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Ascap vs. BMI: Everything You Need To Know 

 May 16, 2022

By  Zen Chung

Musicians and artists ought to earn from their music; however, royalties don't just appear like illusions. Your royalty payments will only get sent by Performing rights organizations (PRO). PRO ensures that all its members get paid for work undertaken. So, being featured by Digital Music News or signing up with a Performing Right Organization like SESAC, ASCAP and BMI will ensure that you receive all the royalties owed. This guide will look at ASCAP vs. BMI to understand which you could use and what each PRO will do.

What is a Performing Right Organization?

Performing Right Organizations/PROs act as an intermediary between copyright holders and music users. PROs collect royalties for musicians in the music industry, especially when their music is performed publicly. The music business considers being played on radio stations, TV, live performances and streaming services.

On top of collecting public performance royalties and dispersing them, they also guarantee that all places playing your music have a license to do so, which helps grow your music career. PROs like ASCAP and BMI license collect mechanical royalties and distribute public performance royalties for musicians.

Having looked at the things the PRO does for music creators, songwriters and publishers, let's look at some of the things PROs don't collect for them. First, PROs do not collect mechanical royalties. However, each time your song is sold physically via CD/vinyl or digitally like been streamed online, you are still owed a royalty. So in such a case, your music distributor and a publishing company admin collect these royalties.

Again, the sync licensing fee is another fee that PROs don't collect. This fee is paid directly by the video content creator to you. Additionally, digital performance royalties are other fees that PROs don't collect for you. For instance, if your music is played in places like SiriusXM, Pandora and other webcasters stream your music, the law requires them to pay your fee.

Having understood that, let's dive in and look at ASCAP vs. BMI to understand which you could use and what each PRO will do for you.

ASCAP

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ASCAP is one of the best and first PROs. This company was started in 1914 as a non-profit organization that safeguarded its members’ copyrighted music after being performed in public. Afterward, the company finally started collecting royalties for live performances and radio and television broadcasts.

ASCAP pays the money to its artists as royalties. This organization has over 735,000 artists in its catalog, and businesses that need to access the record from ASCAP artists must pay a membership fee to access it. In addition, ASCAP represents more than 11 million pieces of music and collects streaming and performance royalties on behalf of each musician and composition.

In 2021 alone, they collected over $1.327 billion in revenues to disperse in royalties to their members. In addition, ASCAP is well-known for working with artists and songwriters from different genres, including famous artists like Leonard Bernstein, Ariane Grande, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder.

Typically, ASCAP is owned by its members meaning their artists sit on the board of directors, and they nominate new board members every two years. New members who join ASCAP must pay a one-time membership fee, which is usually $50, and have no annual dues. The best bit is that you can automatically renew your membership, and members get informed about how their payment is calculated and distributed.

Joining ASCAP is pretty straightforward, and it requires you to be over the age of 18. When applying, you will require to provide particular documents and information like your legal name, stage name, SSN, mailing address, etc. Then after presenting the application, you will get an email confirming your application was received. Usually, you will receive an update or response within ten days of the application.

Benefits Of Being An ASCAP Member

Besides being a great company with strong and outstanding track records within the music industry, they have a wide range of advantages and services for all ASCAP members. Here are some of the benefits you get for being a member of the ASCAP:

1. Wellness Program

The ASCAP supports its members every step of the way. For example, the company has a wellness program that was majorly developed for its members to help nourish their body, mind and spirit. This way, members can be fully creative and better themselves. With this program, members of the ASCAP get discounted services for gym memberships, guidance, online counseling, meditation therapy, Teladoc consultations, etc.

2. Travel Discounts 

When you are registered with the ASCAP, you will get travel discounts. Members get exclusive vehicle rental rates and hotel discounts.

3. Career Development Workshops

You can be assured that with this PRO, you will be able to grow your career since they offer a variety of workshops, classes and courses on business and music. You can learn about musical theater, songwriting, composing, music business 101, and more at a discounted rate in the exclusive workshops.

4. Licensing and Publishing

ASCAP does not stop collecting their members' performance royalties but also issues licenses to music users and acts as the composition’s distributor. So you can be assured that the entire process of royalty splits is well handled, and you never have to worry about accomplishing the dirty work yourself. 

Pros

  • Excellent Service
  • Collects all the publishing royalties
  • Artists have access to the "I Create Music Expo" and different award shows.
  • Easy Sign Up and registration
  • Discounted membership to Songwriters Hall of Fame Membership
  • Reasonable Pricing
  • Amazing Member Benefits

Cons

  • Long Royalty Payment Periods
  • Larger Cut

BMI

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Broadcast Music Inc. or BMI is another Performance Rights Organization well-known in the united states. The company was formed in 1939 with the main aim of nurturing and representing artists. This company operates on a nonprofit basis, and it has over 18.7 million works created and owned by its members. Again, the company has more 5thyn 1.3 million composers, songwriters and music publishers.

BMI’s primary objective is to track and collect performance royalties for members whenever their songs are played publicly on TV, radio stations, digital streaming platforms like apple music or Google Play, live events, restaurants, shops, etc. These institutions must pay a blanket license to BMI to legally play the music listed in the BMI record.

Again BMI is well-known for working with artists and songwriters from different genres, including famous artists like Rihanna, Marshmello, Lil Wayne, Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and many more. 

