A crucial part of the publishing process is affiliating yourself with pay sources and registering your songs so they can be properly tracked for royalty collection. Not following these steps means you’ll most likely miss out on substantial long-term earnings from your music.
Not sure where to begin? The following guide breaks down the basics of affiliating* with Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) and Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) so you can cover as many fiscal bases as possible with your back catalog.
*Please note that the affiliation process for each organization may vary.
What Is a PRO/CMO and Why Do You Need One?
PROs are responsible for collecting performance royalties on behalf of songwriters and music publishers whenever a song is publicly broadcasted or performed. They also enable their legal use by issuing blanket licenses to streaming platforms, radio stations, and venues. PROs distribute the income generated from these licenses to registered songwriters and publishers, depending on how and when their music was used.
Many territories utilize CMOs outside of the U.S. — GEMA in Germany, SACEM in France, and SUISA in Switzerland, for instance. CMOs typically monitor, license, and collect performance and mechanical rights for their clients, but again, generally within their own territory. Some licenses and collect for audiovisual usage as well.
But, what does “affiliation” mean? Affiliation means becoming a member with a local collection society, which is a crucial step in securing your rights as a songwriter. However, don’t forget, you shouldn’t stop there. Not when they only collect a portion of the royalties your songs earn.
How Can I Find My Local PRO or CMO?
Between ASCAP, SESAC, HFA, and BMI, the domestic market can feel like a revolving door of impenetrable acronyms. To get a better sense of key pay sources in the U.S., check out our guide. We’ve also devoted entire posts to pay sources in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Ireland, with more to come. A crowd-sourced list of copyright collection societies can also be found here.
What Are the Benefits of Affiliating With Local and International PROs and CMOs?
Let’s go over this one more time for good measure: Every songwriter must be affiliated with a PRO/CMO. PROs track and collect performance royalties whenever your songs are publicly performed, broadcast, or streamed. However, they do not license and collect the mechanical royalties generated when your song is reproduced physically or digitally.
If your local society is a CMO, they will collect both performance and mechanical royalties earned within your borders, but their ability and bandwidth for global collection is limited. This means that revenue earned from radio plays, streaming platforms, and live performances can be lost if you rely on them to handle it.
Here are some ways to get around the limitations of local PROs and CMOs and ensure your work is making money in all the ways it can:
Use a digital distributor like CD Baby or Distrokid. They’ll make your music available on global streaming and download platforms, and ensure that any royalties earned from them are properly collected and paid.
Register your songs with a publishing administrator like Songtrust — someone who registers your songs directly with global performance and mechanical societies all over the world. You can view Songtrust's global collection network here.
How Do I Join a PRO or CMO?
The basic steps for affiliating yourself with a U.S. PRO are as follows:
Fire up said PRO’s website and clarify whether you’re joining their ranks as a songwriter or publisher.
Enter all your personal information.
Indicate any previous affiliations you may have had and share release letters from them, either by email or uploading them to your new PRO directly.
Double-check your personal information.
Review — i.e., actually read — the PRO’s contact and any related terms before slapping that submit button.
As for affiliating yourself with PROs or CMOs outside the U.S. — PRS and MCPS in the U.K., for instance — here is how that essentially works:
Find their sign-up page and click join.
Indicate whether you’re a writer/composer or publisher.
If you’re already a member of another collection society, let them know where your allegiances lie.
Enter any relevant data regarding your current streams, plays and/or performances.
Make sure you have all the documents and IDs you need to complete the process, including a passport or driving license and a credit or debit card for processing any sign-up fees.
Read all the legal documents like your career depends on it. (Because it does.)
Let the PRO or CMO’s sign-up portal show you the path forward.
One last thing: When you affiliate yourself as a songwriter with a pay source, you’ll receive an IPI (Interested Parties Information) number. This identifies you as a songwriter and connects you to your catalog to ensure you receive any royalties that are owed to you.
Can’t Songtrust Help With All This?
Please note that you must be a member of a PRO or CMO to work with Songtrust. If you are not currently a member of a PRO or CMO, you will need to apply directly on the collection society’s website. To help make this process as seamless as possible, we have created a Collection Society Database that includes the PROs or CMOs in each country and territory with their corresponding information.
Songtrust is not directly associated with every society around the world. If we are not directly associated with the PRO or CMO that you decide to affiliate with we are unable to register your works or collect royalties on your behalf from this specific society directly - you will need to do so independently of Songtrust. However, we can register and collect any royalties you earn in the territories it is earning in that we are operational with. For a list of our direct relationships, click here.
Believe it or not, Songtrust handles registering and collecting not only with your local PRO or CMO (if we are associated with this society) but also with 65 global pay sources. That adds up to around 98% of the entire international market — 215 countries and territories in all. We assist with your registrations and collect your publishing royalties, too.
Download our free Global Royalty Collection Network packet here to read more about what royalties we collect, and from where.