Did you know that there is a way to collect live performance royalties from every song you play during a live public performance? From the local pub, to the arena downtown, and just about everywhere else in between. Basically, any businesses that use music (live or recorded) to create an ambiance and vibe to sell their products and experiences becomes a venue where you can collect live performance royalties from your Performing Rights Organization!
Live Performance Royalties
Businesses operating within the law pay a licensing fee to performance rights organizations (PRO), like ASCAP and BMI, in exchange for the right to broadcast live or recorded music to their customers. When you or your band perform at one of these venues/businesses, you are owed a percentage of the license that the venue you performed in pays to ASCAP or BMI (depending on which PRO your songs are registered with).
Before you can plan on collecting any royalty income from your public performance, you will need to register your songs with a Performing Rights Organization. For the developing independent musician in the United States, this will be ASCAP or BMI.
In simplistic terms, think of ASCAP and BMI as non-profit agents operating on the songwriter’s behalf to collect performance royalties from radio, TV, cable, bars, clubs, restaurants, shopping malls, concert halls, websites, airlines, orchestras, etc.
Each songwriter can register for only one at a time. If your band is just starting out, for convenience sake, I recommend each songwriting member of the group registers with the same PRO.
If you’re curious about the differences between ASCAP and BMI check out this post from Songtrust that outlines the differences.
Once you and your songs are registered with a PRO you can get started collecting performance royalties from your live sets.
If you’re an ASCAP member, you will be using ASCAP OnStage to submit your setlists and get paid.
ASCAP OnStage allows you to get paid for every song you perform during your live set. This is accomplished by giving you options to track your live performances, save multiple setlists for easy submission, and even submit your performances from your mobile device via the ASCAP mobile app.
First, you provide the details of the performance (date, venue, etc.) as well as the songs you performed (each song must be previously registered with ASCAP to receive a performance royalty).
Once this is complete, ASCAP will include an OnStage live performance royalty payment with your normal ASCAP distribution.
You have the option of inputting your data via the ASCAP mobile app, the ASCAP Member Access website, or even directly here.
Note: For symphony, recital, and educational concerts, you must submit a printed program to ASCAP via Performance Notification.
Your setlist can be submitted immediately after the performance, which may or may not be practical, so ASCAP allows for a grace period. The deadline for submission varies depending on the date of the performance. Use the chart below to find the deadline for your last performance to qualify for a live performance royalty payment.
ASCAP OnStage Performance Submission Deadlines:
|DATE OF PERFORMANCE||SUBMISSION DEADLINE|
|January 1 to March 31||June 30|
|April 1 to June 30||September 30|
|July 1 to September 30||December 31|
|October 1 to December 31||March 31 (following year)
Second, ASCAP processes the data you submit and performance royalties are distributed to the writers and the publishers of the songs performed. The royalty amount ASCAP distributes is based on the license fee paid by the respective venue at which you performed.
If you’re a BMI member, you will be using BMI Live to submit your setlists and get paid. BMI Live works in much the same way as ASCAP OnStage. Artists enter the date and venue in which the performance took place along with the setlist they performed. Setlists can be submitted via the BMI website or the BMI mobile app.
Setlists can be submitted via the BMI website or the BMI mobile app.
First, you provide the details of the performance (date, venue, etc.) as well as the songs you performed (each song must be previously registered with BMI to receive a performance royalty) and BMI will include a performance royalty payment for the live performance along with your normal quarterly BMI distribution. You can input the data via the BMI mobile app or the membership area of the BMI website.
You can input the data via the BMI mobile app or the membership area of the BMI website.
Just like ASCAP OnStage, BMI allows you to enter your live performance data immediately after the performance. BMI allows a grace period of up to two quarters prior to the current quarter. This gives you up to six months to enter your performance data.
Second, BMI processes the data you submit and a performance royalty is distributed to the writers and the publishers of the songs performed.
Just like ASCAP, the royalty amount BMI distributes is based on the license fee paid by the respective venue.
Controversy Over Live Performance Royalties
Both ASCAP OnStage and BMI Live have had their fair share of internet bashers. The argument against ASCAP OnStage and BMI Live is based on musicians losing gigs and performance opportunities due to reporting their live performances to ASCAP or BMI.
In a nutshell, if an artist performs at a venue who is illegally dodging paying the licensing fees for utilizing music (live or pre-recorded) in their business, ASCAP and BMI show up at their doorstep asking to be paid the appropriate licensing fee. This causes the venue to cancel the artist’s future performances.
I’m going to say something controversial here, but this blog is about growing a real career in the music business, not about playing bar gigs for $20 and free beer (if you’re lucky) for the rest of your life.
If you’re trying to get ahead and build a proper following by getting out there and performing live, STOP performing at venues who don’t pay their licensing fees. If that means losing a few gigs here and there, so be it.
Let’s get real, how many new fans were you getting from those gigs anyway? If the venue owner can’t afford to pay his licensing fees, his clientele most likely can’t afford to buy your merch, won’t sign up for your email list, and doesn’t care enough to follow up with you via social media.
Register To Collect Your Live Performance Royalties Today
Having yourself and your songs registered with a Performing Rights Organization like ASCAP or BMI is an essential part of being a professional musician. Both ASCAP and BMI have tools in place to help you earn the performance royalties that are rightfully yours, so why not use them?
If you have used ASCAP OnStage or BMI Live before, we would love to hear your experiences. Feel free to comment via Facebook and if this post helped you in any way, please spread the word and give us a share!