Performing Rights Organization (PRO)
A Performing Rights Organization (PRO) collects royalties for public performances. Public performances include fees collected from radio stations, businesses, venues, and colleges. There are three PRO’s in the United States; BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and GMR. PRO’s collect money for producers and publishers, not artists. As a songwriter, be sure to copyright your music before you distribute it!
BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.)
With over 650,000 members, BMI members include Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift. BMI is free for songwriters but will cost publishers a one-time fee of $150. For more information on BMI click here.
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)
With over 500,000 members, ASCAP members include Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, and Beyonce. Composers, writers, and music publishers created and control ASCAP. ASCAP will cost you a one-time fee of $50 as a writer and a one-time fee of $50 as a publisher. For more information on ASCAP click here.
SESAC (Doesn’t Stand for Anything)
SESAC has 30,000 members including Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, and Cassandra Wilson. There is no fee to join SESAC but you must receive an invitation to join. For more information on SESAC click here.
GMR (Global music rights)
GMR is the newest PRO. It was founded in 2013 by Irving Azoff. GMR is an invite-only PRO. For more information on GMR click here.
PRO’s collect royalties for public performances. Therefore, a Performing Rights Organization does not collect royalties for digitally transmitted music. Digitally transmitted music includes satellite radio, internet radio, and cable music (Music Choice, Verve). SoundExchange is the only organization that collects royalties from digitally transmitted music. SoundExchange collects royalties for featured artists and sound recording copyright owners. For more information on SoundExchange click here.
Many new artists create cover songs to reach a bigger audience. This is a great strategy, but most artists are doing it illegally. To record a cover song legally, you need to secure a mechanical license of the song you want to cover first. You can secure a mechanical license through three different companies including;
- Harry Fox Agency Songfile – HFA Songfile will handle most but not all mechanical licenses. HFA Songfile will cost you $16 for one song or $14 per song for 6+ songs.
- Loudr – Loudr will handle all mechanical licenses. Loudr will cost you $15 for one song, $14 per song for 6-10 songs. $13 for 11-20 songs, $12 for 21-50 songs, $11 for 51-100, or $10 per song for 101+ songs.
- Easy Song Licensing will handle all mechanical licenses as well. Easy song Licensing will cost you $14.99 for one song, $13.99 for 6-10 songs. $12.99 for 11-20, and $11.99 for 21+ songs.
Synchronization License (Sync License)
Many artists that record cover songs, record them as a video for social media and YouTube. To legally record a cover music video, you need a mechanical license in addition to a sync license. Therefore, getting a sync license and a mechanical license is the only legal way to release a cover music video. But, this is only for YouTube. There is no way to legally release a cover music video on other social media platforms.
To Secure a Sync License for a Song, Follow these Steps:
First of all, you will need to find what Performing Rights Agency (PRO) the song is registered under.
- To do this, you can do a Google search of the artist’s name and “performing rights organization”.
- The PRO will be BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, or GMR if the artist has a PRO in the United States.
Furthermore, you will need to head to the PRO’s page designated for sync licensing. SESAC’s site has a form for you to fill out. BMI’s and ASCAP’s sites have Repertory’s that you’ll need to search through. For GMR, you will need to email them.
- BMI – On the BMI website you can search for your song. You can search by the artist, publisher, songwriter, composer, title, BMI work #, or ISWC #. Locate the correct song. Then you will see the publisher’s contact information. You would then need to email them a request for a sync license, and finally, you wait.
- ASCAP – On the ASCAP website you can search for your song. You can search by the song title or the artist. Locate the correct song. Then you will see the publisher’s contact information. You would then need to email them a request for a sync license, and finally, you wait.
- SESAC – On SESAC you will just need to fill out the form. Once you fill out the form on SESAC, you just need to submit and finally wait 4-6 weeks for you quote.
- GMR – Click “Obtain a License” on the bottom of this page. An email will open, where you can request the sync license. Then, you wait.
In conclusion, a Performing Rights Organization collects royalties from public performances for songwriters and publishers. BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, and GMR are the PRO’s to choose from in the United States. SoundExchange collects royalties from digital music platforms. SoundExchange only collects royalties for feature artists and sound recording copyright owners. You need to secure a Mechanical License to record a cover song. You can get a Mechanical License from HFA Songfile, Loudr, or Easy Song Licensing. To put a cover song video on YouTube you need a Mechanical License as well as a Sync License. You will get to Sync License from the PRO that the song is registered under. Finally, as a songwriter, be sure to always get your music copyrighted. Get it copyrighted before putting it into the public.
The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice provided by an attorney of your choosing. TuneGO, Inc. does not warrant or represent that the information in this post is accurate for all people or in all circumstances and encourages you to seek qualified legal counsel in all instances. TuneGO, Inc. will not be responsible for your reliance on any information contained in this article.