If you're a musician, producer, songwriter or composer, registering your songs with a performing rights organization (PRO) is an essential step in ensuring that you are properly compensated for your creative work. After all, who wants to miss out on those royalty checks? Registering your music with a PRO can give you access to a global network that can help identify when and where your music is played, so you can get the royalties you deserve.
We promise it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. Registering with a PRO is easy (when you know where to look) and opens up an entire world of possibilities for getting compensated for your hard work. It's a simple and straightforward process that can make all the difference in how much money you make off of your music.
Plus, being a part of a PRO can open up opportunities to get your foot in the door for more projects. It’s like having an extra set of eyes and ears that are helping you keep track of where your music is being played worldwide - or perhaps where it should be played! PROs can get your music in front of people that you might never have access to if you tried to do it alone.
So, how exactly do you go about registering for a PRO? The process is surprisingly simple, and it all starts with determining which one is the right fit for you. In the U.S., there are three majors to choose from: BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, so be diligent in your research before joining. The only PRO you need an invite to get into as of 2023 is SESAC. As a for-profit organization, they can afford to be choosier with their writers. However, BMI and ASCAP are both non-profits and are free to join as a songwriter/creator! So, chat with your musical friends about which PRO they prefer, or just flip a coin, and then get going!
A common misconception we hear about registering for a PRO is that they require MP3s. This is just not true! What they do require is the writer's splits: the legal names of everyone involved with writing on the song, and the percentage of the writing credit that they own. Make sure these splits are negotiated as early as possible, as they are one of the most important pieces of information about a song. It’s also not a bad idea to get the splits agreed upon in writing. (You can Google ‘Split Sheet Template’ to find a document you like.) What seems like a small percentage of writer credit can amount to millions of dollars in royalties down the line, should a song receive mainstream success. There are countless horror stories in the hip-hop world about fights over writer splits due to poor organization and/or clouded late-night studio memories, so don’t be a victim!
Once you decide and apply to the PRO of your dreams, you will wait for approval. (It doesn't take long!) Once approved, you'll be assigned a unique registration number. Guard this number with your life! (Kidding.) It's an important piece of information and is what music publishers, radio stations and various other players in the industry will use to identify your music.
Most publishers worth their salt will register both you and your songs to the PRO of your choice. If the publishing company you are considering working with does not offer this feature, you might want to rethink your pub deal. Publishing is a more in-depth topic that we explore in this blog post, but for now you just need to know that it is a huge piece of your success, and goes hand in hand with registering your songs with a PRO.
No matter which Performing Rights Society you choose, you are advocating for yourself by registering your songs, so great job! Many artists avoid this facet of the music business because it seems complex, but it’s incredibly important. If you do not have the time or energy to decide on a PRO for yourself, get in touch with us today and we can help you out.
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