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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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200 thoughts on “Repost – ASCAP, BMI & SESAC: What’s The Difference?

  1. […] If you’re not already a member of a PRO (in the USA, your choices are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC), that should be on your list of things to do if your music begins to get airplay. Here’s Hypebot’s helpful comparison of the three services. […]

    1. i am a member of ascap but a guy im working with has bmi and were trying to register the song how can i go about this? . only solution we thought of was cancel my ascap and start BMI im not too interested the switching process but does anyone have a link ?

      1. Hi there. You can register works with co-writers that are affiliated at different PROs! You should each register the song at your affiliated societies and list each other as co-writers, designating your respective PROs. Best, Julia

  2. Thanks for this article. I’m about to join a PRO in order to potentially publish my music, and I was quite confused about which one to go with.

    1. Our pleasure! If you need help affiliating with any of the PROs, it’s all included as part of the sign-up process with Songtrust. If you’ve got any more specific questions, hit us up:

      1. can you be a member of sesac and bmi together at the same time ?

        1. In the US, you can only be affiliated with the one PRO at the one time. So, you’d need to pick your favorite.

          1. Do PRO’S like BMI also help link songwriters with artists who would be a good fit for the songs they write?

          2. The Writer Relations department of BMI or another PRO can sometimes hook writers up with artists looking for songs. If possible, going to a PRO event or workshop can be a great way to connect directly with someone that can help.

        2. No, nor can you be registered with BMI and ASCAP at the same time.

          1. You can be a member of multiple PROs at the same time, as long as each PRO does not collect in any region another PRO is contracted to collect for you in (BMI in the United States, PRS for the rest of the world, for example.)

      2. im not an performer.i jus produce music and write songs for other does ascot collect royalties for only performers? I’m think if so i should join bmi thats what i got out of reading this. am i wrong.

        1. Hi Alythia. All of the PROs collect royalties on behalf of songwriters, regardless of whether they are performers or not. So any of them should be a good choice for you!

      3. Hi, I’m registered as a song writer with BMI, I want to start a publishing company with ASCAP however, would that work? What are the Pros and Cons to this strategy if you can name any?

        1. Hi Zahir. Unless you’re looking to be a publisher for other writers who are affiliated with ASCAP, then there would be no reason to have a publishing company with ASCAP. You could create a publishing company with BMI to collect your publisher’s share there, but as a songwriter BMI is already paying you your publisher’s share as well as your writer’s share. Best, Julia

    2. I cheated illegally. I faked my ssn. Yes, I put in random numbers. I’m only 15 (which is actually true), but I faked my age back in 1900 or something, and they believed me. What a bug they don’t need to fix! 😀

      1. Right, and that won’t matter because with a fake SSN, you won’t get paid.

        1. What are the steps a artist can make to start getting paid for their music?

  3. Hi.  Please help me understand your service:  What I do understand is that we can sign up with you so you are authorized to be a part of our revenue streams (PRO’s and mechanical).  If we sign up with you, are we signing up with you solely as a collection agent for the PRO’s (publisher’s share) and from mechanicals that aren’t collected by HFA?  For mechanicals, does this mean that affilitation with you is as it would be as a publisher with the HFA?  Or is Songtrust simply a registrar so we might sign up with PRO’s and other collection agencies?  If so, how do we pay your for your service? What happens if we’re already signed up with a PRO as a publisher?  Sorry for so many questions!!

    1. Hey Steve! Thanks so much for this. Let’s get to your questions.

      1. We act as your publishing administrator – collecting all your publishing royalties from ASCAP and HFA. We also collect from Music Reports and CMRRA (in Canada).

      2. Again, we act as your publishing administrator – this means you authorize us to collect on your behalf. We pay you 100% of all these royalties. You pay us a yearly fee – see:

      3. No problem! We work hand-in-hand with ASCAP to collect all publishing royalties on your behalf.

      1. Hi James, thanks for the reply.

        I’m still not clear on some things.  First of all, if we’ve already done the admin work with the PRO, give me a reason why we should authorize you to collect on our behalf. 

        Secondly, one of the reasons we would consider using your service would be because we don’t have a major label release within the last 12 months in order to sign up with the HFA.  How is signing up with Songtrust an alternative/substitute or whatever to having an HFA publishers account?

        Is it possible for us to sign up with you and not authorize you to be an admin for the PROs but to use your service as an alternative to having a publishers HFA account?  Advantages/disadvantages?


        1. Hey Steve,

          Think of Songtrust as the easiest way to register songs and collect royalties. If you’re comfortable collecting from PRO on your own, power to you! 

          To register songs and collect royalties form HFA, Songtrust is perfect for songwriters and publishers who do not qualify – e.g. no major label release in the previous 12 months. That is, we are an alternative for you – we act as your publisher and allow you to collect. Theoretically, we could collect just from HFA. 

          If you need anything further, please hit us up:

          1. Thanks James.

          2. hello my name is Selena Cordova aka AliceMalice im currently an ASCAP member for writers a guy who i am working with on a beautiful song has BMI he has bought the beat so were trying to register this song copyright it ect. but we have 2 different is there a way we can publish this song with a copyright and still stay in our own memberships ? please help onlythought of was cancel my ascap and start BMI im not too interested the switching process plus i have songs with members of ascap .

      2. Oh!  Also a couple of secondary questions:  I now see where you say you’d manage a back catalog and we’d be paying for 15 additional songs/year, so I get that.

        Next, I wonder about the Library of Congress.  I take it that you’re not involved at all with copyright registrations…? So you’re not involved with that part of publishing administration, correct?

