Performances Rights Organizations

CMA Staff

MAR. 23, 2023

Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) play a vital role in any songwriter's career

Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) play a vital role in any songwriter's career – even if a songwriter doesn't realize it. PROs, a term generally used to describe collection societies in North America, function primarily to collect performance royalties for songwriters. These types of royalties are earned when works are performed ‘publicly’, which can include when a song is played on television, on the radio (whether internet or terrestrial), inside a restaurant, or when performed live.

BMI, Broadcast Music, Inc.
Music Publishing | BMI
Launched: 1939

Membership Size: 800,000 members
Official site: BMI.com
Socials: @BMI
Location: USA

About: BMI is one of the biggest and well known Performing Rights Organizations in the United States. It operates as a non-profit and was founded by radio executives to "serve as an advocate for the value of music" and to "support its songwriters, composers and publishers by taking care of an important aspect of their careers – getting paid," according to the BMI website. They offer blanket music licenses to businesses and organizations that allow them to play nearly 13 million musical works.

ASCAP, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
Launched: 1914Music Publishing | ASCAP

Membership Size: 700,000 members
Official site: ASCAP.com
Socials: @ASCAP
Location: USA

About: The only American PRO created and controlled by composers, writers, and music publishers—its Board of Directors is elected by its members. Along with BMI, ASCAP is another one of the largest PROs in the United States. ASCAP collects performance royalties in the US and globally via reciprocal agreements with foreign PROs outside of the US.

SESAC, Society of European Stage Authors and Composers
Launched: 1930Music Publishing | SESAC

Membership Size: 30,000 members
Official Site: SESAC.com
Socials: @SESAC
Location: USA

About: SESAC is a relatively smaller PRO in the U.S. that is not open to all songwriters. In order to become a member of SESAC, you must receive an invitation. SESAC focuses a lot of attention on representing film and television composers (from shows such as Seinfeld, Dr. Phil, and Grey’s Anatomy) as well as traditional songwriters SESAC writers like David Crosby or Bob Dylan. SESAC also owns and works closely with the Harry Fox Agency, one of the leading mechanical rights organizations in the United States.

SOCAN, Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada
Launched: 1997Music Publishing | SOCAN

Membership Size: around 160,000 members
Official site: SOCAN.ca
Socials: @SOCANmusic
Location: Canada

About: SOCAN is the largest and one of the most well known PRO’s for songwriters and composers in Canada. They collect and distribute performance royalties worldwide as well as issue licenses to Canadian businesses for the use of their catalog.

GMR, Global Music Rights
Launched: 2013Music Publishing | GMR
Membership Size: Invitation-only, 46,000+ songs licensed
Official site: globalmusicrights.com
Socials: @gmro_pro
Location: USA