Dear Music Publishing Cat,
I like to write songs and perform. I do play out a few times a month and I did record a CD but I know that I’m never going to make music a career. My friend asked me if I was signed up with a PRO, but I’m only an amateur. What was he talking about?
I see what you did there. It was cute, but not as cute as me. Hee hee.
Let me ask you this, Do you like money? Especially if you don’t have to do much for it? Yes? Then you should go ahead and affiliate with a PRO. No that doesn’t mean professional, it means Performing Rights Organization. In the United States there are three: ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. They all do the same thing; they collect performance royalties for their member songwriters (and publishers).
A songwriter is entitled to be paid performance royalties when the song is broadcast (performed publicly). That means if a song you wrote is on the radio, tv, streaming, jukebox, or performed live you can get paid! Each performance might only be a tiny amount, but they can add up. It is the job of the PROs to collect these royalties and get them to the proper songwriters. That’s you!
I’m going to focus on ASCAP and BMI for you because anyone can join. (SESAC is a bit different, you have to be invited to join them.) Since both do the same job, you have to make a choice about which to join since you can only join one. My humans recommend looking at both of their websites to see what benefits they offer to their writers, each is a little different and they do change. If that isn’t enough to make a choice, my humans say to call or email both and see which one you get a better feeling from. There really isn’t a right or wrong choice, just the one that feels better to you.
Once you sign up, you’ll be able to go on their website and register your songs. It’s easy, and both have cool tutorials to help you. When your songs are registered, your PRO will start working to find all of the performance royalties you’re entitled to. They even let you report your own performances when you play out so that you can get paid for them too!
Getting started with a PRO isn’t really a very difficult process. Each organization has the information you need on their websites: http://www.ascap.com/join/, http://www.bmi.com/creators, and http://sesac.com/WritersPublishers/WritersPublishers.aspx. If need more assistance, you can always call on my consulting partners at SSA Music Publishing who can guide you along for a nominal fee.
— Music Publishing Cat