Access Abundance

Performance Rights Organizations (PROs)

A Primer


Musicians whose performances appear on recordings should affiliate with SoundExchange.

Songwriters, composers and lyricists from the USA should form a publishing company (easier than it sounds) and affiliate twice with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC: Once as a writer and once as a publisher.

SoundExchange collects and distributes performance royalties from webcasters, satellite radio, and cable subscriber channels on behalf of featured recording artists, non-featured musicians and owners of master recordings (record labels, for example; or maybe you!).

ASCAP, BMI and SESAC collect and distribute performance royalties from venues, radio and tv stations and other establishments for songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers.


North American PROs
for Composers, Songwriters, Lyricists and Music Publishers



All 3 major USA-based songwriter PROs now have programs to compensate songwriters for live performances of their original works in various contexts, e.g. festivals, theaters, municipal events, clubs, other venues, open mics and more.

Affiliation Fees
Fee Waiver?
Live Performance Payment Program Website
$150 - $250
BMI Live
SESAC Live Performance Payments

When you affiliate with a PRO, it’s important to affiliate as both a WRITER member and as a PUBLISHER member. Otherwise, you will only receive half the money to which you are entitled.
 *The one exception is BMI, where if your works are not controlled by a publisher, you can register your songs under your writer membership at 200%. Despite this "work-around" solution offered by BMI, it may still be advisable to affiliate as a publisher member. In particular, anyone interested in sustaining a long-term music career should strongly consider publisher affiliation as a "best practice" and an essential component of their business infrastructure.
 As stated on ASCAP's website: "Unless you've assigned your publishing rights to someone else, you are your own publisher."

**There are no affiliation fees to join SESAC, but there is an evaluation / invitation process. By comparison, BMI and ASCAP accept all songwriters that meet their eligibility criteria, which are easily satisfied.

A relatively new USA-based PRO has recently been established by music industry overlord Irving Azoff. It's called GMR: Global Music Rights. They've entered the game in monster fashion, now representing the catalogs of Pharrell Williams, Eddie Vedder, Steve Miller, Bob Seger, Bruno Mars, Drake, Lindsey Buckingham, Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, John Lennon, Prince, Pete Townshend, Metallica, and more -- Heavy hitters to say the least. If your cousin works at GMR, maybe they can do something for you. But I have yet to actually talk to anybody with GMR, ever. I hope you can join the ranks of those illustrious writers listed above!


Additional North American PROs

Puerto Rico


ACEMLA (formely SPACEM) is one of 6 PROs based in the USA. They're based in Puerto Rico and focus primarily on Latin music.








North American PROs for Recording Musicians (USA)



To join SoundExchange, click here.

Whereas ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are PROs for songwriters and publishers (and for anyone who composes music), SoundExchange was established by 1998's Digital Millennium Copyright Act to serve as the performance rights organization to collect and distribute performance royalties from cable, satellite and some forms of internet radio. SoundExchange is a non-profit collective rights management organization. It is the sole organization designated by the U.S. Congress to collect and distribute digital performance royalties for sound recordings.

In the USA, terrestrial broadcasters (AM or FM radio stations) do not pay royalties for performers on recordings or sound recording copyright owners; they only pay the songwriters and owners of the musical compositions, such as music publishers.

Because of the aggressive and effective lobbying efforts of the broadcast media industry, terrestrial broadcasters in the USA are exempted from having to pay performers for use of their recorded performances. This is not the case in Canada, Europe or other territories throughout the world.

This means that terrestrial radio is the only medium that broadcasts music but does not compensate artists or labels for the performance. The USA is one of the few industrialized countries — if not the only one — that does not have a terrestrial broadcast performance right for sound recordings.

As a result of the Digital Performance in Sound Recording Act of 1995, broadcasters of digital performances — webcasters, satellite radio, cable subscriber channels -- must pay royalties to the performers. SoundExchange is the performance rights organization established by the DPRA.

SoundExchange collects and distributes what they refer to as "digital royalties" on behalf of nearly 200,000 recording artists and master rights owners. As of 2019, they've paid more than $6 billion to recording artists and rights holders.

"Digital royalties" are fees that service providers such as Pandora, SiriusXM and webcasters are required by law to pay for streaming musical content. These royalties are paid by the services to SoundExchange, accompanied by playlists of all the recordings played by the service provider

SoundExchange distributes royalty payments directly to performers (45 percent) and to the sound recording copyright owner, most often the record label (50 percent). Non-featured performers receive 5 percent of the royalties via a royalty pool managed by AFM and AFTRA.



Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency

CMRRA is a music licensing collective representing the vast majority of songs recorded, sold and broadcast in Canada on behalf of music publishers. CMRRA was acquired in 2017 by SoundExchange.



Click here to learn more about digital performance royalties for recording artists and session / recording musicians.





Which PRO is "Best"?
or, Which PRO is Right for You?