  4. SESAC has actually modified they’re payment schedule. I have no “authority” to report changes, so contact them directly or go to to stay abreast of goings-on!

    1. Hey Rich,

      You are correct! We’ve updated accordingly.

  5. […] collect and distribute Performance Royalties to songwriters: ASCAP, BMI & SESAC (read more: Comparison of PROs). In order to collect your royalties, you must register songs with one of ASCAP, BMI or […]

  6. […] collect and distribute Performance Royalties to songwriters: ASCAP, BMI & SESAC (read more: Comparison of PROs). In order to collect your royalties, you must register songs with one of ASCAP, BMI or […]

  7. I have an account with BMI, but I’ve never sumbitted any of my music.  Right now I have one song on digital download stores like iTunes & Amazon, and I used Catapult.  I’m not sure if I can use BMI for the same song.  My digital download royalties will be paid to me by Catapult.  I have to track airplay as well.  Anyone know how I can do this?

    1. Hey Bill,

      Catapult will pay you a percentage of sales from digital retailers. BMI, on the other hand, will pay you when your songs are performed publically (radio, TV, live, etc).

      It’s perfectly fine – and advisable! – to have all works registered with a PRO. This will not affect anything regarding royalties from the sales of the master recordings of your songs (i.e. not publishing royalties).

  8. Do you need to have your songs copyrighted 1st

    1. ALWAYS copyright anything you write before you distribute it in any way.

    2. ALWAYS copyright anything you write before you distribute it in any way.

    3. Hey Erin,

      Copyrighting your songs is always a great idea. That said, you can still collect songwriting and publishing royalties without having copyrighted those same works.

    4. James gave really bad advice. While it may be possible to be paid for mechanicals and performance by a record label and PRO, you have no rights to be paid until a song is properly registered as published on a Form PA (assuming you live in the USA). Great Britain has similar practices. In other words, you can’t sue if someone uses your work without permission. Not filing properly has cost some writers many million$ on songs that later became hits. The LOC wants its $35 per published song. Pay them.

      1. I just don’t think this is true. In the U.S. Copyright laws changed in 1988 I believe. All creative works are copyright to the creator at the moment of creation. If you create it, you legally own it under copyright laws. Registering those works with LOC makes it EASIER to settle a lawsuit as it provides a written record and date at which you can show ownership (or claim of ownership). Tagging your work with name, a copyright symbol and the year it was created is always a good idea – with an all rights reserved. This serves as a warning to the world that you own it and are not relinquishing any rights in any way. (can’t be mistakes as creative commons that way, as example) But registering with LOC is absolutely not a requirement to have legal copyright ownership of your work and not registering does not in any way prevent you from suing someone who is illegally using your work. You will just have to prove that you own it in court in some other way.

      2. There are some licensing situations where the publisher will require you to let them register the copyrights. If you’re pumping out hundreds of cues for reality TV, registration may be cost-prohibitive, at least until you have a signed deal in hand.

  9.  Hi, I’m a little confused about how all this works. Here’s my situation..

    I am currently completing my first CD release. I will selling it via CDBaby’s digital options. Basically, it will be available on the majority of online retailers including itunes, amazonmp3, rapsody, and many indie sites and also available for physical sale. I own the copyrights to the music, as well as the rest (I believe).

    I have not joined a PRO yet, and I am confused about how this all works. There are 2 other musicians on the CD, but they are Studio musicians, and I have considered that they should receive a small payment based upon their work. Also, I have 2 co-producers that I am working with.

    What exactly, in layman’s terms please, would you be handling for me?



    1. Hey Steve,

      Great questions. As a songwriter, you should be affiliated with a PRO. It’s one of the first steps every music maker should take.

      Songtrust can affiliate new writers with ASCAP or BMI, plus we can register your works with other agencies (e.g. Harry Fox) who collect royalties above-and-beyond the PROs (e.g. mechanicals).

      We’re a one-stop royalty collection service.

      1. What other agencies does Songtrust register writers/publishers/artists
        with? I know SoundExchange is another important one to affiliate with
        these days for artist royalties. Are there any others? Is there a list
        published somewhere on the Songtrust site?

        1. Hi Lauren,

          SoundExchange works on the master-side, not the publishing-side. If you are a songwriter and recording artist, you should affiliate with SoundExchange, as well.

          Songtrust works with the three US PROs, HFA, MRI and international performance and mechanical rights societies. We don’t have a published list on our site, but our affiliations cover most major music markets and are growing every day!

  10. So wait, question, I first have to be affliated with a music publisher before I can sign up for this ?

    1. Not at all. Any songwriter can join ASCAP or BMI. SESAC is currently invite-only.

  11. I was a SESAC writer through the 80’s and 90’s. I had some songs recorded and royalties paid to me. I have not had any correspondence with the PRO for over a decade. I now have songs that are to be recorded and I need to belong to a PRO. Do I have to resign with SESAC or am I able to join another?

    1. Hey Lance,

      Are you still a SESAC member? If so, it might be best to stick with them. If you’d like to move to ASCAP and BMI, first contact SESAC about how to do this.

  12. I just read somewhere that you can use both ASCAP and BMI. Is this true now?

    1. Hey Mark,

      You can only be affiliated with one of ASCAP, BMI or SESAC at the one time. The exception to this is if you’re a publisher. Publishers can affiliate with all three.

      1. I have read that the reason publishers can affiliate with all three PROs is because they must register their published works (songs) with whichever PRO the writer is affiliated with. Is this true? It doesn’t make sense to me because I always assumed the same work can be registered with multiple PROs. What about cases in which a song is co-written by songwriters who are affiliated with different PROs? Can’t they both register that same song with their respective PROs?

