust dashboard
  • View past earnings in your interactive Reports page

How it works:

1) Log into your Songtrust dashboard and click the “Setlists” tab.
2) Select the country in which you performed.
3) Fill out the information about your show and submit the songs you played.



How are Songtrust clients using Setlists?
Songtrust clients Caspian frequently tour internationally.  The band uses Songtrust’s Setlist tool to keep track of live performances and collect royalties generated from their shows.

“International touring has become a large priority for Caspian over the past five years. They’re on track to play over 60% of their Waking Season album cycle dates abroad and Songtrust has finally given them the ability to collect their foreign performance revenue without giving up rights to their music. It’s possible that revenue from foreign performances would’ve eventually trickled into their ASCAP checks, but our relationship with the Songtrust team as well as their Setlist Submission tool have helped us turn that into a certainty.” – Mark Jourdian, Manager of Caspian


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Music Publishing News Weekly Roundup: October 17th, 2014

SESAC has agreed to pay $58.5 million to TV stations in a settlement with the Television Music License Committee, involved with a class-action suit filed against the privately owned Performing Rights Organization for alleged antitrust behavior. The suit was filed on behalf of local television broadcasters, with TMLC establishing the legal bills. The settlement will reimburse stations for around $42.5 million in excess fees, as well as TMLC’s legal fees of $16 million.  In agreeing to settle the case, SESAC has denied any violations of antitrust law, but has negotiated industry-wide agreements with TLMC for 20 years.

Universal Music Publishing Group has signed Neil Diamond to a worldwide publishing administration agreement. UMPG will provide global copyright administration for the entirety of Diamond’s back catalog as well as all of his future work, including his new studio album, Melody Road.  His songs will also be represented for synchronization in film, TV, advertising, and other media.

Big Deal Music has re-signed Dan Wilson, lead singer for Semisonic, to its joint venture deal with BMG Chrysalis.  Along with 90’s hits like “Closing Time” and “Secret Smile”, Dan Wilson has also had recent success with songs like Adele’s “Someone Like You”, Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready To Be Nice”, and Taylor Swift’s “Treacherous”.  Big Deal will represent the Semisonic back catalog and his future work.

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