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Why Signing Up with ASCAP or BMI is Not Enough

Music publishing collection for your songs is more than signing up with ASCAP or BMI.

If you make your own original music as an independent artist, songwriter, producer, composer, or lyricist, there are more opportunities than ever to earn significant income from music publishing.

Sadly though, many artists think they’ve covered all the bases in terms of publishing royalty collection when they affiliate themselves with an organization like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC.

ASCAP or BMI is not your publisher

It’s first important to know that ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, and other associations that collect performance royalties on behalf of songwriters and publishers are called “Performing Rights Organizations,” or P.R.O.s. They are not your publisher, and do no act as you publisher. They do one thing: collect performance royalties.

Performing Rights Organizations do not collect all the publishing royalties you’re owed — just the “performance” royalty

While these services do perform a valuable and vital role in making sure artists get paid, they don’t do it all. In fact, they’re only concerned with one slice of the publishing pie — and that means songwriters are leaving a lot of money on the table in the form of uncollected publishing royalties.

 

1. You’re not getting paid mechanical royalties

What is a mechanical royalty? It’s a fee that is owed to the publisher/composer of a piece of music (that’s you! — unless you’ve signed your publishing rights away to a publishing company) any time that song is streamed, downloaded, or manufactured in physical form (CD, vinyl, etc.). This fee is owed to you as a songwriter/publisher whether you are selling a recording of your own music or another artist covers your songs.

Are you missing out on mechanical royalties from global streaming?

Any time your song is streamed on a service like Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music Unlimited — anywhere in the world — you’re owed publishing royalties in addition to the streaming license fee that’s already paid to you through your distributor. However, it’s almost impossible for you to collect all of those publishing royalties unless you have a publishing administrator on your side.

For instance, for every $100 you earn from Spotify, there’s an additional $18 (on average) in publishing royalties that Spotify owes you. Half of that ($9) is in the form of performance royalties which you CAN collect through your P.R.O. (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) But the other half ($9) is in the form of mechanical royalties which ASCAP and BMI do NOT collect. 

Are you missing out on mechanical royalties from international downloads?

In many countries, any time your song is downloaded, you (as the songwriter/publisher) are owed a mechanical royalty.

In the USA, that mechanical royalty is lumped in with the revenue for the download and paid to the owner of the recording (your label, or YOU if you own your master recordings). It’s then the labels responsibility to distribute those mechanical royalties accordingly to publishers/songwriters. If you’re acting as your own label AND you write your own music, less stress — you just KEEP all the money. If you’re selling cover songs, you need to make sure you pay the publishers the mechanical royalty they’re owed out of your download revenue. 

But in most countries besides the USA, the mechanical royalty for the sale of a song is set aside by the download retailer and paid to royalty collection societies. Here again, you need a publishing administrator like CD Baby Pro to collect that money — unless you want to spend hundreds of hours arranging deals, filling out forms, and learning dozens of languages.

It’s simple: performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI don’t collect mechanical royalties. Those royalties have traditionally been inaccessible or difficult for songwriters to obtain unless you were represented by a major big publishing house or took the step of going to each country and registering your songs with each mechanical royalty society around the world. This means there is money out there waiting to be collected — money you’ve EARNED. 

2. Performance royalties from overseas: reciprocal agreements vs. direct registration

What is a performance royalty? Well, any time your music is played on the radio (terrestrial, satellite, and internet), in stores, on TV shows, films, video games, and in presentations, streamed on popular services like Spotify, or performed in a live venue — you are owed a performance royalty.

ASCAP and BMI will absolutely collect these royalties for you. That’s why those organizations exist. But they do NOT register your songs directly with foreign royalty collection societies. They rely on something called a “reciprocal agreement.” You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.

When you sign up with CD Baby Pro, we will register your songs directly with foreign societies, ensuring that international performing rights organizations know about your songs, have all the correct data, stay on the lookout and accurately tally public performances (by which I mean any of the usages mentioned above), and know exactly who to pay.

You don’t want to leave something like royalty collection up to chance. CD Baby Pro ensures that foreign collection societies WILL know about every one of your songs. In most cases, when we directly register your music with foreign societies, it also means you get paid your publishing share roughly 3-months faster than you would when relying on your P.R.O. — and without additional fees incurred between P.R.O. reciprocal agreements.

 

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