        This leads to my real question…

        If a writer is acting as their own publisher, is there any benefit to affiliating with more than one PRO as a publisher?

        For example, I am registered as a writer with BMI, with whom I register all of my works. Currently, I receive the publisher’s share of royalties as “excess writer’s clearance” (I believe BMI is the only PRO that does this). However, I would now like to create my own publishing company to collect my publisher’s share, since my band mates and I will be splitting this income by each having our own publishing company and claiming a percentage of the publishing royalties.

        Should I affiliate as a publisher with ASCAP and SESAC as well? Can the same work be registered by a publisher with more than PRO? It seems like you would be multiplying your royalties by doing that, but of course that seems to good to be true.

        1. Hi Lauren,

          You are correct that publishers affiliate with multiple PROs for this reason. Publishers will usually set up 3 different companies with ASCAP, BMI & SESAC if they have writers affiliated with each. If co-writers on the same song have different PROs, the publisher will register it with both PROs.

          If a writer is only acting as her own publisher, there is no benefit to affiliating with more than one PRO as a publisher, since a writer can only be affiliated with one PRO at a time. As a BMI writer without a publishing company, BMI will pay the publisher’s share of your royalties directly to you as the songwriter.

          1. Mark G & Lauren,

            I say try it anyway & let us know how it goes. Cheers!

          2. Since both ASCAP and BMI are under consent decrees from the federal courts that say the practice isn’t allowed, most will tell you that “try it anyway” is really bad advice. Pick one and join.

          3. Plus they have ways of figuring out if you are already signed up with a PRO by using your IPI/CAE #. The IPI/CAE # is used by all PROs and it’s a way for them to identify you as a songwriter and to which PRO you are affiliated with. Think of it as a songwriter social security number.

  13. I want to learn more information about being my own publisher and also having affiliation as a writer.  Is it smart for an indie to publish his own work or should that process be done with another company?  What are the pros/cons and steps?

  14. Hi, I am  songwriter that is trying to learn more about how to mail in your song plays in a live cabaret club environment for royalty payment?

  15. None of them are actually nonprofits. The just claim to be because it sounds good but if you look at their fine print you’ll see that they never have been.

    1. Actually, BMI is a non-profit owned by its broadcast members who do not receive any compensation. ASCAP is a not for profit society (there’s a difference) owned by its membership. SESAC is a for profit company that recently changed ownership.

      1. BMI is a for profit. ASCAP is a non-profit. I’ve read somewhere on the internet in a comparison that ASCAP actually has the lowest operating costs which would idealistically mean they pay more artists their money. SEASAC is only about 30,000 members they are good also because they use the latest technologies for collecting royalty.

        1. None of your information is correct. BMI’s annual report is on their web site. You should read it. SESAC is bigger than you think it is.

          As to the latest technology, BMI bought the company that wrote Shazam! So that they could listen to the Internet.

          ASCAP’s reports are also on the web site. They take in more money and have fewer members than BMI, year after year.

          1. My friend, are you severely dumb? I wish I could believe you…. but some of my information actually is…

            “SESAC currently licenses the public performances of more than 400,000 songs on behalf of its 30,000 affiliated songwriters, composers and music publishers, which include such familiar names as Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, RUSH, Charli XCX (PRS), Disclosure (PRS), Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons (PRS), Lady Antebellum, The Avett Brothers, Shirley Caesar, Paul Shaffer and Thompson Square. SESAC has long represented the music on some of TV’s biggest shows including Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Parenthood, Dateline NBC, Dr. Phil, Seinfeld, and The Doctors among many others and is the PRO of choice among many of Hollywood’s most sought-after film and television composers including Christophe Beck, Jeff Beal, Danny Lux, Jon Ehrlich, Dennis C. Brown, Bruce Miller and Paul Shaffer among many others.”

            –Source: SEASAC, ABOUT

          2. How much do you actually know about BMI? Shazam is completely irreverent. BMI records royalties payment using stacks and stacks of PAPER …….. for radio stations which is a large part of their high-operating costs and licensing fees. I actually am starting to think choosing BMI, ASCAP, or SEASAC is like choosing between Pepsi or Coca Cola. However SEASAC has fewer members, isn’t public and likely has a better track record than any of the other royalties, despite its size.

        2. What happens if one submits a application to bmi and sesac at the same time for writers. with out knowledge of being accepted by neither pro? Do both pros just approve you of a application being submit?

          1. SESAC is a private society that is invite only, so one can’t really apply to join.
            Also, societies will know if someone is already affiliated with another PRO, so it’s not possible to be affiliated with two at the same time.
            If you have any more questions, feel free to email

  16. Hi we are starting a label in India and for digital distribution of tracks across various stores we are thinking of tying up with a company like believe digital. They say that they also collect the revenue for streaming services like you like and spotify.
    Will signing with them and signing with Songtrust be conflicting ?
    Also, please tell if you could help in collecting royalties from markets outside USA as well ?

  17. BMI has approx 475,000 members and ASCAP has approx 415,000. Why doesn’t sesac show its numbers. Also, how can I find out the percentage of artist genre each organization has? For example how much of the 475,000 is country or classical music that BMI owns?

    1. Hey Fransisco,

      SESAC is a private company and chooses not to release it’s membership information.

      You can get a better feel of how each PRO addresses various genres via their annual reports.

    2. There are independent organizations such as Billboard Magazine that publish surveys on market share. Both ASCAP and BMI publish their annual reports on their web sites – these contain much useful information.

  18. which is the most resourceful in helping songwriters in networking / getting professional progression especially if they have no connections and just talent?