Recording artists should join SoundExchange.

Songwriters from the USA should join ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. You can only be a member of one of these 3 organizations at a time.

Surveys conducted by Access Abundance indicate that SESAC members have the greatest level of satisfaction with their PRO, and the lowest rate of negative opinions. We are in the process of conducting additional surveys and research to determine why this is so, and which PRO actually pays the most for public and broadcast performances. We will share this information as soon as it is ready for publication.

The "best" PRO for you is a matter worthy of some consideration and depends upon a number of variables, including the particulars of your unique position and career as a songwriter and music publisher. Access Abundance is able to provide some guidance and clarity on this matter -- Email us today to start the conversation. We can help you figure out your optimal path and PRO selection!

When I present classes or workshops on music publishing and performance rights organizations, I often get asked which is best. My usual answer is this: The best PRO is the PRO at which you have the best, strongest personal relationship or connection with the senior-most highest level employee that you can. If you're tight with Doreen Ringer-Ross, BMI's VP Creative Film / TV / Visual Media, she can make things happen for you. If you're interested in playing at the Sundance Film Festival's ASCAP Café, get to know Loretta Muñoz.

All the PROs have offices in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and sometimes other cities. Get to know people at your PRO personally. Ask them what they do, how they can help you, what events they're involved with. Volunteer at their conferences and seminars. Get to know these folks that can advocate for you. Step out from the faceless herd.

I'll add this detail: Each major PRO has a program that pays you for your own performances of your original works (even if you play them at an open mic). The BMI Live online submission process is fairly smooth. Unfortunately for ASCAP members, the ASCAP Onstage interface is painfully slow. It's not a matter of your connection speed, the problem resides in the programming. The time required for the display of previous performance submissions that precedes every individual entry is unnecessary and frustrating. Come on ASCAP, get your tech together! BMI's system is significantly faster. Even though ASCAP's system is slow, it's still worth using. But it could definitely benefit from some improved programming and testing.

I have no first-hand knowledge with SESAC's small performance royalty reporting system. Let me know what you know!




To join ASCAP, you can click here or email us at Access Abundance. Access Abundance can answer all your questions, eliminate the confusion and risk of inadvertent errors and assist you in the affiliation process as a new writer and publisher members.

Eligibility requirements: Human (Living or Posthumous). As of 2012, ASCAP no longer has any membership eligibilty requirements. Both writer and publisher memberships in ASCAP are open to anybody; However, those without a Social Security or FEIN/TIN number, successor or posthumous applicants may not be able to apply for ASCAP membership online, but may be required to submit their application using an alternative process. Please email Access Abundance for additional information, or visit ASCAP's website:

Writers - What You'll Need to Apply
- Your Social Security Number
(No SSN? They will also accept your foreign tax information)

- Credit card (issued by a US bank) for payment of one time, $50 processing fee. ASCAP often provides prospective writer and publisher members a waiver code that removes the fees to affiliate with ASCAP. Email us at Access Abundance for more information.

Publishers - What You'll Need to Apply
- A name for your publishing company that can be "cleared" by ASCAP

- Information about your company
(Social Security Number OR Taxpayer Identification Number & stakeholders)

- Credit card (issued by a US bank) for payment of one time, $50 processing fee. ASCAP often provides prospective writer and publisher members a waiver code that removes the fees to affiliate with ASCAP. Email us at Access Abundance for more information.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded in 1914 and has over 500,000 affiliated writers, composers and publishers. They collect over one billion dollars per year in licensing fees from venues, radio and television stations and other sources, and distribute most of that back to its writer and publisher affiliates, retaining approximately 10 - 15% to cover their operating costs. In 2018, ASCAP collected $1.2 billion in revenue and distributed $1.1 billion to its affiliated writers and publishers. $321 million was secured from foreign royalty revenue, with $295 million of that distributed to affiliated writers and publishers.




Eligibility requirements: Human (Living or Posthumous)

To join BMI, click here.




Eligibility requirements: Invitation Only

To join SESAC, read their FAQ.



Global Music Rights

To join GMR... I don't know. Perhaps marry into the Azoff family? Or write dozens of chart-topping songs? I believe in you! You can do it!




To join SOCAN, click here.

To become a SOCAN member, music creators must meet the following criteria:

- Be a music composer, songwriter, or lyricist;

- Have created a musical work or part of a musical work that has been: published by a music publisher; or recorded; or performed (or will be) in a public forum (i.e. radio, television, film, live performance, satellite radio, ringtone or internet) subject to licensing by SOCAN.

Last I checked, membership is free for music creators who apply online.




Wikipedia list of PROs worldwide




Access Abundance does not and cannot dispense legal advice. The information in this website is provided only as general reference and industry background. Access Abundance strongly recommends that you should consult with an attorney in all instances in which you might act upon the information presented here.