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Publishing is one of the most important aspects of the music industry, yet the most unknown to bands that haven’t broken through yet. Publishing handles the money generated from the usage of your songs. Every band should be receiving composer royalties and publishing royalties on songs that are used in public.
At some point, outside publishing companies will want to own a percentage of your publishing rights for songs that could potentially be making them money on royalties. They will most likely offer an advance (money upfront that doesn’t have to be repaid until royalties start coming in). Until this happens, bands need to set themselves up as publishers so they can collect money.
Publishers should not be confused for composers. You want to be collecting 100% of composer rights AND 100% of publishing rights until you sell some of your publishing rights. But how can you keep track of who’s playing your songs, so you can collect royalties? There are 3 organizations set up to do that for you. They are known as Performing Rights Organizations.
ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are the 3 PROs, and you can only affiliate yourself with one of them. First, you have to decide which of the 3 performing rights organizations are right for you.
ASCAP is the American Society of Composers, Artists, and Publishers, and they are the largest PRO.
BMI is Broadcast Music Inc. which is better suited for artists who have their music used on television, and other like media sources.
SESAC is the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers, who has a more exclusive registration process.
Every successful artist is registered with one of these 3 PROs. We recommend exploring each of their websites and deciding which organization suits you best. Once you have decided which PRO you want to affiliate yourself with, you must apply to join. Here is a step by step on how to collect from your songs:
Artist writes song that will be commercially recorded and used on TV, radio, internet, etc.
Artist registers with ASCAP as Composer AND Publisher (click on form that says writer & publisher), BMI as Composer AND Publisher (2 separate forms), or contact SESAC for further evaluation. As the publisher, band can register as an individual (using someone’s social security number), or they can start an incorporated company and use the tax id #.
Artist registers songs with their performing rights organization by filling out the form on the ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC website
Anytime one of your submitted songs gets used, your Performing Rights Organization collects royalties for you as the composer and as the publisher, and sends you money.