In 2021 alone, BMI allocated over $1.233 billion back in royalties. The amazing bit is that BMI was founded by people who were part of the National Association of Broadcasters, and they understood that they were solely responsible for licenses. This meant that they had a strong and influential impact, even today.

The best bit is that songwriters, musicians and publishers are welcome to sign up to be BMI members. Again songwriters can join for free, and all they require is to sign up as songwriters using their email address, and they ought to own a trust bank account that has been P

Publishers that want to join BMI will need to pay a fee of $150 for individuals and $250 for companies. The most promising part is that paying the $150 is worth more than starting your own publishing company with the money. To apply, the publishers will require proposed names for their company, a valid email address and a credit card administered by a U.S. bank.

The application process is pretty straightforward for songwriters and publishers, and you will only need to answer a few questions. If accepted, publishers will be issued with a 5-year agreement and songwriters a 2-year agreement.

Benefits Of Being An BMI Member

Of course, the main reason to join BMI is to get paid as an artist. However, in addition to generating revenue from your work, there are other additional benefits o being a member. Here are some of the additional benefits:

1. FedEx Discounts

Being a member of BMI allows you to enjoy FedEx discounts. As a member of BMI, you could save up to 25% on FedEx shipping services and up to 15% on FedEx Office products and services. There is also business pricing where your savings could save even more for bigger orders.

2. Berklee Online Courses

BMI allows its members to access all Berklee Online Courses and Certificate Programs at a discount. The amazing thing is that you will not only be learning for any school, but you will also be able to attain multi-course certificates and degrees from Berklee College of Music.

3. Annual Showcases

BMI usually has stage showcases throughout the year, and all its members are allowed to participate. This will allow the artists to showcase their talents, but it will present bold new voices and established hit-makers.

4. Workshops

BMI offers workshops for publishes and songwriters. The songwriters usually have a workshop with Jason Blume to build a block-style curriculum developed to provide songwriters with incalculable inventive tips and business counsel. Amaz8ingly, the workshop is staged monthly for all registered songwriters.

Pros

  • Provide monthly draws to help ease the music burden
  • They provide Demo Budget
  • BMI members have the option to get monthly radio royalty payments.
  • Song Pluggers
  • Keep track of and pay royalties owed
  • Discounted enrollment for the billboard touring conference and awards.
  • Networking and connections
  • Validation

Cons

  • Your draw and demo budget are essentially loans
  • You and your songs aren’t always the priority

Similarities Between ASCAP and BMI

It can be hard to say which is best: ASCAP or BMI, since it depends on what you are looking for. These performance rights organizations typically work the same; they collect royalties for public performances of music that the U.S Copyright Act can determine. The two organizations protect the intellectual property of the songwriter and offer a way for them to make money.

These PROs gather royalties from any platform that plays music in a public setting, including music played in restaurants, radio stations, live music venues, bars, etc. In addition, BMI often provides these institutions with blanket licenses for different pieces of music written by the songwriter. On top of that, they both assure that all locations playing music have a license to do so. Finally, they both divided royalties between the songwriter and publishers, allowing you to register your performances online and pay 88% of the money to the artists.

In addition, PROS are very important to the music industry, and they don't only represent artists but also offer different benefits that all their members benefit from. For example, they also offer discounts for membership with music-related organizations, subscriptions to publications, and travel discounts, among others.

Payments from the two PROs are rather similar. They both take a lot of time before paying their artists for songs played. BMI took close to six months after the quarter when the song was played to distribute funds, and ASCAP takes around seven months.

ASCAP vs. BMI: What Are The Differences?

Although these two organizations have many similarities, they also have some differences that set them apart. Fist of the two has a great difference in terms of when they were founded. ASCAP is an organization that writers and music publishers founded in 1914. On the other hand, BMI was initially founded by the broadcasting industry in 1939.

Again the two have a huge difference in terms of numbers. Bmi represents more artists and songs compared to ASCAP. BMI represents over a million members and has around 15 songs, while ASCAP has over 735,000 artists and 11 million songs.

Additionally, the ASCAP board of directors comprises 12 publishers and writers, who are newly elected every two years by the members. In contrast, the broadcast stockholders and one BMI employee choose the BMI board of directors.

BMI gets a little edge for songwriters since joining BMI is free for songwriters, while ASCAP requires a one-time fee of around $50. Nevertheless, if you are a publisher, you could opt to go with ASCAP since it only takes $50 to sign up as a publisher, but BMI charges $150 for personal publishers and $250 for publishing companies.

Again there is a huge difference between the two regarding contract time. ASCAP arrangements are 1-year for songwriters, while BMI arrangements are up to 2-years. So, you will pick whichever you want based on the commitment period you wish to spend with that company.

Another major difference comes in terms of minimum payment requirements. BMI has a minimum payment of $2 direct deposit and a $250 minimum for a paper check. ASCAP has a $1 deposit minimum and a $100 minimum for a paper check.

Conclusion

As we have mentioned, BMI and ASCAP are similar and different. For instance, their collect and pay-out royalties are quite similar, but the sign-up fee makes a huge difference. So you will make your decision based on what you are looking for.

Zen Chung


I'm Zen Chung, a piano and violin teacher based out of Plano, Texas. I started this blog because my students (and their parents) kept asking about the best musical instruments to buy online. Look no further I'm here to save the day! 

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