Why PROs + Copyright are Important to You as an Artist
PROs (Performance Rights Organizations)
What does a PRO do?
When your song lands a license for a broadcast TV commercial, a placement on a TV show or on the radio, you are eligible to collect “performance royalties.” The Performance Rights Organizations collect these royalties for their rightsholders (read: musicians like you) and hold them until they are claimed. Other than their primary purpose as an intermediary between rightsholders and customers, PROs are highly active in legal arenas. They lobby on behalf of rightsholders, especially in discussions of legal royalty rates.
There are 3 PRO companies in the U.S.:
ASCAP charges a one-time fee of $50 to sign up and requires you to start a publishing company to collect the publishing side rights. Here’s a primer on how to start a publishing company — this step might seem daunting, but we promise it’s not too hard.
This PRO offers registration at no charge to the songwriter. BMI allows you to collect 100 percent of the royalties as a songwriter, without requiring you to create a publishing company.
Unlike the other two PROs, you can only register with SESAC if you receive an invite. There is no charge to register. SESAC requires you to start a publishing company to collect the publishing side rights and is starting to pay out for some paid web commercials.
PROs outside the U.S.
Each country has a different PRO company (SOCAN in Canada, PRS in the UK, etc.). If you are an international artist, you can look for a PRO in your country here.
Once you’ve selected a PRO to work with and have signed up, you need to register your songs. After this, be sure to let us know your PRO info and we will always pass it along to our clients for licenses that might pay royalties. To do this, here’s the info we’ll need:
Writer: Writer name, PRO name, IPI number
Publisher: Publishing company name, PRO name, IPI number
To receive royalties based on broadcast licenses (like commercials), you need to make a claim. Tracking these royalties can be complicated, but luckily, there are a few companies in the U.S. (like our pals over at Manage Ad Music) that can simplify the process if you need additional help.
All the information Marmoset receives that would be necessary to make a claim is provided in your Artist Dashboard. Simply go to the Vendor Sales section, click on the license, and you can find the End Client, Job Name, Term, Territory and Usage (if it’s Broadcast). The one additional piece is the “ Ad Code”, which you can find on Competitrack (use the Client and Job Name to search for the video of the project).
If you would like additional info on this topic, check out this general rundown of royalties and how they are paid.
Don’t miss out on royalties that your music has earned!
The last thing you want to think about when you’re writing or recording new music is someone stealing your composition (your words, melodies and arrangements), or using your recording without appropriate approval. We don’t often have to deal with infringement cases, but unfortunately, every once in a blue moon we do, and if your copyrights aren’t registered for your songs, we will have no legal room to fight for you and collect the appropriate compensation for your songs being used. To protect yourself from people taking advantage of your music, we recommended registering a copyright for all your songs.
You can register a single song or a group of songs for copyright at:
To protect your songs fully, we recommend registering a copyright for the recording (with the Form SR, Sound Recordings,) and a separate copyright for the composition (with the Form PA, Performing Arts). You can do this all online here.
It generally takes 6-8 months to hear back about your copyright application, but as long as you have your application number and take some screenshots of the application, you should be covered in the meantime.
If you're interested in learning more about copyrights, check out these interesting music copyright lawsuits which happened in 2016.
To read about other challenges regarding music copyright and streaming music providers check out more information on “The Transparency in Music Licensing and Copyright Act”.