BMI today announced the highest revenues in its 76-year history, achieving $1.060 billion for its fiscal year ended June 30. The Company also distributed and administered a record-breaking $931 million to its songwriters, composers and publishers, a 6% increase over last year. These results represent the most public performance revenue and royalty distributions by any music rights organization in the world.

BMI operates on a non-profit-making basis and returns approximately 88% of all revenue to the musical creators and copyright owners it represents.

“We are beyond pleased with this milestone,” said Mike O’Neill, President and CEO, BMI. “The ability to provide our songwriters, composers and publishers with our largest royalty distributions to date proves that the current marketplace is working efficiently, a fact the DOJ has undermined with its recent interpretation of our consent decree. We’re eager to build on this success and continue to ensure that all of our music creators are fairly paid for their work and that licensees maintain full access to BMI’s repertoire of nearly 12 million songs. As of now, the DOJ’s interpretation will disrupt these efforts, stifle creative freedom for songwriters, limit choices for music users and bog down the marketplace. We are determined not to let that happen.”

BMI’s total domestic revenue performance of $784 million was bolstered by record-breaking results in its digital and general licensing categories. Digital revenue, which exceeded $100 million for the first time last year, hit a new high of $152 million, up 50%. Numerous new agreements were signed throughout the year, notably a multi-year license with Pandora, as well as deals with Spotify, Apple Music, Microsoft, Sony’s PlayStation Video and Slacker, among others.

General Licensing, which includes fees from businesses like restaurants, bars, hotels and fitness facilities, along with other income, hit a new milestone of $140 million. The category added 15,000 new businesses to the hundreds of thousands already in BMI’s diverse portfolio.

Revenue from all media licensing, including radio, television and cable and satellite entertainment, grew to $492 million, with cable and satellite entertainment accounting for the largest portion of BMI’s domestic revenue for the third consecutive year. International revenues came in at a strong $276 million, despite significant economic challenges overseas resulting in lower foreign exchange rates. While down 5% year to year in U.S. dollars, BMI’s international revenues would have exceeded last year’s performance by $14 million had it not been for the strengthening dollar.

BMI processed more than one trillion audio performances this year, over 950 billion of which were digital, a 45% increase from last year.


I received an email this morning from a reader. He asked, “If SoundExchange was designated by the Library of Congress as the sole PRO to administer public performance licenses and also collect public performances fees for Sound Recording Company Owners, then why do artists still utilize the services provided by the other 3 US PROs (ASCAP / BMI) – is [SoundExchange] not sufficient by itself?”

A lot of indie artists are confused about the difference between ASCAP, BMI and SoundExchange. I’ll attempt to break down the most important differences between these groups and elaborate towards the end about other considerations and other royalty collection entities. Feel free to comment with any questions (or corrections).

Traditional performance royalties vs. digital performance royalties
ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) are US public performance organizations (PROs) who collect publishing royalties (performance royalties) for the PUBLIC PERFORMANCE of musical works as stipulated by the U.S. Copyright Act. This includes fees paid by radio stations, businesses, restaurants, concert venues, bars, nightclubs, sports arenas, bowling alleys, malls and shopping centers, amusement parks, colleges & universities, etc. for performing music in the public (within the confines of their establishment). These monies are paid to ASCAP, BMI for a blanket public performance license that grants the licensee (the business) permission to allow music to be performed in their environment (this includes music over speakers and music performed live by an artist). The license fees paid to ASCAP and BMI  are passed on to the copyright owners in the musical works (song) — PUBLISHERS (50%) and SONGWRITERS (50%) — as performance royalties for musical works.


[Editor’s note: ASCAP considers the publisher’s share and songwriter’s share to each be 50% of total performance royalties. BMI talks about these same splits as 100% for the publisher and 100% for the songwriter. It gets a little confusing, but they’re essentially talking about the same money split up in exactly the same way. It’s just that ASCAP uses percentages that are based on total performance royalties (thus 50/50), while BMI splits those halves FIRST, and then distributes 100% of each half to the appropriate entities.]

SoundExchange is a US public performance organization (PRO) who collects royalties for DIGITAL PUBLIC PERFORMANCE of sound recordings stipulated by the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recording Act of 1995 and Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

[Editor’s note: SoundExchange only collects these digital performance royalties for NON-interactive streaming (the kind where a DJ, algorithm, or other outside force is determining exactly what you hear).]

