A Breakdown Of All The Performance Rights Organizations Monday February 12 2024, 2:30 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
A Breakdown Of All The Performance Rights Organizations

What Are Performance Rights Organizations?

Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) are entities that manage the rights and royalties related to the public performance of music on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers.

When music is played in public—whether through radio, television, streaming services, in concert venues, restaurants, bars, or even elevators—those uses are considered "public performances."

PROs collect fees from businesses and organizations that use music in this way and then distribute these collected royalties to their affiliated songwriters, composers, and publishers.

The main role of a PRO is to ensure that music creators are compensated for the public use of their work.

Here is a breakdown of their responsibilities:

Licensing: PROs issue licenses to businesses and entities that wish to use music in a public setting, effectively giving them legal permission to play copyrighted works.

Monitoring: They monitor music usage across various platforms and venues to ensure that all public performances are accounted for.

Collection: PROs collect fees from these licenses. The fee structures can vary based on the type of usage, such as radio play, live performances, or background music in establishments.

Distribution: They then distribute the collected fees as royalties to the songwriters, composers, and publishers they represent, ensuring that creators are compensated for their work.

What Are The Main PROs?

In the United States, the major PROs include ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), and SESAC (originally the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers).

There's also Global Music Rights (GMR), a relatively newer player. Each country typically has its own PROs, such as SOCAN in Canada, PRS for Music in the UK, GEMA in Germany, and SACEM in France.


Let's start with the PRO that I'm affiliated with! The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) is one of the leading Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) in the United States, founded in 1914.

Its primary mission is to license and protect the copyrights of its members' musical works. ASCAP represents over 800,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers in every genre of music.

ASCAP operates on a non-profit basis, distributing all revenues collected from licensing fees back to its members as royalties, after deducting operating expenses.

The organization's efforts not only support the livelihood of music creators but also advocate for their legal rights on Capitol Hill and in courts. Membership with ASCAP provides access to a suite of benefits, including performance royalties, workshops, and educational resources, which empower artists at every stage of their careers.

Songwriters and Composers: The one-time membership fee for songwriters and composers to join ASCAP is $50.

Music Publishers: For music publishers, the one-time membership fee to join ASCAP is $50.


Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is a major Performing Rights Organization (PRO) in the United States, established in 1939 as an alternative to ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers).

BMI was founded with the aim of representing songwriters in emerging genres, such as jazz, blues, and country, that were underrepresented by other PROs at the time.

Today, BMI licenses the public performance rights for millions of musical works and represents over 1.2 million songwriters, composers, and music publishers across all genres of music.

Like ASCAP, BMI operates as a not-for-profit organization, collecting license fees from businesses that use music, including radio and television stations, digital streaming services, and venues. These collected fees are then distributed as royalties to BMI's members, ensuring they are compensated for the public use of their work.

Songwriters and Composers: BMI does not charge a fee for songwriters and composers to join. Membership is free.

Music Publishers: The fee for music publishers to join BMI varies. For individual or small publishers, the fee is $150 for an individual or a sole proprietor and $250 for a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company.


SESAC, originally founded in 1930 as the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, is the smallest of the three primary Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) in the United States but is distinctive for its invitation-only membership model.

This approach allows SESAC to offer highly personalized services to its affiliates, which include songwriters, composers, and music publishers across various genres.

SESAC administers public performance licenses for its members' works and collects royalties from businesses that use music, such as radio stations, TV networks, streaming platforms, and live venues, ensuring creators are compensated for their art.

In addition to performance royalties, SESAC also ventures into other rights areas, including mechanical and synchronization rights, offering a broader revenue stream for its members.

SESAC's unique model means that it doesn't charge upfront fees for songwriters and composers to become members. Instead, membership is by invitation, focusing on the quality and potential of the songwriter or composer's work. 

Tips For Joining A PRO

You can only be affiliated with one PRO at a time for performance rights, so choose the one that best aligns with your career goals and needs. I chose ASCAP in college with the guidance of my music business teachers, but I find that people who work with BMI tend to be equally as satisfied as I am. 

I recommend researching the genres and artists each PRO represents. Some PROs may have a stronger presence in certain music genres or geographic regions. Choose one that aligns with your musical style and career aspirations.

Also, do some research to understand how each PRO collects and distributes royalties, including their payout frequencies and any deductibles. Some PROs might have better rates for certain types of performances or uses of music.

Beyond collecting performance royalties, PROs offer various services such as workshops, networking events, and educational resources. Look into what each PRO offers and decide which services could benefit your career development.

Talk to other songwriters and composers about their experiences with different PROs. Insights from peers can be invaluable in understanding the pros and cons of each organization.

Remember that some PROs charge a one-time or annual membership fee, while others do not. Consider how this might affect your budget and whether the benefits justify the cost.

Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

If you are in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her services page.

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