ASCAP and their inadequate survey system

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    Michael Nickolas

    Has anyone ever been paid royalties by ASCAP for “NBA Gametime” placements? Or does the NBA TV network fall through the cracks of their survey?


    this ASCAP survey method has me really worrried now. i’ll find out if i’m a victim to it when the next quarter is paid out in April.


    @ Michael…From Today’s BMI Statement:

    NBA TV

    NBA GAME TIME JUNE 27 2017

    19 “Track Title Here” BI 00:32 20172 100.00% $54.07 $0.00 $54.07

    NBA TV Total $54.07

    Michael Nickolas

    Well that’s promising thanks. Hope ASCAP will also payout as I have something like 35 cue sheets for that show. Statement is in April.


    I see this thread is still alive and kicking, which is good because I think it’s a subject which needs to be addressed. I just wanted to revisit it and make a few further points.

    1. This is a problem that has only really come to light with the introduction of tracking services like tunesat. For people writing for the big 5 networks, MTV, films, commercials and even TV writers with significant volume on the more popular cable stations it is unlikely to be that much of a problem.

    2. For my personal situation I’ve heard through back channels that ASCAP are aware of the problem and are taking steps to deal with it. This is due to questions on my behalf from my publishers and fellow ASCAP writers, and I’d encourage everyone to raise these issues with ASCAP through those channels.

    3. Due to the time consuming nature of leafing through a quadrillion cue sheets, I imagine that will take some time to correct the problem. I’ve seen some good royalties for a theme used on a History Channel show that appear to have been paid belatedly, perhaps this is part of them addressing the problem. I’m actually with PRS and there’s insufficient data on my statement to be sure, but I’m hopeful that is what’s happening and that there will be more in the future. I’ll update this thread if I spot anything else that comes through.

    4. ASCAP have doubtlessly done things to help writers in the past and will continue to do so in the future. It’s a very frustrating problem to be unpaid for uses that we know about, but a “problem” is what it is and not something done in malice. As I see it, ASCAP is receiving and distributing the total licence fee from all of these channels, it’s just that their method of distribution is inadequate. I wouldn’t insinuate that ASCAP have “kept” the money, just that they have not accurately distributed it.

    We can do any amount of PRO bashing but nothing will really change unless the tone is something more positive. ASCAP will know about this problem and that it’s becoming more visible, it’s encouraging them to do something about it that will help, not labelling them as the bad guy. We must trust that they want to help writers and let them know that by changing their survey system, they’ll be helping us.

    I’ll receive another PRS statement in mid-April, and I hope I can come back and say there were some backdated royalties paid out by ASCAP. If that is the case, I would suggest that people go through the ASCAP channels, through your publisher etc and see if you can get them to have a look at your unpaid uses. If enough cases are raised, they may well see it’s more efficient to overhaul their system.


    ASCAP has been aware of the inadequacies of their system for a couple of decades now, and from what I’ve observed, it hasn’t made them change anything substantial in their reporting / payout paradigm yet. I wouldn’t be holding my breath.

    From what I’ve seen/experienced, the only thing that really gets them “worked up to make any change” is when one of their heavy hitters files the actual paperwork to pull out. (Words don’t seem to do it, but severing your contract on the anniversary window can make a difference and grab their attention if you’re influential or pulling down huge numbers.) I’ve seen this happen and have seen ASCAP promise up into and above 6 figures if the writer stays with them. They will even make guarantees – behind the curtains.

    Where do you think the money to keep their “writing stars” from leaving comes from? Why are there no guarantees for all writers? Why the lack of transparency in both reporting, monitoring and payments? I’m not saying any of the other PRO’s are any better, but the reality is that until we have watermarking and computerized monitoring of all broadcast channels, internet and streaming, there will remain a cloak that the PRO’s will hide behind.

    When there is transparency in terms of percentages of TV/Cable income vs. Radio income, and similar transparency in terms of distributions between TV/Cable writers vs. Hip Hop / Pop stars, expect more of the same – i.e.: moving money around where it best suits the image and visibility of the PRO.

    Transparency will signal the end of an era for them.


    From my perspective, it is almost impossible to draw definitive conclusions about which of the 3 American PRO’s is the best one to be a writer/member of. I received a BMI statement today and was …well….not satisfied. I expected a lot of growth because I have been consistently feeding their machine for 3 years now. The numbers I saw on today’s statement were not impressive. It definitely gives one the impression that somehow, some way, behind the scenes there really is no objective and transparent manner of distributing performance royalties! At times we just feel like numbers are picked from a hat.

    At least at ASCAP I CAN see SOME data like cue sheets to give me some sense of how, when, where, and who is using my music. ASCAP IS the most transparent PRO from my perspective simply because they do display cue sheets in writers and publishers accounts. BMI does not display cue sheets. the question now here in 2018…9 years after ASCAP DID start displaying them is why not? What does BMI have to hide? The only data I get from BMI is statements. Was anything missed? I have no idea because I can not see cue sheets in my account login.

    Indeed, ASCAP does miss or not pay for cues filed on cue sheets at times probably due to the “survey” issue. The Big 10 Network is a good example. Major League Baseball, local broadcasts is another that did not pay. I can probably point out more examples…but gentlemen, BMI and SESAC show nothing! Zero. We simply do not see cue sheets when we login and therefore have no idea about what is going on or what we can anticipate in future payouts.