This includes fees paid by music service providers (MSPs) to stream music over satellite (SiriusXM), internet (Pandora, Rhapsody), cable (Music Choice, Verve) and other digital means as stipulated by law.

[Editor’s note: Spotify, iTunes Radio, and Rdio have struck deals with labels and distributors to pay digital performance royalties directly to rights holders — thus bypassing SoundExchange. But again, digital performance royalties are only owed for non-interactive streams which occur within those services’ radio-like features, NOT in their on-demand capacities.

These fees are paid to SoundExchange for a digital statutory license, under sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act, to stream sound recordings. The license fees paid to SoundExchange are passed on to copyright owners in the sound recording (master) — RECORD LABEL (50%), FEATURED ARTIST (45%), and NON-FEATURED ARTISTS (i.e. background vocalist, session musicians, etc.) (5%) — as digital statutory royalties for sound recordings.


Things to know…
* With some exceptions (mostly political) ARTISTS do not receive performance royalties in musical works (ASCAP/BMI) unless they wrote the song. So, Rihanna does not earn performance royalties in musical works when she performs “Stay” or when you listen to it on the radio or in a coffee house.

* With some exceptions (mostly political) SONGWRITERS do not receive digital statutory royalties in sound recordings (SoundExchange) unless they also recorded the song with their vocals. So, Diane Warren does not earn digital statutory royalties in sound recordings when you hear any of the songs she wrote for Whitney Houston, Enrique Iglesias, Faith Hill (and the list goes on) on Pandora or iTunes Radio. [Update: However, Diane Warren does earn public performance royalties in the musical works (ASCAP/BMI/SESAC) for these transmissions (Thanks Professor Surmani of the Masters of Artists in Music Industry Administration program at CSUN for catching this misleading omission!).]

* Pandora, Rdio, iTunes Radio, Spotitfy, etc. must pay both ASCAP, BMI public performance fees for musical works AND digital performance fees for sound recordings.

[Editor’s note: Though, as stated earlier, Spotify, Rdio, and iTunes Radio bypass SoundExchange to pay digital performance royalties directly to labels and distributors on behalf of rights holders.]


Terrestrial radio stations, such as KISS FM, only have to pay ASCAP, BMI, SESAC public performance fees for musical works, but not SoundExchange digital performance fees for sound recordings because of special stipulations in the US Copyright Act for broadcast radio. This is part of the reason why Pandora wants to reduce the royalties it pays.

[Editor’s note: However, many terrestrial radio stations also have digital broadcasts or offer alternative playlists on a counterpart digital station. Those stations DO have to pay digital performance royalties to SoundExchange for those non-interactive streams.]

There are lots of other sound recording royalties (besides the digital royalties collected by SoundExchange) that are collected on behalf of featured recording artists, non-featured artists (ie. background or session vocalists), instrumental musicians, etc. They include:

* sound recording revenue (also known as DART royalties, which stands for Digital Audio Recorders and Tapes) generated from the U.S. Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 (AHRA). Manufactures and importers of audio home recording devices (such as tape recorders) and audio home recording media (such as black CDs) pay a royalty to the Copyright Office;

* sound recording revenue generated from reciprocal Private Copy agreements with numerous foreign collectives in countries that also have legislation providing these royalties such as: Japan, the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany, Latvia, and Estonia, just to name a few;

* sound recording revenue from record rentals remuneration from Japan, where sound recordings are rented in much the same manner DVDs are rented here in the U.S.;

* sound recording revenue generated digital public performance from the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 (DPRA) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) paid to SoundExchange (as discussed above);

* sound recording revenue generated from a treaty with AIE, Sociedad de Gestión – the Spanish Rights Collective. The Audiovisual Division of the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund (established in 2010) distributes payments collected from any television show or motion picture that is broadcast on Spanish television and contains the performance of an AFM or SAG-AFTRA vocalist;

* sound recording revenue collected by the Symphonic Royalties division of the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, which are royalties for performers on Symphonic sound recordings, including musicians and singers of an orchestra.

* sound recording revenue from master use licenses between record companies and film/TV production companies (TV shows, movies, and web series), advertisers (commercials and products), video games; and

* sound recording revenue from compulsory mechanical licenses for sample use in other songs, copies and re-distribution, and ringtones.

