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Topic: OT: BMI or ASCAP for TV/Film Royalties?

  1. #1

    OT: BMI or ASCAP for TV/Film Royalties?

    Hi All,

    We actually started this in another post, but I wanted to break it off into its own thread. Regarding potential income streams for artists, I have a couple of quick questions for anyone who has experience dealing with performing rights organizations (BMI/ASCAP/ASCAP) from the composer's perspective.

    I'm the music coordinator for a new reality series (no one is eating bugs or marrying dwarves, I assure you), and there's a number of artists who have granted us performance licenses that don't belong to any performing rights groups. They typically own the publishing as well.

    Bottomline, I want them to get every penny possible for their work. These are very cool, very talented artists who are in the same boat I've been in for the past ten years as a composer (aka, trying to catch a break), and these are people I hope to maintain relationships with over the next ten years.

    So the question is, do I recommend they join BMI or ASCAP if they don't already belong? I personally joined BMI years ago just because I got a better vibe from them on the film and TV front, but the entertainment landscape has changed dramatically since then. I've been hearing quite a bit of bad press about ASCAP royalty cuts for film and TV performances, but I haven't read any objective articles on the topic and didn't want to steer any of our artists in the wrong direction.

    My other question is this...the network our show will be airing on has a blanket license with each performing rights agency. Its market share at this time is substantially lower than a station like FX, USA or TNT, but there will be a ton of repeat airings and the station itself has a very loyal following. Does anyone know how much our artists can expect to see in royalites?

    I realize that still may be a bit vague, but I also don't want to breach my confidentiality agreement. Are there any sites that state potential royalty payouts to artists based on these kind of variables? If possible, I'd love to be able to give our artists some idea of what they might be seeing on the back end. Thanks for your time!


  2. #2

    Re: OT: BMI or ASCAP for TV/Film Royalties?

    I don't think there's a huge difference between ASCAP and BMI in amount paid for the same performance. I can say from personal experience (comparing statements) that while one may a be a tiny bit higher on some things, it's lower on others,and at the end of the day it all comes out about the same between the two - I wouldn't choose one over the other just based on the royalty amount. As far as payout, if you're a member of ASCAP/BMI you can just call up and ask what they pay for a minute of BI on a partiular station and they can give you a good idea. Most lower cable stuff (i.e. HBO,E!, FX, CourtTv, etc.) pays less than say $10 per min for a BI. Once you get to local you have do deal with Surveys as opposed to Census (where at least you'll get paid on every performance, even if the per minute is low), so I wouldn't count on huge performances from local performances. Just IMHO, of course...

  3. #3

    Re: OT: BMI or ASCAP for TV/Film Royalties?

    Actually, there's a big difference between the two companies.

    If you do music for in-show stuff (like themes and backgrounds) then BMI is your P.R.O. (Performance Royalty Org, for you nitpickers). They pay a larger rate for in-show stuff -- and actually pay more for in-show cable usage, too.

    If you do music for promos, commercials, etc, I'd go with ASCAP. They pay far more for Network promos than BMI and have a larger department to support promo use.

    HOWEVER, there are certain caveats to bear in mind:

    BMI is a private company and has a reputation (deserved or not) for giving larger breaks (ie; payments) to its more established members and kind of overlooking its smaller members. ASCAP doesn't really do this, at least not as often or egregiously.

    But, to contradict myself, ASCAP currently pays people who write popular (ie; for sale to general public and recognized artists) a disproportionately larger amount of money than those who score to picture or write production music. While a piece of production music would earn about $25 per prime-time air for a promo, a Barry Manilow song would make quite a bit more (80% more on average). As long as it isn't that piece of crap "Weekend In New England." I think they charge Barry everytime we have to hear it.

    Is any of this fair? Nope -- except the Weekend In NE thing. But that's the decision every composer faces. The Lady Tiger or the Tiger?

    There are many,many more issues, too. I could talk about the reluctance of either/both comanies regarding watermarking, web usage, recognizing outside reporting companies data, etc, but I'd just start weeping liker a six year old.

    So instead of taking my word for it, if you need more info, there are two groups that are pretty great in their giving the straight skinny on PROs. They are:

    Production Music Association (www.PMAmusic.com) (Not only for people in production music -- but a great way to read/learn about the intracies of legislation and current policies of the PROs.)

    Association of Music Producers (www.ampnow.com) Also a great organization geared towards companies/composers that produce music for commercials.

    I hope this helps. Contact me directly if you have any specific/short questions.


  4. #4

    Re: OT: BMI or ASCAP for TV/Film Royalties?

    NOTE: I forgot to explain before that my company is a publisher for both BMI and ASCAP -- and that I've had extensive dealings with both companies.

  5. #5

    Re: OT: BMI or ASCAP for TV/Film Royalties?

    Thanks for the info, guys. I was hoping it would be more cut and dry, but that clearly isn't the case. Best I can do is supply the artists with links for both BMI and ASCAP, and maybe I can dig up a site or two with an objective side by side comparison on broadcast/airplay rates. Then the artists can decide for themselves which might benefit them more for the kind of music and broadcast play they get.

    As long as they join one or the other, it's better to get something than the nothing they'd be getting. And yes, I am Yogi Berra's illegitimate love child.

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