    1. If you are in a large represented city they are both going to have writer relations departments there who will know the community. If this is your biggest concern I would recommend chatting with local reps and getting a feel for which you like best. They can be reached by phone to setup an appointment alternatively in some cities(NY, LA) have monthly information sessions.

  19. I am an indie artist who writes his own music. I have also opened my own record label and am also opening a publishing company. Can I register as a song writer and a publisher? and if so do I have to register both to the same Pro? Thanks!

    1. In almost all cases you have to have each writer’s share and publisher share on each song at a single PRO. However as a Publisher you may have multiple relationships with PRO’s. For example: Songtrust has a publishing entity with all US PRO’s (as our writer clients come from all three). A song could have three co-writers each from different PRO’s.

  20. Well I surely need some help here. I am in the Caribbean and about to release a multi genre album that may have appeal mainly to Caribbean people in the US Canada and the UK. I sang, wrote the lyrics and created the melodies for all 12 songs. A separate person created the music. The album will be mastered by Discmakers in NJ this month that have a bundle with CDbaby Itunes etc. I have already copyrighted the music with WORLWIDE OCR. How do i get paid for likely airplay and other uses of the songs – as the ARTIST, LYRICIST and CO-COMPOSER (melodies) as well as the other CO-COMPOSER (music) from your organisation if i/we were to join up with you. An epistle, but your help will be very much appreciated.

    1. If you got the CDbaby Pro package, they will register with a PRO for you.

    2. You should join a PRO in the country where you live. Google Performing Rights and your country to find out who handles what.

      1. Now between BMI and ASCAP which one would be the best choice, Plus one more question. Is it possible to Register under BMI or ASCAP under two serpent Entities (Companies) Artist and Composer: I have AndyReyy Beatz and Nili Reyy as an Artist and I am running those businesses separately how can I register them both under PRO with out them being under one Company name? Thanks

        1. Neither PRO will let you if they know about it. Both are under consent decrees from the federal courts forbidding what you describe.

          As to which is “best”, it depends. You need to decide for yourself. I’d start with the Billboard charts.

          If you live in a country with its own PRO, you should go through them. Not all are affiliated with both ASCAP and BMI in the US.

          1. I’m sorry I’m not sure if I served the question in the right form I don’t mean sign up with both Pro’s I mean signing up with one Pro with 2 Entities (Company Names) AndyReyy Beatz (Beat Production Name) & Nili Reyy (Recording/Performing Artist Name) I do desire to only stick with one PRO my only issue is which PRO Organization will allow me to sign up with 2 serpent business names and have 2 separate Member ID’s. I hope I am making since in this Post, Thank You….

            -AndyReyy Beatz Productions-
            Andrew Ramirez

  21. Hello, I recently opened an Independent Record Label and have to register with Ascap. Can you please describe exactly who to contact first? I am in Boston MA Feel free to email me as well

    1. Michael, please shoot us an email at Would love to chat about how we can help.

  22. What happens when two songwriters, one a BMI member and the other an ASCAP member, collaborate and write a song together? Looks complicated.

    1. Not complicated but you need to understand how such splits work. Each writer should talk to the membership at his/her PRO.

  23. Reposting. If two writers collaborate on a song and one is ASCAP and the other is a member of BMI, how would that work? Is it even possible? Thank you

    1. This is a quite common case. When you register the song in your Songtrust account, you would let us know which writers are affiliated with which PRO and the song splits. We make sure the song gets properly registered so that each writer receives credit regardless of their PRO affiliation.

  24. Hello, I’m currently in the process of moving to Nashville. I am a song writer looking to get my songs out there. I’m asking for a mentor out there to help me. I’ve been researching and teaching myself things but I would love to have someone with actual experience. Thank you!

  25. new to this and was needing to know..already signed up with ascap and bmi but should i register with any other pros- i writer(words & music)-singer and performer on all my own songs..and i am being played on serveral am/fm stations already..

    1. You should only be affiliated with one PRO – attempting to affiliate with more than one will cause problems. Either ASCAP or BMI will be able to collect all of your US performance royalties. If you are performing live, you should make use of ASCAP OnStage or BMI Live to submit your setlists. If your music is selling or being played overseas, you should look into a publishing administrator (like Songtrust) that can register your songs with HFA, MRI and international collection societies.

  26. […] #1 gives info on the different PRO's (Performing Rights Organizations) ASCAP vs BMI vs SESAC | Comparison of PROs | Songtrust Link #2 gives info from a critics point of view on them Why You Should Think Twice Before Joining […]

  27. We are curious if we move our publishing from ASCAP to BMI, would the same legal structure stay in tact? In other words, if an entity has 50% of my publishing, would that automatically transfer to BMI from ASCAP?

    1. It depends. If none of the partners wants a change, there shouldn’t be any. The membership department of the PRO you are joining shpi;d be able to handle the basics. If complicated, get the advice of an attorney.

    2. BMI, doesn’t require a separate Publisher and Songwriter affiliation. Your entities are one. ASCAP you must have separate entities.

  28. My wife and I are finally going to copyright and record our songs and want to do this right. appears we might need your service and not just a PRO, we are here in the USA (in the midwest) which PRO do you recommend (is there a difference?) and what are the fees of using your service at Songtrust? one time fee? commissions?

  29. Does any artist/composer needs to get registered from a PRO if he/she making business and revenue through Royalty-Free licenses of their music?

    Which society/PRO (work for International Artists/composers) would you prefer is best and why?
    Appreciate the help!

    1. It is best to consult with a copyright attorney for the answer that fits your situation the best. Expecting to receive money through royalty free licenses is too incongruous for most of us.