There are lots of other musical works royalties (besides the public performance royalties collected by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC) that are collected on behalf of songwriters, music producers and publishers:

* publishing revenue from synchronization rights of music to film/TV, video games, or commercial. (Collected by publisher);

* publishing revenue from lyric print rights used in music apps, books and magazines, apparel, websites (like the lyric websites), or sheet music (such as (Collected by publisher);

* publishing revenue from compulsory mechanical licenses for record labels or indie artists to record and distribute music works (such as going a song placed with a major artist or an indie artist doing a cover of a song previously performed by a major artist) whether posted on YouTube or sold on a CD. (Collected by Harry Fox Agency);

* publishing revenue from DART royalties from Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 distributed to the Music Publishers Subfund and Writers Subfund (collected by Copyright Office);

* publishing revenue from public performance via ASCAP, BMI (Note: A songwriter can only be registered to one of these guys);

* publishing revenue from foreign monies via sub-publishing agreements and other licensing arrangements in foreign territories. (Collected by PROs, publishers and other collecting entities depending on the nature of the royalties and legislation);

* publishing revenue from hundreds of other licensing sources (collected by PROs, publishers and other collecting entities depending on the nature of the royalties and territory)

header_brooks-yearwood-timberlakeThe 2015 ASCAP Country Music Awards

The ASCAP Country Music Awards were held last night in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Kicking off CMA Awards week in Music City, the event brought out top country hitmakers and other luminaries including former President Jimmy Carter and pop star Justin Timberlake, on hand to honor friend and ASCAP Voice of Music Award winner Trisha Yearwood. The country music icon and lifestyle maven was honored in song by performances from Lady Antebellum (“Walkaway Joe”), Reba McEntire (“The Song Remembers When”), and husband Garth Brooks’ daughter, Allie Brooks (“She’s in Love with the Boy”).

Image 11-3-15 at 3.07 PM

Top songwriters Dierks Bentley, Eric Paslay, Maddie & Tae and more picked up their awards for writing some of the biggest country songs of the past year. We heard performances from Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley, whose live renditions of two of his six top-performing songs of 2014 featured country music superstar Luke Bryan (“Play It Again” and “I See You”). 2014’s top breakout artist Sam Hunt collected two “of the year” trophies: he was named Songwriter-Artist of the Year and earned the Song of the Year prize alongside co-writer Josh Osborne for their hit, “Leave the Night On,” which they also performed. Warner/Chappell took home Publisher of the Year honors with 17 award-winning songs.


So one afternoon you sat down and wrote a simple four-chord song and made a rough recording on your home hard-disk multi-track. You sent it to a friend who liked it, and the next thing you know, a top artist heard it and fell in love. They want it for their next album. A few months later, the song is on the radio and it’s a hit. You’ve won the jackpot.


Suddenly, as if from nowhere, your mailbox is being stuffed with large, thick envelopes from various companies. Who are they? What do they want? There seem to be hundreds of them and they all have thick forms and legal documents for you to fill out. You’re hearing from record companies, performance rights organizations, publishing companies, promotion companies … It is staggering how many companies are associated with a marketable song.

All right, so the above example is a bit oversimplified, although I have seen songwriters with successes almost that dramatic. The point I’m making is that most artists and songwriters are at first unaware of the amount of paperwork and legal documentation that goes into the simple four-chord song they wrote and produced in their living room. Here is a basic list of some of the main companies and what they do. They are the entities we speak of when we speak of “the music industry.”

Record Companies
Record companies are in the business of making bets. Every band they sign requires an outlay of cash. If it’s a major label or a major-owned indie, it could be anywhere from $200,000 to $2,000,000 per act. If it’s an independent, the tab is usually no more than $50,000. In essence, record companies are really banks that specialize in lending money to musicians. The idea that a record company gives an artist money is the most common misconception among new artists. In reality, record companies loan the artist money.

When you read about an artist getting a one-million-dollar recording contract, it means that the record company offered to loan that artist up to a million dollars over the course of the contract. The artist is expected to pay it back out of the royalties that their record earns.

Aside from loaning money, record companies offer promotional and distribution services to a recording artist. These services can range from merely supporting distribution for an already finished record, usually for about 25% of the artist’s profit, all the way to the other end of the spectrum of financing the recording of the record and then promoting and supporting its distribution. For this, the take is generally up around 90% of the proceeds from record sales.

