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Few sources of songwriter income are as consistent and dependable as public performance royalties. These are royalties that songwriters earn any time their songs are played in public, such as performed live at a concert, aired on TV/radio, and even streamed on services like Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music.
To collect these royalties, songwriters must be registered with a performing rights organization, or “PRO.” These organizations exist to track, collect, and distribute public performance royalties. The U.S. PROs include ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. In the UK, there’s PRS For Music, France has SACEM, Germany uses GEMA, and so on.
All pay their members on a regular basis, either quarterly or monthly. The dates these distributions will occur are listed in advance. In fact, it’s so dependable there’s even a term for it — “mailbox money.”
Now that 2019 is well upon us, we’ve compiled the payment schedule for the various PROs here for your review, as well as how much each distributes on an annual basis.
With a robust membership of over 725,000 composers, ASCAP is the only American PRO owned and operated by its members. It distributed $1.109 billion in royalties in 2018.
Who does ASCAP collect from?
ASCAP has a handy list posted on their site describing the many ways and sources they collect royalty revenue from. It includes major American TV networks, commercial and internet radio, and thousands of public spaces like bars, restaurants and shopping malls.
When does ASCAP pay out royalties?
ASCAP pays out a different type of song royalty each month:
Domestic Writer Distribution
- Monday, January 7, 2019
- Monday, April 8, 2019
- Monday, July 8, 2019
- Monday, October 7, 2019
- Monday, February 11, 2019
- Monday, May 13, 2019
- Monday, August 12, 2019
- Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Domestic Publishers Distribution
- Friday, March 22, 2019
- Friday, June 21, 2019
- Friday, September 20, 2019
- Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Founded in 1939, BMI is the largest PRO in the US, and represents over 900,000 songwriters, composers and publishers. The organization distributed $1.023 billion in 2017.
Who does BMI collect from?
BMI tracks music and collects from a wide variety of sources spanning commercial, college, and public radio, network and local TV, commercial music services, music venues and more.
When does BMI pay out royalties?
BMI pays royalties each quarter:
- 3/22/19: Royalty Payment for 3rd Quarter 2018
- 6/21/19: Royalty Payment for 4th Quarter 2018
- 9/20/19: Royalty Payment for 1st Quarter 2019
- 1/17/20: Royalty Payment for 2nd Quarter 2019
SESAC is a much different PRO than BMI and ASCAP in that it is a private, for-profit organization, that runs an invite-only membership system. As a private company, it does not disclose it’s annual distribution total.
Who does SESAC collect from?
SESAC does not list its collection sources on its website like the other two PROs do. But as one of the three main competing PROs it’s safe to say the organization tracks the same sources of public performance royalty activity as both ASCAP and BMI.
When does SESAC pay out royalties?
According to the SESAC website, it’s the only PRO that pays all of its members each month. It does not list its payment schedule publicly.
PRS For Music
PRS represents over 130,000 songwriters, composers and publishers in the UK. It distributed £627,937 to members in 2017.
Who does PRS collect from?
According to the PRS website: “We pay royalties to our members when their work is performed, broadcast, streamed, downloaded, reproduced, played in public or used in film and TV.” The site also mentions that they use state-of-the-art technology to monitor when and where its members’ music is performed.
When does PRS pay out royalty payments?
PRS pays members quarterly in April, July, October, and December. But the time it takes to pay royalties varies by type of use, location, and more. The company’s website has greater detail on these types of uses and the resulting payment schedules.
Advances on Public Performance Royalties
Having a public payment schedule listed like this is helpful for songwriters’ financial planning (and for peace of mind). But sometimes collecting several quarters, or even years, worth of public performance royalties upfront can have a far larger impact on a music creator’s career.
Royalty Exchange works with all the performing rights organizations to help their members collect these payments in advance. Learn more about how they can help you collect years’ worth of royalty income today. And learn more about royalties in general with Soundfly’s free online course, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed.
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