  30. I have a question. What happens if a song is affiliated w/ ASCAP and BMI and I want to use it. Do I pay royalties to both or whichever one the writer is affiliated with? (Can you post a source I could read for more background on this with your answer?)

    1. Want to use it how? It makes a huge difference and your question is way too vague for an answer. The PROs and the Harry Fox Agency have web sites that can help answer your question – whatever it really is.

  31. Why am I being EXTORTED by these music royalty org.when I am paying a musician to perform.They are the ones that should need a license or permit to play copyrighted songs.They are being paid to perform not me.

    1. If you are a business owner in the US, the Supreme Court decided that question in 1917. The Better Business Bureau and other independent organizations have information that outlines your rights and responsibilities under US law.

      The case that got this issue to the Supreme Court in 1917 involved a mechanical player piano playing background music.

      “If the rights under the copyright are infringed only by a performance where money is taken at the door they are very imperfectly protected. . . . The defendants’ performances are not eleemosynary [charitable]. They are part of a total for which the public pays, and the fact that the price of the whole is attributed to a particular item which those present are expected to order, is not important. It is true that the music is not the sole object, but neither is the food, which probably could be got cheaper elsewhere. . . . If music did not pay it would be given up. If it pays it pays out of the public’s pocket. Whether it pays or not, the purpose of employing it is profit and that is enough.
      -Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes,
      Herbert v. Shanley (1917).”

    2. I love it when a business owner says they are being EXTORTED by the PROs. Using someone elses intellectual property to entertain your patrons/customers is called STEALING! (Also known as copyright infringement) Does that make you a thief Jim??? What you call EXTORTION is actually keeping the art of music alive by paying these songwriters royalties for their work being performed either live, on the radio or TV/film. You are allowing this music to be played at your establishment. Same thing applies if you were using an MP3 player or CD player and blasting the music over your speakers. If a customer slips and falls in your establishment, are they going to sue the company that installed your flooring or the company that made it? No, they are coming after you and your business. Same responsibility falls on the business owner when it comes to copyrighted compositions.

      1. @Too Soon, I think what jim is saying is that he’s already paying the musicians themselves to perform their own songs live. So, they ARE getting paid for the performance of their music. Which is a fair question.

        That being said, I find it highly unlikely that the only music a business ever played was music played live by the artist(s) who wrote it and are compensated directly.

  32. Hello,
    I would like to understand if I have to own a publishing compagny ( which implies registering a compagny) to register as Publisher and songwriter with BMI ?
    Thank you in advance.

    1. You have to have a publisher. You may self publish but the name must be unique. Any of the three US PROs will do a name search for you and hold that name for a certain length of time while you join. So while there can be many members named Mark Morris or Mary Brown (the most common names in the US last I checked), there can only be one publisher with each name. Any PRO can help you with this. Some publishers use the PRO as part of the name. ABC Music, for example, can only belong to one. “ABC Music ASCAP”, “ABC Music BMI” and “ABC Music SESAC” are three separate names.

      When I joined ASCAP 30 years ago, I was asked to submit 25 unique names; last I heard, it was 100. You only need to submit the list to one of the three – they will check the other two.

      This name also goes on your Form PA (Published)

  33. I create and perform improvised soundscapes incorporating gongs, bells, bowls, chimes etc. and other assorted percussive instruments. They are instrumentals without lyrics. Should I and can I register with a PRO of my choice and which would you recommend? I do intend to eventually release an album of these compositions for distribution to yoga centers, massage therapists and the general public. Licensing is also a likelihood. Thank you.

    1. Hi Stephan,

      You can register at a PRO, whichever you choose!

      You can also join ASCAP or BMI through Songtrust.

  34. hi i am a new music producer/engineer/mixer. i am looking to open up my own publishing company/recording label. i am looking to fund a band/ or artist by providing my studio, recording services, mixing, mastering and pay for pressings and release; as payment and risk
    i would like to take 50% of mechanical and %50 performance royalty. i would like to know where to start as my artists and I are not signed up with any PRO’s. i need to know if should register a PRO(which one is best for a music publisher?) all under my publishing company and then pay them out myself, or if they should sign up themselves up to a different one.

    and on a side note which pro collects international royalties?
    i live in vancouver, canada

    thanks 🙂

    1. Art,

      It is up to your writers to decide which PRO is best. You can use songtrust to collect your publisher’s share or help your writers get affiliated with the PRO of their choice.

      Email us at if you have more questions!


  35. Do PROs collect composers’ fees that were accumulated over the period before the composer became a member of one? Or does collection start only after a composer becomes a member of a PRO?

    1. Ray,

      PROs can usually collect as far back as 2-3 years. Occasionally, we will see royalties that were accumulated from farther back.

  36. I understand that ASCAP requires that one must first form a “publishing company” to collect publishing rights. If a writer is also the publisher, and wants to collect writer and publishing rights, am I correct in my understanding that the individual could sign up with ASCAP as the writer and Songtrust membership will allow them to collect the publisher’s rights without registering with ASCAP or forming a publishing company?

    1. Hi Vanessa,

      Yes, you are correct. When you join Songtrust, we can collect your publisher’s share whether or not you have a publishing company.

    2. You understand wrong. All three PROs require a publisher. The songwriter/publisher split is always 50/50.

      Songwriters may self-publish but they must do it under a unique name; this is why you must submit 100 publishing names before joining one. The first name that is unique to all three is the one that they accept. BMI checks ASCAP and SESAC; the other two do the same.

      This is very easy to look up and a call to any of the three will confirm this.

  37. I started a record label and a year back I have artist we are doing well but I want to know if it is possible for my record label to sign up as a publisher with ASCAP or BMI.And if that is possible what should my artist do to collect royalties should they sign up as well.