Production Companies
These operate in one similar way as record companies – they invest in talent – and one vital way that they do not, in that they do not have a specific distribution contract with a distributor to get their recordings into a retail environment. This is no small exception – if you can’t get the records in front of customers, you usually can’t sell very many of them.
Production companies, which I sometimes call “vanity labels” or “three-deep labels,” are usually owned by producers or recording studios. They sign artists and produce demos and shop them in hopes of getting the artist a record deal.
Many production companies dream of being record companies and often seek an affiliation with a major label or distributor to handle their product. But don’t be fooled. Unless the production company has secured a distribution contract with a legitimate distributor or has found a way to independently release their recordings, they are no more capable of selling records en masse than you or I.

Publishing Companies
The role of the publishing company is easy to comprehend, even if publishing deals themselves are not. Simply put, publishing companies control and safeguard the copyright by dealing with the complex renewal regulations, and they collect the money that is due to the songwriters whose copyrights they acquire. They also litigate on behalf of their authors in case of infringement, and they shop your songs to various other companies to use in movies, commercials, TV shows, and so on.
In exchange for these services writers agree to hand over the copyright of their songs and receive a percentage of whatever the songs earn – usually about 50%.

If you’ve written a song that is going to be released on a major record label, you are going to make money. Because the Copyright Act of 1976 requires record companies to pay for the use of a song on a record. The rate labels have agreed to pay is called the “compulsory rate” (sometimes called the “statutory rate”). It is paid to each author who writes a song that’s on any record they distribute. As of January 2006 the rate is 9.1¢ per song for each record distributed.

So, to continue our mock example, you wrote a song that will now be on a big record. The record company agrees to pay the owner of the copyright a compulsory licensing fee of about 9¢ for each song on a record, and for each record sold. A million-seller has huge potential.

The publishing company sees an opportunity to collect some easy coin, so they will try to make a deal to collect writers’ royalties, since writers seldom want to go to the trouble of pounding the phones and hiring accountants to do this nasty work themselves. The publishing company will also negotiate and collect the synchronization license fees for a song. A synchronization license is the fee that a movie or television company pays for the right to use the song as part of the soundtrack in a film or TV show. These fees can be quite high.

For the use of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” in the movie Groundhog Day, the film’s producers paid the song’s publishers $80,000. Not bad. In recent years publishing companies have found new sources of revenue in “clearing samples.” Samples are the small sound bits used mostly in rap and R&B to make up pieces of the groove of a song. The publishing company owns the rights to the songs embodied in the samples, so they can negotiate a fee for use of the sample in a new song. Then there are ringtones, a revenue stream worth about $1 billion a year to publishers.

As an artist or writer, you may be asking yourself, “Why do I need this?” Well, you may not. Starting in the ’60s, many artists who wrote their own material realized that they were giving up 50% of their money to a service that they didn’t require, because they were the artist recording the material. Why hire a company to sell the material to others? They began to make publishing arrangements directly with the record companies. In order to compete with this new trend, publishing companies started handing out big advances to new artists, as high as $1,000,000 for a new act; superstar writers can get five times that amount. In fact, this still is a common practice. But still, why would an artist accept any amount of money to give away 50% of their music when they don’t have to?

Over the past few years, in an attempt to compete directly with publishing companies, several entities have sprung up that will gladly collect a songwriter’s (or publisher’s) money and enforce his rights for a mere 10%. They call themselves copyright administration companies. They don’t generally shop songs (but most publishing companies don’t do that either these days) nor do they give you large advances. But if you haven’t tied up your administration rights with a standard publishing deal when luck strikes and one of your songs is placed in a major project, signing with one of these has huge advantages. You retain most of your rights, and these companies perform most of the same services that you would expect from a publisher. Some of these companies also administrate the copyrights of sound recordings, something traditional publishing companies do not do as yet.
The one type of revenue that publishing companies and copyright administration companies let others collect for them are performance royalties – that is, the royalty that the writer/publisher of a song gets each time that song is performed publicly on media like radio or network TV.

