DISCLAIMER: Before you even consider this, please know this is a very major decision.
It may have extremely adverse effects on your payments (and your cash flow) from the society for years to come.
When switching to a new PRO, you will almost certainly lose money and you may not earn as much money at your new PRO depending on what kind of performances you are receiving. If you rely on the cash from your PRO to pay your bills and do not have backup income, this can be a very financially irresponsible decision.
Ways You Can Lose Money:
- Your PRO may have a higher or lower rate for Broadcast TV rather than Radio, if you are rely heavily on one or the other you may end up with less money
- Music Supervisors often use PRO databases as their first port of call for researching who owns what copyrights, you could theoretically miss out on a sync due to this (then again, if they were very motivated to find you they would probably just ask your co-writers).
Things To Consider:
These are all dependent on the PRO with which you’re affiliated
Membership Terms: When you affiliated with your PRO, you agreed to their membership terms. These likely included a minimum amount of time, typically one to five years, that you agree to be affiliated with them before you can switch to another society. This can also depend on the number of songs you’ve registered with them, when you registered those songs, and how much money those songs are making.
Delay In Song Registration: Additionally, you may be able to switch your affiliation, but your old society will continue to license the songs you’ve already registered with them for a period of time before you can switch those over to your new society.
Membership Fees: Some societies charge a small affiliation fee, while others don’t. You may have to pay to sign up with a new PRO.
Delays In Payment: When you switch your society, there will likely be a delay in your royalty payments, as your new PRO processes all of your information and songs, new licenses are executed, and licensees switch their payees.
Foreign Collection: Payments from foreign societies may be coming into your society at a very delayed pace, these ‘in flight’ (e.g. coming in the next quarter or two) payments are likely to be lost through bureaucracy or will take 3-4 years to untangle, if at all possible.
Things That Might Prevent You From Switching:
- If you have an advance, you will likely be unable to switch until you’ve recouped and/or your term is up.
- If you have an unrecouped adjustment, you may not be able to leave without paying it back.
Making The Decision To Resign From Your PRO:
If you’ve given it thought and understand what might happen, and have made the decision to leave your performing rights organization, prepare yourself to do some work - it may not be as easy as saying you want to resign. Use the guide below to help you get started:
- Go to your PRO*’s website and familiarize yourself with the rules for resignation from that society - each PRO differs, some may ask for a simple request on their platform, like ASCAP, while others may ask for a signed letter stating your request, like BMI. SESAC has not published its rules (and is invite only) so presumably you'll need to get in touch with your representative.
- Get in contact with your PRO - it’s best practice to confirm the resignation process before initiating the request. Find their contact information and talk to their office to make sure you have all the information you need.
- Have a plan - make sure you know how you might pay your bills in the meantime, and which PRO you want to move to. Don’t go into this blindly, be prepared and have a course of action.
- Get in touch with your publisher - discuss the options with them and alert them of your upcoming change.If you have Songtrust, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the live chat support on your account - you never know, maybe we can help.
*This article is primarily written for writers affiliated with US performing rights organizations, each PRO will have different rules and policies and your milage(or kilometers) may vary.
Whatever decision you make, Songtrust can help you get affiliated and register your songs with your chosen PRO. If you are unsure of what next steps to take, reach out to us at email@example.com and we'll see what we can do to help you through the process.
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We created this guide to answer a simple question: How do songwriters support themselves?
The answer is not as simple as we’d like, but our goal is to make it as clear, transparent and understandable as we possibly can.
Songtrust is more than just a rights management platform and publishing administrator - we’re a team of experts in the music community who strive to educate, support, and provide thought leadership to creators, representatives, and businesses across the music industry.
Our hope is that you’ll finish this guide with an better understanding of the business behind songwriting and have actionable resources to help you be successful.