    1. Hi John,

      You can create a publishing company at ASCAP and BMI if you would like. There is a fee associated with creating a publishing company at ASCAP or BMI.

      A better option is to join Songtrust to have us act as your publisher. We also collect mechanical and international royalties.

      1. im making music sending to sites for plays at this point..which would fit

  38. I’m currently a BMI registered Songwriter. I’m looking to start my own Publishing co as I work with a number of songwriters who all need help getting placements. Is it possible for me to remain with BMI as a songwriter but register my publishing company and others works under an ASCAP? Also, how to you switch from having BMI as your PRO to ASCAP being your PRO..or vise versa?

    1. Hey Lou,

      Switching PROs, in my opinion, more hassle than it’s worth. You would need to contact your PRO to relinquish then sign up for the other PRO.

      You can use Songtrust to manage multiple songwriter and help them register new works with whatever PRO they are affiliated. This would also save you time and money in creating a publishing company at the PRO.

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  40. so overall which is better

  41. So if you are a member of a PRO, what is Songtrust for?

    1. Stephen,

      Songtrust helps writers collect their publisher’s share at ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or SOCAN – we ensure that your songs are registered properly there and help organize for best collection. We also collect mechanical royalties (PROs do not collect these) from interactive streams and sales. We also register songs at international PROs to collect performance royalties directly from those sources.

      You should check out this article about 4 of the royalty types you need Songtrust to help you collect:

  42. Money makes the world go round…get it. But really? Your greed is sickening. What happened to musicians? Has it always been about the money?

    1. You sound like someone who wants to get musical entertainment for free. Your greed is sickening.

      1. Nope. Small business owner that has PURCHASED nearly 7000 dollars in music videos over the past two years. The fact that I have to dish out an additional 2300 a year to ensure I don’t have a law suit is ridiculous. If musicians want to ensure they receive just compensation then work together. Why should I have to pay 3 companies to prevent a lawsuit? It is bullshit.

        1. It is a fucking scam. Guarantee you in another year there will be four companies… Then five. When will it stop?

          1. I agree there only needs to be one, but these three companies have been around for a very long time. It isn’t like cable television channels, with 10 new ones popping up every year.

          2. Agreed. Not trying to get anything for free…I do not use Pandora, Grooveshark, etc. Just feel that when I spend thousands to purchase music/videos, I have paid enough. Getting hit with three 800+ bills every year is kind of ridiculous. Especially when I have live music 4 days a week. I take care of my musicians.

        2. Are you daft? “If musicians want just compensation, then work together”

          That’s EXACTLY what BMI, ASCAP and SESAC are.

  43. so do i sign up for bmi and ascap?? im confused

  44. I get it that songwriters should be paid for others recording their songs, for play on radio, Pandora, etc. But my HUGE issue is with PRO’s going around threatening small bookstores, coffee shops, etc. who host weekly or less-frequent open mics. Such an open mic is a way-different critter than an open mic at a club or bar that hosts music 4-5 nights a week. Neither the amateur musician nor the venue makes a nickel when a song written by his or her “hero” is played. It is an act of adulation, respect and appreciation for that artist, and perhaps a way for some up-and-coming artist to hone their craft while honoring said hero.
    These BMI-ASCAP threats have led to the closure of many such open mics nationwide, limiting The People’s potential and the creative flavor of our local communities. When I talk about this, so many people are unaware and thoroughly shocked by this mafia-like activity. Plus, I’m 99% sure that Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell would not see a penny of these fines, nor would they WANT to be paid by admirers honoring their songs, non-commercially, at open mics.
    Utah Phillips spoke of his songs “going out into the world to do their work” and sometimes coming back to him in near-unrecognizable but exciting fashion; a tribute. I would ask that small, obviously non-commercial, community-building open mics be taken off the list of “visits” by the PRO heavies. Most small businesses just stop hosting rather than pay a fine that amounts to more than they would ever make via such open mics.

  45. I’m with ASCAP only as Songwriter, do I collect royalties even if I don’t have a Publishing company?…

  46. What type of licensing do I need to be able to stream music I have on my computer?..meaning ripped CDs.

  47. I have two questions. the first is can I get a copyright on a mix i did of a song? the second is probably more important. I was looking at ASCAP’s FAQs and they said your application could be denied. Under what circumstances would ASCAP or any publishing company deny your application?

    1. Are you asking about a remix of a song that you wrote?

      ASCAP would deny your application if you provided false information, were already a member of a different PRO, or were not eligible to join.

      1. Mixing and mastering. I should know, this is what i went to college for. But a coworker wants me to mix and master a compesition he did. can i get a copyright on the mix and master

        1. If you are contributing to the composition, you can agree on a split of the song with the other writers.

  48. Hello,

    As a writer, I am personally conflicted with what to do. I do not want to sing and/or produce music or anything of sort. All I want to do is write lyrics and pass them on but still get royalties if they ever get used.

    So here’s the thing, how will that work? I’m still confused with this. If I register through Songtrust, I will be able to register for ASCAP for free but I have seen that to get my share, I must have a publishing company and I’m assuming that I would have to pay for it?

    With BMI, I will not need a publishing company to receive my own share? Correct?

    AND, how will it work? When I register, how do I just share my lyrics? Is there like a forum or something? It’s all blurry to me. I would like to know at least something before I register for anything.

    Can someone please clarify that for me?

    Thanks! 🙂

    1. Hi Bo,

      When you join Songtrust, we not only get you set up with ASCAP, but we also replace the need to set up an ASCAP publishing company. Songtrust will collect your publisher’s share for you.