In the music business, “perform” has a unique definition that goes beyond the normal use. When you see a musician play a song live on TV, you’re obviously watching a performance. But did you know that when a DJ spins a record in a club, what you’re hearing is a “performance” as well, even though it’s originating from a machine? This also goes for cover bands playing at weddings, as well as jukeboxes in bars, DVDs, turntables in nightclubs, and any other type of music that is experienced in a “for profit” public place.
So, yes, the common interpretation of law says that each time a radio station plays a song for its hundreds of thousands of listeners or a DJ spins a mix in your favorite dance club, the writer should get paid a few pennies for the “performance.” If the song is a hit, this can add up to quite a few pennies. But how can you ever know how many times each station or club plays a song, or how many wedding bands are turning your cool hit into “the bride cuts the cake”?

Performing Rights Organizations
Enter the PROs, that is, the performing rights organizations: ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. (Also called “Societies.”) In the United States, they represent the writers, the little guy out there trying to make a buck in the super-duper Big Brother environment of the broadcast industry.

These three companies monitor clubs, venues, theaters, and the airwaves and keep track of who plays what and how many times. They collect performance fees (which vary according to the approximate listenership of each station or size of each venue) and distribute this money to the writers who are registered with them. Because the costs of negotiating millions of transactions would be prohibitive, a system has evolved using these societies in similar ways that unions represent laborers with collective bargaining. Each society negotiates a “blanket license” (kind of like a set annual payment) that permits broadcasters and venues to play music by its members.

Since you cannot belong to more than one PRO at a time, and since hit songs earn a ton of cash, these organizations compete fiercely for membership. The rivalry between ASCAP and BMI has filled the pages of several other books, all worth reading before you venture into joining either. To attract members, each sometimes offers cash advances to a new artist/writer who just signed a big deal (although they “officially” deny this practice), and each also boasts about its unique monitoring system. BMI’s pitch is that they have the largest membership in the world.

But there is currently much debate over how fair the systems for ASCAP and BMI are because to some it seems as though the payouts favor certain writers or types of music. SESAC has managed to dodge this bullet for the moment, since they use an “objective” computerized monitoring system – but it is likely that they, too, will be under scrutiny soon as their membership grows.
There are other PROs in other countries. In fact, each European, Asian, and South American country has its own versions of ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, but you need not concern yourself with them. For those with international hits originating in the U.S., the three main PROs mentioned above will attempt to collect from each of the smaller ones in the individual countries.

Due to the internet, a new type of PRO designed strictly for collecting the performance royalties for digitally streamed sound recordings has been created. These days “digital streaming” means through the internet and over satellite radio. Why is this new? Well, in the U.S., sound recordings were never paid a royalty when publicly “performed.” That means, in simple terms, when a song played on the radio, the songwriter made a royalty, but the people who own the sound recording of that song made zilch. This includes the record company and the artist who performs the song. Hard to believe, but true. (In Europe and Australia both the song and the sound recording of the song are subject to performance royalties).

However, a new statute that allows for the collection of royalties from “digital sources” has opened up a fresh revenue stream for artists and their labels. This royalty is supposed to be split between the artist, the label, and the collective other musicians who played on the record in a 50%/45%/5% split, respectively. (The musician’s share actually gets paid to the musician’s union, the AFM, which supposedly distributes it to members using its own formulas.

While it’s true that so far the only sources for earning “digital sound recording performance royalties” are things like internet steaming/downloads and Internet and satellite radio, it’s a given that in the not-too-distant future many forms of transmissions (and distribution) will be digital, and thus we will see artists making additional money from these “performances” of their records. Examples might be the digitally “beaming in” of music to restaurants and stadiums, as well as cell phone ringtones and many other mediums.

Unlike PROs, who collect royalties for non-digital performances, wherein you have a choice of ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, there is only one PRO to collect this new money: SoundExchange. SoundExchange collects and distributes millions of dollars a year to artists and labels. They have approximately 31,000 artist accounts and approximately 3,500 independent labels as well as the majors. In 2007 they took in $141,546,442 and for 2008 gross revenue is projected to be $154,260,000. Since they claim that their overhead is only about 7%, that means that over 93% of all this new money is getting split between artists and their labels.


The Library of Congress handles all copyright applications through the Copyright Office. Beginning in mid-2008, the most current form for song registration isonline Form CO, although the old forms for song registration – Form PA (Performing Arts) and Form SR (Sound Recording) – may still be requested and used.

Advantages of filing a copyright registration using online Form CO include:

  • Lower filing fee of $35 for a basic claim;
  • Fastest processing time;
  • Online status tracking;
  • secure payment by credit or debit card, electronic check, or Copyright Office deposit account;
  • the ability to upload recordings directly into eCO as electronic files.

