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

19 Aug



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, PROs 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!


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 470,000-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, 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 600,000 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 7.5 million musical works created and owned by more than 600,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers.”
Notable affiliates: Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Rhianna, Maroon 5, Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton
Fee: Free for songwriters, $250 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.


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. As the smallest PRO in the U.S., SESAC has has a selective affiliation process and seeks to signs writers who are professional and serious about their writing career, which they say allows for “personal relationships” between affiliates and the SESAC staff. “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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  • Yesterday’s News

    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.

    • James Aviaz

      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:

      • Unsure

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

        • James Aviaz

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

          • Neophyte

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

          • Pat Whitrock

            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.

  • Steve Cass

    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!!

    • James Aviaz

      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.

      • Steve Cass

        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?


        • James Aviaz

          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:

          • Steve Cass

            Thanks James.

      • Steve Cass

        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?

  • Rich Rolyn

    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!

    • James Aviaz

      Hey Rich,

      You are correct! We’ve updated accordingly.

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  • Bill Graper

    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?

    • James Aviaz

      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).

  • Erinjagged1

    Do you need to have your songs copyrighted 1st

    • Bobwen

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

    • Bobwen

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

    • James Aviaz

      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.

    • Mike

      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.

  • Steve Schwarz

     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?



    • James Aviaz

      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.

      • Lauren

        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?

        • Pat Whitrock

          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!

  • KyanaRP123

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

    • James Aviaz

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

  • Lance M

    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?

    • James Aviaz

      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.

  • Mark G

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

    • James Aviaz

      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.

      • Lauren

        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.

        • Pat Whitrock

          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.

          • Anonymous

            Mark G & Lauren,

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

          • Mike Halloran

            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.

          • Too Soon?

            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.

  • Patrick

    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?

  • Josephbenjaminguitar

    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?

  • Jack Chandelier

    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.

    • Mike Halloran

      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.

      • Anonymous

        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.

        • PF Slow

          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.

          • Anonymous

            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

          • Anonymous

            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.

  • Sunny Davar

    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 ?

  • Fransisco

    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?

    • Joe Conyers III

      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.

    • Mike

      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.

  • Guest

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

    • Joe Conyers III

      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.

  • Johnny

    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!

    • Joe Conyers III

      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.

  • Zret

    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.

    • Samantha

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

    • Mike Halloran

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

      • AndyReyy Beatz

        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

        • Bob

          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.

          • AndyReyy Beatz

            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

  • Michael

    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

    • Ken Consor

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

  • shipm8

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

    • Mike Halloran

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

  • shipm8

    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

    • Ken Consor

      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.

  • Brandy t.

    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!


    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..

    • Pat Whitrock

      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.

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  • EdibleNews

    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?

    • Mike Halloran

      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.

    • Anonymous

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

  • David

    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?

  • Hassan Khan

    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!

    • Mike Halloran

      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.

  • Lori P

    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?)

    • Mike Halloran

      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.

  • jim

    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.

    • Bob

      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).”

    • Too Soon?

      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.

      • gron

        @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.

  • Lans

    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.

    • Mike Halloran

      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)

  • Stephan B.

    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.

    • Ken Consor

      Hi Stephan,

      You can register at a PRO, whichever you choose!

      You can also join ASCAP or BMI through Songtrust.

  • art

    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 :)

    • Ken Consor


      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!


  • Ray

    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?

    • Ken Consor


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

  • Vanessa

    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?

    • Ken Consor

      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.

    • PF Slow

      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.

  • John M

    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.

    • Ken Consor

      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.

      • class

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

  • Lou

    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?

    • Ken Consor

      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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  • Jmello Iss MrGogetta

    so overall which is better

  • Stephen Benoit

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

    • Ken Consor


      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:

  • Willis

    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?

    • Skaught

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

      • Willis

        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.

        • Willis

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

          • Skaught

            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.

          • Willis

            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.

        • derpentine

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

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

  • lm

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

  • Nory Fussell

    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.


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

  • Pastelaso29

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

  • Trey

    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?

    • Ken Consor

      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.

      • Trey

        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

        • Ken Consor

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

  • Bo


    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! :)

    • Ken Consor

      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.

  • Nikki

    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?