      Same goes for BMI. If you join through Songtrust, we will collect your publisher’s share.

      Songtrust does not assist with any creative services and will not help you get your lyrics matched to artists or music. Once the song is released and generating royalties, we can help you collect those.

      Shoot us an email to with any more questions.

  49. I have a ? As a dance studio owner, i have pay dues to a company for copyright to use the I have to pay all three companies?

  50. I every time spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s articles or reviews
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  51. […] These three listed above are US public performance organization that collect publishing royalties for a public performance. Yes, this will pay you due to play on radio stations, convert venues, colleges and anywhere else your music is performed. The way it is broken down is the songwriter gets 50% and the publisher gets 50%. […]

  52. i’m having trouble registering my work,can anyone help me?

    1. Email us at and we will be happy to help!

  53. I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!

    1. Thanks let us know if you have any questions!

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  55. Thanks for finally writing about > ASCAP vs BMI vs SESAC | Comparison of PROs | Songtrust
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    1. Happy to hear it! Keep watch for more posts just like this one on the blog.

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    1. We put together the most helpful materials for our readers to make the most of their independent songwriting careers. Glad you’re enjoying our posts! Keep checking for new posts here, or you can follow us on Twitter and follow our RSS feed for updates on new posts.

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    1. Thrilled to hear you like our posts! We curate the best content for songwriters to make the most of their independent songwriting careers. Keep checking our site or follow our RSS feed for new posts!

  60. does sesac charge because it doesn’t say on here

    1. SESAC does not charge for services, and there is no cost to join SESAC. However, SESAC is by invitation only, unlike ASCAP and BMI where anyone can join.

  61. Hi there
    I would like to know out of interest if myself as a South African singer doing some covers would benefit fromjoining


    1. Hi, Jaco! Unfortunately, Songtrust currently only serves the territories of the US, UK, and Canada. Songtrust also cannot accept covers unless they are in the public domain. If you are a member of ASCAP or BMI, you could join Songtrust, but we still would not be able to register your covers.

  62. What’s up, I desire to subscribe for this webpage to take most recent updates, therefore where can i do it please

    1. Glad you’re interested! We’re currently working on a push notification system for new blog posts, but if you would like to subscribe to our RSS feed, you can add this link to your preferred RSS reader

  63. Hi im a songwriter. Now do i neccesarily need a PRO before i can join songtrust? Also will i gain full access to all royalties from songtrust (without splitting with a PRO) since i dont intend to join the so call PRO.. Lastly if songtrust act as my PRO, will they be splitting (50-50) as other PROs do with royalties

    1. Hi David! Songtrust will affiliate you with a PRO when you sign up if you are not already affiliated with one. At Songtrust, we act as your publishing administrator by collecting all your publishing royalties from your PRO and Harry Fox Agency.
      As your publishing administrator, you authorize us to collect on your behalf. We pay you 100% of all these royalties. There is a one time sign up fee and we take a 15% commission on your publishers half.
      Though we are not a PRO ourselves, the only way we can collect royalties is if you are affiliated with a PRO (that’s where the royalties come from).
      The PRO pays 50% of money earned to the publisher for their performance royalty, and of that 50% share we get, we only keep 15%. The songwriters 50% from the PRO goes directly to the writer (you!).

      Please email if you have any more questions!

  64. 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.

  65. Hey, Mike! The process of switching US PROs is lengthy and usually takes a lot of time. Both ASCAP and BMI do the same thing, and it’s not 100% necessary to switch from one to the other unless you’re really unhappy.
    As far as getting a release form, you have to contact BMI directly to get that paperwork. Hope this was helpful!

  66. Hey whats up? I am a musician/producer that has been a member of ASCAP since 2009! I have submitted work before but really haven’t gotten any play that I know of. maybe lack of promotions and taking on opportunities. I am currently working with an artist that’s releasing a Christmas Project this year. I produced the entire project and I have two originals on there as well. We made a contract agreement that I will receive some percentage from downloads and cd sales. This artist is also with Harry Fox/cd baby in some way. My Question is if I sign up with you, will you be able to track down all plays etc. such as BDS, downloads perhaps radio?

    1. Hi there. Songtrust is a publishing administrator, meaning we collect performance and mechanical royalties on behalf of our songwriters. Any songs that you’ve written on for this project will generate performance and mechanical royalties that are owed to you! Feel free to email if you have more questions.

    According to this comparison (which is old, however) ASCAP is better.

  68. This is also possible if they offer SEO as part of their service.
    Good providers instead hire highly trained specialists from their own country to ensure you receive the
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  69. […] Phillips uses a locally-based entertainment lawyer when services are needed. For more information on ASCAP and BMI, click here. […]

  70. Hi I’m from Morocco and I just signed up with SOCAN, which automatically asks if I want ASCAP or BMI to represent me, my songs are on soundcloud, some on youtube, others are being ariplayed by an internet radio in san diego, can I get royalties from them, and do you help songwriters/ lyricists to publish their songs, get placements of their songs in major labels??

    1. Hi Amine. Yes, you can get royalties from your music, as long as the services where your songs are getting streamed are paying the proper mechanical licenses! Soundcloud, for example, does not currently pay out royalties as the service is free and not ad-supported. YouTube also does not pay out mechanical royalties unless you are monetizing your content through their Content ID system. Also, streaming royalty rates are notoriously low. Performance royalties from these services will also be low (if they exist at all), as they’re normally payed on a blanket scale, so unless your song is a Top 40 hit, it’s likely you won’t see any performance revenue generated from the services you mentioned.