 Before using the service, we recommend you first read eCO TipseCO FAQs, or eCO Tutorial (PowerPoint) eCO Tutorial (PDF).

The two alternate methods to the online Form CO application for song registration include:

1) Registration with Fill-In Form CO

The next best option for registering basic claims is the new fill-in Form CO, which replaces Forms PA and SR. Using 2-D barcode scanning technology, the Office can process these forms much faster and more efficiently than paper forms completed manually. Simply complete Form CO on your personal computer, print it out, and mail it along with a check or money order and your deposit. The fee for a basic registration on Form CO is $50.

2) Registration with Paper Forms

Paper versions of Form PA (performing arts works, including motion pictures); Form SR (sound recordings) are still available. The fee for a basic registration using one of these forms is $65 payable by check or money order. Form CON (continuation sheet for applications) is also still available in paper. These paper forms are not accessible on the Copyright Office website; however, staff will send them to you by postal mail upon request.

Remember that online registration through eCO and fill-in Form CO (see above) can be used for the categories of works applicable to Forms PA and SR. Form eCO was created in 2008 to replace and consolidate forms PA and SR. For personal assistance call (202) 707-3000 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. CST.

If you want to determine the copyright ownership of a specific musical work, you can search the Library of Congress’ online registration catalog for works registered since 1978. Contact the Library of Congress at (202) 707-6850 for additional information and fees.

To determine the current publisher of a song, contact the Research and Information Department of BMI at (212) 586-2000 or ASCAP’s Clearance Express (ACE)at (212) 621-6160. You must know the song title and name of the songwriter(s) prior to contacting either of these performing rights organizations. Publishing information for some of the songs contained in their repertoire is available online.


Performing Rights Affiliations

Mike Doyle, Membership Relations
2 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 742-5000; (800) 492-7227, (800) 910-7347; fax (615) 742-5020

Mark Mason, Director of Writer/Publisher Relations
10 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 401-2000; fax (615) 401-2707

Tim Fink, Associate Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations
55 Music Square East
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 320-0055; fax (615) 321-6290

Mechanical Royalties and Licensing

If you are a publisher (representing songwriters whose work has been licensed by record labels, online music services, ringtone companies, etc.) and are interested in affiliating with an agency to collect your mechanical royalties, or are a record company or other licensee that would like to request a license, contact:

Harry Fox Agency
711 Third Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017
(212) 834-0100; fax (212) 953-2384

Harry Fox Agency en Español has answers to frequently asked questions regarding HFA and music licensing, along with a direct email,, which goes directly to the company’s Latin Licensing agents.
Contacto e español:
Isabel Mayoral
(212) 922-3290

To request a license, contact the Client Services Department at (212) 834-0100. Additional organizations and businesses administer song catalogs; contact theTexas Music Office for a list of other administrators.


Digital Performance Royalties

SoundExchange is the first organization designated by the U.S. Copyright Office to collect digital performance royalties for featured recording artists, sound recording copyright owners (SRCOs) and non-featured artists when their sound recordings are performed on cable, Internet (non-interactive streaming) and satellite radio.

SoundExchange is an independent nonprofit performance rights organization that currently represents over 800 record companies, their 3000+ labels and thousands of artists united in receiving a fair price for the licensing of their music in a new digital world. Members include both signed and unsigned recording artists and small, medium and large independent record companies, as well as the major label groups and artist-owned labels. For membership information and a step-by-step guide on how to join, please go to

Sound Exchange
1330 Connecticut Avenue, Northwest Suite 330
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 828-0120; fax: (202) 833-2141

The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which can be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) recommends that all music producers use ISRC. The ISRC system is the key to royalty collection for recordings in the digital information age.

ISRC can be put into operation without requiring special investment in equipment or technologies. For further information about the ISRC system, please contact:

1025 F Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 775-0101, Fax: (202) 775-7253
isrc [at]
Point of contact: Erik Liederbach


The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is the federal office that grants trademarks (such as to band names, instrument names, company names, etc.). A trademark protects a name, a design or a logo for goods and services.

