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Topic: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

  1. #1

    ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    I know PAM (ASCAP) and Doreen (BMI) and was wondering in everyone's opinion, the strengths and weakness of both.

    I am a composer and singer songwriter and have been affiliated with one of them and looking just for some feedback. Of particular interest is setting up a publishing company.

    Thanks again.


  2. #2

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    ASCAP will charge you annual fees, but other than that, I don't think it really matters.

    They both try to pay roughly the same amounts for equivalent usages, although from time to time, some usages will favor one society over the other. One example would be that a few years ago, a pair of cowriters I know wrote music for "Psychic Hotline" infommercials. The BMI guy made about quadruple what the ASCAP guy made. This is far and away the most extreme difference I've ever seen. I've seen other instances where an ASCAP guy comes out on top.

    For the most part, though, I've seen nearly identical payments when there are co-writers from the two societies. Since they both collect equivalent amounts, it's really a crapshoot as to whether you'll fare better with one over the other.

    I'd decide based on who you like better, Pam or Doreen. Knowing them could be a pretty big deal. In my case, ASCAP screws up about a third of all my shows for the dopiest of reasons. The member service bozos in the New York ASCAP office can rarely solve even the most obvious of problems

    It took me years to find my own ASCAP rep who knows what she's doing and solves problems during the first phone call.

    By the way, ask Doreen if she really has to appear in EVERY picture taken at BMI events.

    - Mike Greene (ASCAP)

  3. #3

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    Er, so the ASCAP site's info is incorrect? It said there are no member dues.

  4. #4

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    Quote Originally Posted by zircon_st
    Er, so the ASCAP site's info is incorrect? It said there are no member dues.
    Hmmm. I could swear I've been paying $30 or something like that annually. Maybe they stopped charging or maybe it's just my publishing company that gets charged. If they're saying no member dues, I'd believe them over me!

    - Mike Greene

  5. #5

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    Mike, I t-h-i-n-k it's the publishing company that they are charging you for. (Although I'm BMI, I vaguely remember reading something about that when I was researching the two of them.)

    I joined BMI and I find them to be pretty user friendly. I like being able to do everything online too. It makes life a little easier. I have to agree with Mike though... from time to time one will pay higher than the other but in the end it probably evens out. Somebody once posted a good website (can't remember but it had "producer" in the address) and it gave a fair breakdown of what the two paid out for various scenarios. Hey Mike what's your current project you're working on? That elusive big feature film?
    I think a favorite gag in medival times was to sneak up behind a Knight and stick a "kick me" sign on his armor with a magnet.

  6. #6

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    There are 2 big differences I'm aware of.

    One has to do with the way music radio airplay and venue song performances are counted towards composer royalty payments. ASCAP samples from a select list like the Nielson's. BMI tries to count every single air and venue play. So there's a lot more reporting involved for radio stations and venues that play BMI music. Also, since top-40 hit songs dominate ASCAP's sampled stations, the pro-rata, split of that pot lets composers of top tunes walk away with the lion's share of the loot with small fry often getting zilch.

    The other big difference is in the contract you make. ASCAP artists give their organization the right to licence others. BMI artists, on the other hand, assign all public performance rights in their compositions to BMI. A distinction which bothers some performer/songwriters.

    I get the impression that there are fewer distinctions between the 2 in the film and publishing markets.

    The history of ASCAP and BMI is fascinating. ASCAP was originally closely aligned with Classical composers, Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, and then Hollywood. Around 1940 or so Johnny Mercer was elected president of ASCAP and, believing radio stations weren't paying composers enough, abruptly doubled their rates. Radio stations retaliated by banding into a national association (BMI) and refused to license with ASCAP. This lead to no popular music being played on the US airwaves for a almost a year. At some point people got sick of hearing Swanee River and BMI started recruiting it's own grade-B artists, mostly from the midwest and south, pushing a new American music form which it dubbed Hillbilly music. At first everyone made fun of the yokles but when the BMI tune "Deep in the Heart of Texas" hit number one, ASCAP settled and cut it's rates. To this day, Nashville's a BMI town. And most Country and Blues artists go BMI.


  7. #7

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    Interesting I didn't know that! Thanks!
    I think a favorite gag in medival times was to sneak up behind a Knight and stick a "kick me" sign on his armor with a magnet.

  8. #8

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    My experience has been that ASCAP wins hands down, especially if you write and publish radio commercials, station ID's, promos or news themes. I was a member of BMI for my first six years of PRO representation, and had I known then what I know now, I would have resigned before my first license renewal occurred (BMI's writer licenses automatically renew every two years if you don't go through a well choreographed resignation procedure a few months prior). After becoming an ASCAP member it was clear within a couple of years that I had made the right choice. My income the first six years at ASCAP was ONE HUNDRED times what my six years at BMI was. The trick with ASCAP is that you have to really work your catalog there, make a lot of noise (backed up with a lot of facts and contracts).

    For network level TV (shows, movies, commercials, promos), market-exclusive syndicated programming (like Oprah), and foreign performances it's a toss-up. For everything else (network radio news and sports music, local radio station ID's, local commericals, local TV promos, library music) ASCAP wins hands down. At least it does for me.
    a $120k business degree will get you a job on Wall Street - a $120k Berklee degree will get you a job on Beale Street...

  9. #9

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    I'm a film composer and am affiliated with both ASCAP and BMI. I started with ASCAP and several years ago switched over to BMI. I am very happy with BMI (and Doreen ). For me, I think BMI serves my purposes better, I feel included, plus their dinners are fantastic!
    They seem to be diligent on the royalties too, though it's pretty darn impossible to tell who is/would be better.
    The scuttlebut is - if you're involved in film - BMI. If you're involved in songwriting and performing - ASCAP.
    All this is mainly rumor and conjecture, I'm sure.
    - bottom line, if you like who you're dealing with and feel included, go with them and you can't go wrong.

    Peace and Carrots
    Logic 9 | OSX Snow Leopard | 2x3 Ghz Quad-Core Intel Xeon | 4g ram |Dual Cinema Displays | MBox 2 | MOTU 2408, MTP AV | AlphaTrack | BlueSky 2.1 |

  10. #10

    Re: ASCAP vs BMI (opinions)

    I don't mean to hijack the thread but kind of a related question.

    Does BMI or ASCAP work outside of the USA in terms of allowing songwriters (outside of the States) to join and have effective royalty collection? How about SESAC?

    I've got a theme song I've written for a TV show that plays 3x a day, 5 days a week (for the past year) and I've only seen potatoes in terms of payment (even though I own the copyright). I'd like to get some representaion and enforcement.

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