      When you ask if we “publish” music, we are a publishing administrator, meaning we register your works and collect royalties on your behalf. We do not distribute your music to services/stores like iTunes and Spotify. We also do not pitch our clients music to be cut by artists/signed by labels/placed for sync. However, Songtrust does make sure that your songs are registered with PROs and mechanical collection societies all over the world so that you can collect every penny you’re owed.

      Feel free to email us at with any further questions!

  71. I’m new to all of this. I just want to be able to copyright my songs. What’s the process of doing that??

    1. Hi Tito. You can register your songs with the US Copyright office here:

  72. I’m with Bmi but they aren’t helpful at all, I need to know how I get my lyrics out there

  73. […] a modern setting, musicians have help policing their rights in the form of copyright laws and performing right organizations (“PROs”) such as Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), SESAC, American Society of Composers, Authors and […]

  74. Hello, is songtrust available for African countries?

    1. Hi David. We can currently take on writers from some African countries. Send us an email at with your current country of residence and any PRO affiliations and we can figure out if Songtrust can work for you!

  75. […] If you’re curious about the differences between ASCAP and BMI check out this post from Songtrust that outlines the differences. […]

  76. […] how to publish your works through PRO’s and the Library of Congress is also very important. This is how you protect your creative works […]

    1. This is an oft-overlooked part of songwriting. It is so essential for artists to know their protections and fight for better pub rights!

  77. […] authorization” overlook the fact that most music licensing is handled by the major music licensing companies BMI, SESAC, and ASCAP. These organizations collect license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music […]

  78. As a radio station based in the UK which has a PRS/PPL license to play UK artists and pays a flat annual fee, in order to play artists from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia….is it required to have additional licenses for the station (ASCAP/BMI/SESAC/SOCAN etc) or does having a PRS license give general permission to play not only UK artists but artists around the world as well?

    1. My assumption would be that it’s a general license that should cover everything you’d want to play, but I suggest confirming that with PRS.


  79. […] licenses in America are distributed, en masse, by one of several performing rights organizations (PROs).  This means that a licensee has the right to access any of the musical works in the PRO’s […]

  80. Thanks for the info.
    I am from Germany and haven’t found info to this but is it possible to be at the GEMA (Germany) and another international PRO like ASCAP? Does somebody know that?


    1. Hi Philipp. You can only be affiliated with one PRO at a time. If you’re already affiliated with GEMA, there’s no need to affiliate with international PROs. Your publisher (or a publishing administrator like Songtrust!) will register your songs at international societies in order to collect your royalties from those territories.

  81. Hi,

    If I play out live and perform my original songs will I be able to get paid for performing them? If so, how is it that the PRO’s or songtrust will know to pay me if I’m not on like the top 40 or something? FYI I’m an unsigned/unaffiliated artist.

    thanks Frank.

    1. Hi Frank. You can submit your setlists to your PRO (or the PRO in the territory where you’re performing) in order to receive live performance royalties! Songtrust can help you get affiliated with a PRO, and submit your setlists to international PROs. Best, Julia

    2. Hi i just need to know which one to register with i have tow singles with songcast and one single with tunecore which one to register with to collect my royalties on itunes,spotify,emusic…….. and more please help

  82. I am Pule Jafta Motloung from South Africa i have two singles with songcast and one single with tunecore,so what i want to know is which one of these i should register with for them to collect my royalties for example itunes,sotify,emusic tell me which one to regoster with

    1. Hi Pule. ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC can help collect your performance royalties generated mainly in the US, but you’d still be missing out on international performance royalties and mechanical royalties worldwide. Songtrust can help you collect all of your royalties by registering your works with PROs and mechanical collection societies all over the world.

  83. Can I be a PRO with BMI as a songwriter and ASCAP as a publisher? I always have to make things confusing 🙂

    1. Hi there. Your publishing entity should be affiliated with the same PRO as the writer(s) it will publish. So if you’re a BMI writer, your publishing entity should be affiliated with BMI. But if you also want to publish a writer who is affiliated with ASCAP, you should create another entity at ASCAP.

  84. Hi there,
    I produce royalty free music and I have uploaded my tracks to several sites trying to make a living…
    I’m from Greece and 20 years ago I joined the local P.R.O called AEPI because I was the composer of three songs that was part of a CD release of a local artist.
    AEPI now is about to close, because as a private company owned by two corrupted business men has lots of troubles with the law (at last!) and finally these two men are about to be in prison…
    So, in my case, is there a reason to be a P.R.O. member as I produce only royalty free music and can you help me with this, as I am not a US citizen?
    Can I join BMI and will I benefit in any case doing that?
    Can these P.R.O’s track my music if it is a background music to a radio advertisement let’s say in Uruguay, or a background music to a company’s video presentation in YouTube?
    Thanks in advance for your answers

    1. Hi there. If you’re selling your music for royalty-free use, you are not entitled to collect royalties as a composer, and therefore do not need a PRO or Songtrust to help you collect royalties.

  85. […] the difference between the three? Good question, simple answer! Not much. They all do the same job in collecting your royalties. […]

  86. Hi all – I’m still a bit confused. I own a fitness studio and I don’t understand why I have to pay the PROs any additional money to play music when I’ve downloaded through the correct channels: Itunes, Amazon music etc. ASCAP is now threatening me and I’m still not sure over what – I pay to have the music on my IPOD and I pay ZUMBA to utilize the music that they send every month (legal downloads), so please help me understand – #thoroughlyconfused

    1. Hi Renee. The fee you pay to own a piece of music (from iTunes, Amazon, etc.) does not give you the right to “publicly perform” that piece of music in your place of business. The fee you pay to PROs gives you a license to do so. Hope this helps!

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