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Why Your PRO Alone Isn’t Enough

Songtrust is often asked about how we work alongside Performing Rights Organizations (PROs), the collection societies that help license, track, and secure the performance royalties your composition earns. Some common questions include whether you actually need Songtrust if you’re already registered with a PRO and whether or not it’s necessary to register with a PRO in the first place. U.S. PROs include BMI and ASCAP, which are both open to all songwriters, and SESAC and GMR, which are invitation only.

The simple answer to both questions is yes, but it’s important to understand why both parties are so important. Let’s start with PROs…. 

What Does a PRO Do?

PROs are responsible for collecting performance royalties on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcasted or performed. Performance royalties are earned when a song is played at a concert, on a television or radio station, in a club or restaurant, or via streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.  

PROs issue licenses to these establishments and services — blanket licenses — enabling them to legally play, broadcast, or stream music publicly. PROs distribute the income generated from these licenses to registered songwriters and publishers, depending on how and when their music was used. 

Note that outside of the U.S., most territories have CMOs. This stands for Collective Management Organization, and CMOs generally collect both performance and mechanical royalties for usage in their covered territories. Some also license and collect for A/V usage as well. Even if you are a writer covered by a CMO, it is still difficult to ensure your worldwide collections are complete if you rely on your home society’s reciprocal agreements [link] with other countries’ societies, and a publishing administrator like Songtrust with a direct global network can collect for you more effectively.

As a songwriter or publisher, registering with a PRO not only helps you receive the money you earned — whether it’s from plays at a gym, concert venue, or a trendy hotel lobby — it also adds a layer of protection to your copyright registrations. PROs are situated around the world and communicate with one another to ensure that performance royalties are collected wherever your music is played. Without these organizations, songwriters and publishers wouldn’t be able to round up all their performance royalties.

When Do I Need a PRO?

The answer is simple if your music is broadcast, performed in public, or commercially released and distributed: You need a PRO. It’s important that you affiliate with one in your home territory in order to receive the royalties you’re owed for the dissemination of your music — just as important as a distributor, label, or collection society. 

If you are not affiliated with a PRO before you start registering songs, your publisher or publishing administrator will ask you to sort this step out before moving forward. Depending on where you live, Songtrust can help affiliate you directly with a PRO or point you towards the collection society’s official site. As your publishing administrator, we work directly with your PRO and more than 60 other pay sources to make sure you’re getting paid what you’ve earned in publishing royalties. 

What If I Already Have a PRO?

Since all songwriters and rightsholders need to be affiliated with a collection society for their publishing, you’re one step ahead of the game if you already have a PRO.

When you set up your publishing, your new publisher or publishing administrator will need some information about your PRO affiliation including your international IPI (Interested Party Information) number. PROs assign them to songwriters and publishers to uniquely identify them as rightsholders.  

If you’re a Songtrust client, you will need to add any songs and their information into your account that you want us to administer on your behalf even if it’s already registered with your PRO. As you add future song registrations, you’ll enter them once in your Songtrust account and we’ll do the rest. We do not replace a PRO; we do the work for you and supply you with resources to help you reach key short- and long-term goals.

Going Beyond Your PRO

Being affiliated with a PRO is just one part of a large, complex system — the part that collects your performance royalties. You need to ensure you’re set up to keep track of and collect all your music publishing royalties for all types of usage, all over the world. One easy way to do this is by working with a publishing administrator like Songtrust, since we will register you with global collection societies and pay sources related to mechanical and micro-sync royalties, not only public performance. 

For example, The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC) administers blanket mechanical licenses to streaming platforms and sends any subsequent royalties to songwriters, composers, lyricists, and publishers.

Mechanical royalties are generated anytime your song is reproduced, whether it’s through a physical release like a vinyl LP or a streaming outlet like Spotify. YouTube is also a huge source of mechanical royalties Songtrust can collect directly for you by claiming and monetizing user-generated content that incorporates your music.

Next Steps

If you’re releasing music or plan to, make sure to affiliate with a PRO or CMO in your home territory to begin collecting performance (or performance & mechanical) royalties from your music. But don’t forget to also consider how to best collect your worldwide performance and mechanical royalties.

Remember: Publishing administrators like Songtrust can register your songs with multiple pay sources and collection societies, enabling you to access multiple revenue streams. If you’re ever in doubt about what your next steps are globally, download our Royalty Checklist. Or just go one step further and join Songtrust, ensuring the worldwide collection of all your royalties. 

If you have any other questions about music publishing or Songtrust, please check out our Help Center, sign up for one of our Music Publishing 101 sessions, or reach out to our team directly. 

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Just finished a song? Use this guide to ensure you're set up to collect all the royalties your song may earn globally.

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