Goodnight Kiss Music (BMI) &
Scene Stealer Music (ASCAP)
Aug. 15 - Sept. 9, 2000
I get a LOT of letters asking me about
affiliating with a PRO (Performing Rights Organization).
Here are a few relevant Q&A to these issues.
Today's Topic ~ ASCAP, BMI, SESAC,
SACEM, PRS, GEMA ...
which PRO is right for you?
Q. What is a PRO?
A. In order for a writer who has their work broadcast (on radio, television, etc.) or
performed at huge live venues (like the Hollywood Bowl), there must be a way to
track and pay royalties. This is done through the broadcasters and Industry via
licenses paid to a Performance Rights Organization (PRO), who in turn pay the
writer royalties (earned income) on their work.
* * *
Q. How much do I earn when my song is aired?
A. How much is paid is based on what the music is used for, how long it airs,
where and when. You will have to ask your own PRO for their royalty payment policy.
It is obvious that a hit song will be played over
and over on many, many stations, whereas a
movie usage (which sometimes pays more per minute) would earn less in the long run,
as a movie airs a more limited number of times than does a hit record. On the other hand,
I cannot imagine having a better royalty coming in than a theme for a prime-time TV show that
airs weekly, goes into syndication, and ends up playing several times a day throughout the
world for years!
Currently, my royalties from America are often more
than the same material's
earnings from China, but America pays less than the monies I receive for that
same work from Italy and France. Go figure.
* * *
Q. What is the difference between ASCAP and the other PROs?
A. Quite frankly, most PROs are
selected based on where you live. Many countries
have one main PRO, such as SOCAN in Canada, SACEM in France, GEMA in Germany,
and so on. In America, we have several choices, and you must decide which one is
best for you. Some say ASCAP, some BMI, some SESAC.
(My take? They all treat you well when they are
"courting" you. Check with your fellow writers and
see who has been treated well AFTER they signed their affiliation agreement.)
* * *
Q. I still don't see how it works. How do I get paid?
A. You sign with a PRO as a writer
(free), usually for a period of about two years.
If you think you can self-publish, you can also open a publishing company (this costs a bit).
You must have a release coming out before you can register, in most cases.
(You don't need a PRO, if no one is perfoming your work via broadcast or HUGE
arena work, etc.) Remember, it is PERFORMANCE royalties.
When a legitimate broadcast of your work is aired,
the broadcaster files a "cue sheet"
that reflects what was played. Title of song, writer/publisher, length of airing, what it was used for,
are basically the columns on the cue sheet, and these are what your pay is based on. (The
writer files his own "song clearance" forms to list his/her songs as a writer with the PRO, see
Under the writer/publisher area, the PRO is reflected. My cue sheet might read:
cue 17 - Pretty Dresses - J.Fisher (BMI) / Goodnight Kiss Music (BMI) - 2:25 - Featured Performance
(Of course this would be among maybe 20-40 other "cues"... in this case, I'm just #17.)
* * *
Q. Does a PRO help me find work?
A. Actually, this is NOT the
purpose of your PRO. They are there to help you collect your
royalites on what is aired. However, be logical. The top PRO people know many V.I.P.s,
and current opportunities. If you can create a relationship with one of them, you may glean
some of those opportunities by fallout. But it is not their "job" to be your agent.
* * *
Q. If they don't find me work, what's the point???
A. The point is, if you DO find
work, and your work DOES air, you need someone to
help you get paid. Your work must be in a central clearing bank, so the broadcasters (et.al)
know where to send the check. They do not have the time, nor resources to cut personal
checks to each individual involved in the music.
Your PRO makes sure that you get paid. They can only
track what you and your
publisher file, so register, and log your clearance forms when your releases are coming out.
* * *
Q. How do I find a PRO?
A. Lucky you, you Internet-savvy
person! Almost all PROs can be found under their
initials on the web.
ASCAP is www.ascap.com
BMI is www.bmi.com
If not, try a search engine. Almost all the sites
have GREAT information about
protecting your work, with wonderful glossaries and things to look for in songwriting
and publishing. Go explore.
* * *
Q. So BMI collects for me when someone cuts one of my songs?
A. NO. PROs collect on your songs
PERFORMANCES "broadcast" to the public.
When someone cuts your song on a RECORD, they must pay your publisher a
MECHANICAL royalty for each unit they press, the minimum being 500. You are
owed 7.55 cents (or whatever the current rate at www.harryfox.com is) on EACH
unit of media pressed, which is shared by the writer and publisher.
That is why so many independent record deals are
avoided... few artists and producers
unsupported by major industry budgets will pay you these mechanicals honestly.
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(C)2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Janet Fisher, Goodnight Kiss Music, no reprints without permission.
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