    I still argue that the grass is not really greener on the BMI or SESAC side. I DO get statements from all 3. I am very pleased that I get cue sheets displayed when I log into ASCAP.

    All of them are undoubtedly imperfect and unfortunately, most likely “mildly” corrupt organizations. (This is the music business after all!) Whenever you have revenue of 1 billion dollars a year, there will be corruption when it comes to decisions about how all that money will be distributed and how much will be held in for “other people and purposes”.

    Until SESAC and BMI start displaying cue sheets on line, I still stand by my conclusion: the grass is not greener (for writers) at BMI and SESAC. I base my conclusions on 10 years of data, receiving statements from all 3 for the last 5 years, ASCAP for the last 18, and many discussions with many writers involved with all 3. I am certainly willing to listen to others experiences to maybe be convinced that ASCAP is “problematic”…I am just not seeing it that way and i am very happy to be an ASCAP writer quite frankly.


    Sweet @Music1234. Good to hear. I think we all desperately want to hear that the grass is greener on the other side – when in reality, we live in a flawed system and maybe are lucky to be getting anything at all – no matter which PRO we are with.


    thanks for your post music1234, this makes me feel alot less concerned being an ASCAP writer. i’ll have to just wait and see how things pan out over time.


    I’m with BMI and have seen cue sheets in the past, but now I’ll get maybe one a year which has no correlation to the new placements I get. I don’t understand what’s going on with BMI. Maybe the libraries play into this also?

    On the other hand, I just received I nice royalty payment from BMI, so I’m happy with that.


    The only way to draw conclusions is to collect from all 3. I’ve given this tip before: if you are well tapped into the jingle/ TV spot scoring scene and typically get 2 to 10 spots a year running (national USA spots) Switch to SESAC! They DEFINITELY pay SUBSTANTIALLY more than ASCAP for TV spots (My point of reference is national bigger brand advertising campaigns…not the local furniture store spots). I have never processed a spot through BMI, so I can not say what the BMI payouts are. It literally seems like SESAC pays 10 times more money than ASCAP for TV spots. Both PROS have paid me Performance royalties for TV spots.

    When I processed/ claimed TV spots through SESAC, The SESAC statements showed a sea of $1 $4, $7, $15, $25, $40…Occasionally $65 – $85 royalties.

    Whereas ascap seemed to be lots of $0.03 cents $1’s and $2’s $3’s (at most $9 or $10) for TV spots and also subject to the “survey”. Most royalties were under $1.
    SESAC seems to pay for literally every time the spot airs. ASCAP does not seem to pay for every airing.

    I have also been keen to notice a very well known and successful music house (aka jingle production company) that has been in business for 40 years (sons now running the show at this company) and they are suddenly SESAC writers (but to my knowledge do not really write music!…imagine that?). I have a feeling they got in bed with SESAC because they probably have dozens of spots running every year that others “ghost write” as work for hires.

    If your sweet spot is background TV cues, I can actually argue that ASCAP and BMI are better for Background Instrumentals on TV shows.

    Anyway, I will keep monitoring my statement and cue sheet data as it continues to flow in throughout 2018, and I will gladly continue to offer my perspective.

    I’d be very interested in hearing others experiences too. Example: Does BMI pay well for national TV spots? Any BMI writers out there have an experience of a track running for a long time on a national tv ad campaign? and then what kind of royalties were you seeing?

    How about trailers for TV shows and films? Does anyone have experience collecting performance royalties for trailers and through which PRO?


    I recently got an email telling me that my resignation from ASCAP is official (April 1st). I resigned from ASCAP last fall (6 months ago). When I resigned from ASCAP I opted to move my catalog. Yesterday (April 2nd) I filled out the paperwork to affiliate with BMI online. Does anyone have any experience, knowledge, advice about moving their catalog from ASCAP to BMI? How long it takes? What hoops you have to jump through to make sure it happens? Any advice / suggestions on going about it, etc.?


    Hey Michael Nickolas,
    Did you see any back end from NBA Gametime on your April Statement? I did not. Tunesat has picked up about 50 separate placements on the NBA channel for me (all the same track). They started in April of 2017 and continue steadily. About half of them have cue sheets filed so far.

    Staying on topic, my April ASCAP statement was my 2nd highest ever. I had 5 “Survey Type” lines with an “S.”
    Two of those were from the Reelz Channel, $71 and $65. This is the only income I have ever received from the 85 placements tunesat has picked up on the Reelz Channel.

    The other survey lines were $0.18, $1.19 and $1.63. It makes no sense to me but I really gave up trying to understand.

    Michael Nickolas

    Hi Alan,

    I did not, but the payout was for performance period 07/01/2017 – 09/30/2017 and my cue sheets have expected air dates from October 2017 through to very recent. Up to 37 cue sheets now. I guess my next domestic statement should have some. But with the dreaded survey system who knows.

    If you had some with expected April air-dates, maybe you should have seen some on the statement. Are you going to reach out to ASCAP to ask? If so, keep us posted!



    Thanks Michael,
    Tunesat picked up a couple in April 2017, but I only found three of my Tunesat detections that have cue sheets filed for 3rd qrt 2017. I’m pretty sure the cue sheets were filed after the deadline for this statement too. I will wait until the July statement before I start any action.

    I plan to contact the publisher to find out why only half of the placements still don’t have cue sheets filed, some a year old.

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