To register a nationwide trademark, download an application from the PTO website at You can also order an application from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by calling (703) 308-9000 or (800) 786-9199. Ask for their brochure entitled, Basic Facts About Registering a Trademark. The brochure includes the application forms and all the necessary information on registering your service mark and/or trademark. The application must include: a drawing of the word or symbol being trademarked; three examples of its use (such as newspaper clippings or a press release); the completed application form; a self-addressed stamped envelope for return receipt of your serial number; and the $375 fee.

You can now research whether or not your band/company name is available to be trademarked by accessing TESS, the Trademark Electronic Search System.

The Texas trademark procedure mirrors the federal process, except that you may not register a Texas trademark until you have actually used the mark in business, and the fee is $50. To order the application forms for Texas trademark registration, contact the Secretary of State at (512) 463-5576 or (800) 735-2989, or download the forms from the office website at

Note: While you are waiting for approval of your mark, document your use of the band’s name through club listings, advertising, and any other evidence of your usage. Keeping a record will help you establish your rights in the name prior to official registration.

You can search federally registered trademarks at the following Patent and Trademark Depository libraries (searches must be done in person; this system does not include state, international or unregistered marks):
University of Texas at Austin, McKinney Engineering Library 512-495-4511
Texas A&M University, Evans Library, College Station 979-845-5741
Dallas Public Library, Central Branch, 214-670-1468
Texas Tech University Library, Lubbock 806-742-2282
Rice University, Fondren Library, Houston 713-348-5483

Filing An Assumed Name

You may file a request to receive an Assumed Name Certificate (also referred to as filing a DBA, i.e., Doing Business As) at any one of the 254 county courthouses in Texas. To apply, contact the County Clerk’s office in the county in which you maintain an office. If your business does not have an office, then you must file a DBA in every county in which you do business.

Filing Articles of Incorporation

The Texas Office of the Secretary of State is the agency which grants charters for the following types of business entities: Corporations, professional associations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, registered limited liability partnerships, non-profit corporations, and assumed names for those entities. The Secretary of State also registers state trademarks and service marks.

For more information, contact:
Office of the Secretary of State
Statutory Filings Division
P.O. Box 13697, Austin, TX 78711
(512) 463-5555

Obtaining Universal Product Codes (UPC)

Applications for a Universal Product Code (also called Bar Codes) are obtained through contacting
7887 Washington Village Drive, Suite 300, Dayton, OH 45459
(937) 435-3870; fax (937) 435-7317.

The fee is determined by the number of unique products a company needs to identify and as well as gross sales revenue. The Council assigns only the first six digits of your UPC; applicants are responsible for assigning the remaining five digits, and for having their bar codes printed.





ASCAP Plus Awards is available to writers who received less than $25,000 in domestic performance royalties in the previous calendar year. On an annual basis, eligible writer members must confirm all of their works are registered with ASCAP, activate direct deposit and then submit an application using the “Apply” button below. For more information about ASCAP Plus Awards, please visit

Email me if you need assistance or have questions. You must be an ASACP member.




BMI Unsigned Urban Showcase: Atlanta
Warner Bros. Records rapper Curren$y will headline BMI’s 15th Annual Unsigned Urban Showcase, being held at Terminal West (887 West Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA). G.O.O.D. Music’s Teyana Taylor will co-host the event alongside BMI Director, Writer/Publisher Relations Byron Wright. Doors open at 8 p.m.; the show begins at 9 p.m.

Aspiring artists from all urban genres, including r&b, rap and hip-hop, applied for the opportunity to perform at this lauded, star-spotting annual showcase. Four finalists were selected to compete in front of a panel of music industry heavyweights, including top executives, artists, producers, managers and attorneys.

Open to the public; attendees must be at least 18 years of age with valid identification. Tickets are $20 and are available for purchase by clicking here.


Los Angeles
Acoustic Lounge
An acoustic evening featuring four singer/songwriters “in-the-round,” Acoustic Lounge offers intimate snapshots of promising up-and-comers. Attended by members of the Southern California songwriter community and industry decision-makers alike, the free showcase is held the first Monday of every month from 7 to 8 p.m. at Genghis Cohen (740 N. Fairfax Ave. LA, CA 90046).

Pick of the Month
BMI’s Pick of the Month is a monthly showcase highlighting a fierce new band or solo artist. Designed to elevate performers already poised for breakthroughs, the series further introduces auspicious up-and-comers to both the industry and general public in a top-tier Los Angeles venue for discounted admission. Past BMI “Picks” include Lady Gaga, Macy Gray, The Feeling and Counting Crows.

