BMI vs ASCAP on royalties

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    As a BMI and ASCAP publisher I notice a significantly better payment per needle drop from BMI. I work mainly in promo and when I have the option I always register with BMI now.


    Having switched from ASCAP to BMI, I thought I’d chime in:

    Though the two PRO’s may balance out over all channels, the difference each pays on a given channel can be amazing.  For example, as of about 3 months ago, ASCAP’s per-minute rate for work on National Geographic was 10 times the amount that BMI paid.  I was astounded at this. and asked BMI “Is this really true?”  “Yes, but we’re working on it” was their reply.  So, the moral here:  If you have a lot of work on relatively few channels, and it looks like it’ll be this way for a number of years, it may well be worth all the BS involved with moving.


    Now, per MichaeL’s statement that all publishers have to agree before you can move, I’d like to elucidate further in 2 ways:


    1. If you perchance own your publishing, you can form a new publishing entity with the other PRO, and move your works over when your publishing resignation date arrives.  Case-in-point:  I had to wait about 9 months until I could move my works (in which my company is the publisher) to my new publishing entity at BMI.

    2. If the works are published by someone else (say, a library), it’s worth asking them if they’re interested in moving the works over.   For example, when I scored a show for a certain network, they retained the publishing, and had me use their ASCAP-affiliated publishing entity.  When I wanted to move over to BMI, I contacted them, and made the financial case for their going through the efforts to move my works over to their BMI affiliate.  I’m not sure how they could switch publishing at will, but if you’re a large enough gorilla, ASCAP and BMI will let you do certain things normal folks can’t.  Anyway, they decided not to go through the effort, and thus (and this is important), ASCAP will continue to pay me my writer’s share, even though I’m no longer an ASCAP writer.  Furthermore, as you’d expect, they’re paying at ASCAP (not BMI) rates.


    Per Mark Petrie’s observation:  Agreed:  ASCAP does more surveys.  The good thing is that I believe they’re covering smaller stations than BMI.  I could be wrong, but know of several cases in which I was glad I was with ASCAP, as I at least won the survey lottery occasionally, where with BMI, they weren’t looking at the stations at all.


    Hope this helps.




    ASCAP vs. BMI Advice needed

    Hey all, I’m about to start a co-writing partnership. I’m ASCAP. which should he join? One better for library writers?



    Hi Len

    If this is the Len that I’m thinking of, I bumped into you a few times at Morning Star, a long time ago, when you were still on the east coast. Maybe around 95. Greetings!

    Just to add to Len’s post…

    #1 absolutely…that’s what I did. I owned my publishing, so I moved my works from my ASCAP publishing company to my BMI publishing company. I was in Len’s boat and would have waited 9 months, but sometimes having Esquire after your name helps.

    #2 I left all of the works that were published by other publishers with ASCAP and curiously, BMI paid me for those works on my most recent statement. I guess I was such a PITA the ASCAP transferred everything to BMI.

    I haven’t experienced BMI paying less than ASCAP. One entire cable series is missing from my last statement, which may be due to late reporting. Even so, my 3rd Q BMI statements were still twice my last ASCAP statements for the exact same shows and cues, despite missing an entire series (which may have been on summer hiatus).

    Per Mark Petrie’s observation:  Agreed:  ASCAP does more surveys.  The good thing is that I believe they’re covering smaller stations than BMI.  I could be wrong,

    My experience with ASCAP was that they missed, or wouldn’t validate, about 75% of the performances. So far, I’m glad that I made the switch.




    Hi Michael!

    Indeed I’m that guy, and great to cyber-bump into you in this forum, and it’d be great to speak further!

    Now, back to this subject:

    Sounds like our observations are lining up w/ ASCAP and BMI.

    I’d like to add two more things:

    1. This may be just my experience, but I’ve found BMI to be somewhat more accurate.  They still make mistakes, but so far, the number seems less.

    2. If you’re doing work for TV, you want to go through both society’s LA offices, as they have reps that greatly help with issues.  I was dealing with ASCAP’s NY people for many years, and the response was much spottier and slower.






    Hi Len….small world!!!

    #1 Yep..I concur. I’ve found BMI to be more accurate, not perfect, but better.

