Collecting Performance Royalties From PROs
Public performance royalties are generated from public performance of music, live, by broadcast, or in synchronization with visual images. Performance rights organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC collect on the public performance of music registered in their catalog by composers and publishing companies who have their music placed on radio, television, or film.
In general, PROs pay composers and publishers based on “cue sheets” submitted for television or film performances; average radio plays for radio performances; and set lists provided by artists’ reps for live performances. For film, t.v., or commercial web-uses, usually a “synch license” will be obtained directly from the rights-holder (or authorized administrator) for a flat rate which permits performance of the music in connection with visual images.
For foreign performances, royalties are calculated much the same way. Foreign PROs such as PRS (UK), SACEM (France), GEMA (Germany) JASRAC (Japan) all have mutual collection agreements with one another and they all account to US-based PROs such as ASCAP BMI and SESAC, who in turn account to their members. However, the composer, administrator, or publishing company must still register with the country’s designated PRO and submit to them their requisite “cue sheet” or set/play list in order for them to track when, where and how much your music has been publicly played. When it becomes cost-effective, some publishing companies will contract a “sub-publisher” located in the country of performance in order to avoid the hassle and delay of international monitoring.
If you are a composer and own your own publishing company, make sure that you register both as separate entities and have all music cataloged under both entities through your designated PRO. Remember to keep your cue sheets until you get confirmation that your music is cataloged properly. It is the responsibility of both the composer and publishing company to communicate with their designated PRO that their music is properly cataloged and that their cue sheets have been submitted correctly. ASCAP even has an alert form to let them know of any upcoming activity: http://www.ascap.com/musicbiz/cue_sheet_corner/.
Also, it’s a good habit to timely register your music with the Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). Performance royalties derive from the sale of the musical composition (as opposed to the sound recording). Ownership over the sound recording is filed using the SR form. Ownership over the musical composition is filed using the PA form, which you can now register online and by mail.
The key is to make sure to keep all records on what music is being played, when and where. Often time, a royalty check can take anywhere from 3 months to a year before you notice an error or mistake, so keeping records or partnering with another publishing company, can help to keep track of the revenue generated from your public plays.