If you’re an artist, odds are you’ve heard about performance rights organizations. Whether it's BMI, ASCAP or BUMA/STEMRA, these organizations are something every artist hears about a lot. Hearing these long acronyms all the time can be very confusing, and at first, the function of a performance rights organization probably doesn’t make much sense. So why is it that these organisations exist, what exactly do they do, and how can they benefit you as an artist?
In short, performance rights management organizations ensure that artists get paid out when their music is used at live venues or in other public places, such as stores. If a public place wants to legally play live music, they have to pay a blanket fee to a performance rights organization that ensures the artists get compensated. The reason that artists hear about these organisations all the time is that money is often left on the table which artists never even knew was theirs.
Did you know that you can earn money from performing your own tracks by registering your setlists? That’s right - part of that blanket fee the venue pays can go straight to you if you make sure to register your setlists with your respective music rights organization. While it’s not enough money to live from, it can certainly add up to a significant amount every year if you consistently perform and release music. The specifics of each organization depend from organization to organization and country to country, but the concept remains the same overall. The idea is for the artist to get compensated for the public use of their work at the venue, and it is something that every artist is entitled to. To find out which performance rights organization you should become part of, you’ll need to do some research on which one operates in your country, and then sign up with them. Some countries have more than one, so you’ll have to do a bit of research and ask around to get a good idea of what the differences are. The best way to get this kind of info is to ask other artists who have already released regularly and have experience in your particular country.
Once you’ve picked an organization and you’re a member, make sure that you’re aware of what you sign in the future. Record labels can occasionally give nasty, confusing contracts which trick artists into giving up all of the extra revenue they would gain from their performance rights organization. Be very careful and don’t sign any deals without reading them carefully - this is a tough industry, and you always have to be on your toes!
The more you know, the further you’ll go. Keep performance rights organizations in mind, and always remember to be careful and to earn as much as possible from your music. Don’t leave money on the table.