    #2 Yes, again. I dealt with two BMI reps in LA, who were great. I was also able to get excellent results with Nashville too. Whether in LA or Nashville, the BMI reps were very friendly and responsive…a completely different vibe.

    Dealing with ASCAP in NY was like banging my head against a brick wall. Ultimately my transition was resolved through their LA office, after months of negotiation a few hundred emails and phone calls.

    I’m in the middle of moving to the country…the opposite of LA!  I’ll be in touch.





    Great discussion!
    Just curious, does anyone have an opinion on BMI vs ASCAP for something airing on HBO or CineMax?
    I’m with ASCAP and have a short piece in a film.
    In my last statement:

    Service Name: HBO
    Day Part: A
    # of Plays: 1
    Perf. Type: F
    Duration: 1:49
    Credits Royalty Amount: $150.40

    Just curious if anyone knows if BMI would be comparable in this situation. I’m new to this.
    BTW, so far I’ve been very happy with the “customer support” (so to speak) with ASCAP (NY) – they’ve been great!




    Thanks for posting this really useful info. I’ve been interested in switching to bmi for a while now and this has been really informative. Combing blogs, a google search or whatever method always returns the same results of “they balance out over time.” Although it might be true; my experience has been the same, lots of missed usages by ASCAP … And generally a PIA to deal with when it comes to mistakes…

    I’ll inquire with each library as suggested, but I’m fairly sure that not all libraries I work with will be up to moving my publishing to bmi.

    It sounds like I can move my catalog to bmi for self publishing, and any retitlied works I can leave with ascap if the library wont move them, is that the gist of what you managed to do where necessary?

    Do you still receive ASCAP payouts for any retitled works that you might have had to leave behind?

    Assuming so, do you still see roughly the same payout rates from any ASCAP usage as before switching?(I’ve seen artists claim their payouts
    dwindled after switching, but I take these comments with a grain of salt…)
    Thanks again for such a helpful post.


    @soundspot, when you say “self-published” do you mean that you have a publishing company, or that you just assign the publishing to yourself?

    1) I had an ASCAP publishing company. Its election date was two quarters different than my writer election date. As such, the windows for notifying ASCAP that I was switching my writer membership and moving my catalog were six months apart. That really complicated things.

    2) Except for RF libraries, where I own the publishing, I have only written for 7 or 8 money-upfront exclusive libraries. I have not, and do not, retitle, so I cannot answer your questions regarding that.

    3) I left all of my older library cues at ASCAP. But...a lot of library music has a “best when used by” date on it. Most of those cues are more than 10 years old and have really run their course.



    DP, I don’t think there is nothing to worry about really. If the internet will become the main place where people consume media then those places will pay licence fees to BMI ASCAP etc and we will get royalties.


    DP, I don’t think there is nothing to worry about really. If the internet will become the main place where people consume media then those places will pay licence fees to BMI ASCAP etc and we will get royalties

    Actually music pro there IS a lot to worry about. Internet use only pays a fraction of what broadcast use pays. So royalties could drop significantly. This topic was discussed at a PMA meeting a few years ago.
    Moreover, if I recall correctly, the “tribunal” that sets royalty rates bases the amount of royalties paid on some formula in relation to sync fees paid. The concern at the meeting was that the practice of gratis licensing was eventually going to erode the amount of royalties paid, becuase there are no sync fees being paid.
    In other words, while gratis licensing may yield a short term gain in the broadcast world, you are screwing yourself in the long run, with the internet.
    So, yes, if your music income is backend based, I’d worry. Internet is going to pay, but not nearly as much as TV.

    For more reading, if you think I’m making up the “tribunal,” see here: , specifically with respect to “rate making.”


    the “tribunal” that sets royalty rates bases the amount of royalties paid on some formula in relation to sync fees paid


    I just did a google search for info on this but came up empty. Do you have a link to anything about this?


    Do cue sheets have a field for sync fee paid?


    Sorry wilx2, that discussion was part of the PMA fall meeting two years ago. I only have a vague recollection. But, as I said the general jist of the discussion was the potential great harm being done by gratis licensing, when it comes to setting future internet royalty rates. Those rates are likely to be only a fraction of broadcast and cable rates, so I wouldn’t jump for joy as more people move away from broadcast.
    The PROS and PMA member libraries are fighting to protect royalty rates. Hopefully, they will be successful.

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