8 Off 8th
BMI and Yuengling Beer proudly present 8 off 8th, a free weekly showcase held 9 p.m. every Monday at Nashville music venue Mercy Lounge (1 Cannery Row off 8th Avenue South). Hosted by a rotating lineup of music community impresarios, each night features eight local (and sometimes nationally touring) artists and serves as ground zero for Nashville’s indie rock scene. Whether it’s launching fledging acts fresh out of the garage or showcasing the latest buzz bands, 8 off 8th’s rapid-fire three-song sets satisfy audiences chasing the next big thing.

BMI Presents at 12th & Porter
BMI Presents at 12th & Porter spotlights the lifeblood of the Nashville music community: songwriters. Tapped by BMI in recognition of their current potency or potential, the artists featured reflect the diverse hive of creators impacting today’s country charts and the evolving Music Row hit-making paradigm. The 6 p.m. show is free and held every other month at 12th & Porter (114 12th Avenue North).

BMI Buzz at the Basement
BMI Buzz at the Basement features hand-picked selections of young and hungry singer-songwriters worthy of a closer listen. The series revolves around four quarterly installments. Each show kicks off at 6 p.m., with appetite-wetting three-song sets from four consecutive up-and-comers ready for the mainstream. Shows are staged at Nashville trendometer venue the Basement (1604 8th Avenue South).

East Side Sounds
BMI’s East Side Sounds digs into and shows off Music City’s famously vibrant other side across the river. Staged at Rumours East (1112 Woodland St), the free quarterly showcase profiles independent artists whose freewheeling approaches to music-making are resulting in film and television placements, AAA and pop chart-climbing, and slots on critically acclaimed albums both inside and outside of the mainstream.

New York
Pick of the Month
BMI’s Pick of the Month is a monthly showcase highlighting a fierce new band or solo artist. Designed to elevate performers already poised for breakthroughs, the series further introduces auspicious up-and-comers to both the industry and general public in a top-tier New York City venue for discounted admission. Past BMI “Picks” include Lady Gaga, Macy Gray, The Feeling and Counting Crows.

And more…

BMI’s layered approach to songwriter development comprises educational, creative and promotional opportunities, including workshops, showcase series, and stages and slots at other festivals including Lollapalooza, South By Southwest, the French Quarter Festival, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, the Key West Songwriters Festival, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Sundance, Folk Alliance, MOBfest, AthFest, Florida Music Festival, Martha’s Vineyard Songwriters Festival, Sandestin Music Festival, Atlantis Music Conference, and more.


The easiest way to join ASCAP or BMI is by visiting their respective websites. The entire application process can be handled online – this is true for both songwriters who want to join and for publishers who want to join. ASCAP has a one time fee of $35.00 and BMI is free to songwriters. Collecting societies collect royalty payments from users of copyrighted works and distribute royalties to copyright owners.


PRO History 101 

The first performing rights society was established in France in 1851. In the United Kingdom, the Copyright Act 1842 was the first to protect musical compositions with the Performing Right Society, founded in 1914 encompassing live performances. The rights for recorded or broadcast performance are administered by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society, founded in 1924. Italy introduced a performing rights society in 1882 and Germany in 1915. In the United States, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded in 1914; Society of European Stage Authors & Composers (SESAC) in 1930 and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) in 1939. Sociedad Puertorriqueña de Autores y Compositores de Musica (SPACEM) was founded in San Juan Puertorrico in 1953. SPACEM name was changed to ACEMLA, or Asociacion de Compositoes y Editores de Musica and remains today PRO No. 76 in the Cisacs roster of performing rights society.


SoundExchange goes hand in hand with both ASCAP and BMI. Where as you can only be a member with one PRO, SoundExchange goes with either, or. It is a vital nessesity in receiving your royalties.

SoundExchange is a non-profit performance rights organization that collects statutory royalties from satellite radio (such as SIRIUS XM), Internet radio (like Pandora), cable TV music channels and similar platforms for streaming sound recordings. The Copyright Royalty Board, which is appointed by The U.S. Library of Congress, has entrusted SoundExchange as the sole entity in the United States to collect and distribute these digital performance royalties on behalf of featured and non-featured recording artists, master rights owners (usually record labels), and independent artists who record and own their masters.