ASCAP and  BMI Explained !

On your way to becoming a professional artists and a phenomenon in the music industry, one of the decisions you will need to make is whether to license your music out to the public through ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) or through BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated). Simply put, these two societies give out public performance rights to ordinary business people such as club and restaurant owners who play hundreds of music tracks per day and will not need to go to each individual artist to get performance licenses. ASCAP and BMI are just the largest of such societies, with each of them having about a 50,000,000 song catalog.

So, Your Probably Wondering Which One Is Better ASCAP Or BMI?

The fight for the most dominant performing rights organization is something that has been raging for many years now, and still there is no clear answer you can get anywhere. Trying to argue which organization is better can turn into a complicated situation largely because different people have different opinions and experiences with them. To have a concrete answer, the right question should be what makes one better than the other? However, before you can accurately tell the benefits and downsides of each of these performing rights organizations, you have to first understand what they are and what they do.

What do performing rights organizations do?

Often shortened to PRO, a Performing Rights Organization is a legally registered group whose sole priority  is to collect royalties for its members from individuals and businesses seeking licenses to use their copyrighted materials for public performances. After it collects the royalties, PRO then charges a little commission then sends the remaining to the members. PROs collect performance royalties from such establishments as film companies, video game companies, retail stores, businesses such as clubs and restaurants and other event organizers.

To effectively collect such revenues and ensure that they go to the right artists, PROs use cue sheets which are basically papers that outline what was used, by who, for how long, when etc. When elaborating the differences between ASCAP and BMI, it all eventually boils down to who represents its members the best and pays them the most.

What Is ASCAP?

As mentioned before, ASCAP is an abbreviation for American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. ASCAP is a US-based organization with almost half a million members all over the US. It was established way back in 1914 by writers and composers and it is still being operated by its members. As a matter of fact, ASCAP is the only Performance Rights Organization in the US that is run by its members and board members are elected from among them.

Ever since it was formed, ASCAP’s main goal is to ensure that its members are adequately compensated for the use of their work. The group currently represents members all over the US no matter their music experience, genre or age. At the moment, some of its biggest members Rick Ross, 2 Chainz Ne-Yom Bruno Mars and Usher just to name a few.

Benefits of Joining ASCAP

There are numerous benefits to joining a music performance rights organization, but ASCAP prides itself in going the extra mile to offer a lot more than just music royalties. Member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers also get special discounts, gear and medical insurance and all sorts of services and workshops that are aimed at making better and better earning performers. ASCAP members today also enjoy special privileges such as car rentals, vacations, luxury accommodations and support from the organization when in distress.

What fees does ASCAP charge?

There is a one-time fee of $35 you have to pay to become a member of ASCAP. If you feel that this is a steep fee, remember that you are joining an organization that has been in existence for 100 years, and the fee is essentially a little fee to secure your hard work.

ASCAP’s Workshops and Conventions

If you love to associate and mingle with the biggest and most promising stars in the country, then ASCAP presents you with an opportunity to shake hands and network with their members, who will see you as one of their own. During their workshops, ASCAP gets panelists with broad knowledge and deep understanding of the music industry as well as bring you up to speed on the changes in the entertainment industry.

What Is BMI?

BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) was started in 1939 as an alternative and competitor to the then existing performing rights organizations. The organization currently has over 600,000 members and it just keeps growing. Just like other performing rights organizations, BMI essentially collects royalties for the use of its members’ work and takes a small percentage before sending the rest to the member or members. Popular names associated with BMI today include Janet Jackson,David Bowie and Kid Rock.

Benefits BMI Extends to its Members

Being a member of Broadcast Music Inc. comes with a ton of benefits including, education,
healthcare and insurance plans and financial assistance. Just like ASCAP, BMI also invests a lot in valuable conventions and workshops aimed at educating its members and arming them with the latest information to be competitive in the musical world. Their conventions and workshops are an ideal place to dress and impress scouts and to connect with established and upcoming musicians.

Fees BMI Charge

Joining BMI as a writer is free, but to join as a publisher it will cost you $150. To determine whether the fee is worth what you will get, it would be best to go to the BMI website and get to learn of all the benefits they extend to its members and find out what opportunities they have to offer to you as a musician.

Royalties: Who Pays More between BMI and ASCAP?

It is difficult to tell out rightly who pays better between the two PROs. Because the royalties come from blanket licensing fees paid to the PROs, there is no set rate for how much you can get. The value varies quarter-by-quarter with so many variables coming to play. However, it is safe to say that based on the experiences of many performers and writers, the pay is pretty much the same and they both send them out at quarterly intervals. BMI is often credited for faster payments by its members, so this could give it an edge over ASCAP for those who value timing.

How to sign up with BMI or ASCAP

Signing up with a Performing Rights Organization is pretty simple these days and it takes just a few minutes for both BMI and ASCAP. Just head on to their websites and get started. However, it may take up to several weeks or a month before you get your packets in the mail. Once you make the registration fee payment, you will instantly be approved as a member.

So, which should you choose? BMI or ASCAP?

You will have to go with your guts on this one if you are not ready to do some more research. It should not be a difficult decision to make if you understand the differences between the two, artists are often advised to make it a personal preference based on what the PRO has to offer. Note that while both BMI and ASCAP are pretty much the same thing, the difference comes in their secondary objectives. It is cheaper to join ASCAP and it offers more workshops and conventions you can attend and BMI, while it more expensive to join, is popular for the support and representation services it offers to its members.

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