Feb 1, 2011, 13:47

Performance royalties organizations (or “PROs”) serve an important role to the music world:  They ensure that when a piece of music composed by one of their members is performed in public, that member gets paid. “Public” is defined in this case as a gathering of people beyond just family and friends.

It’s a tough job. You try convincing a sports bar owner in San Antonio that in order to legally continue having Karaoke night, he’ll have to start paying the equivalent of insurance for a second car. But that’s exactly what BMI, ASCAP, SOCAN and other PROs have been doing for decades in order for their members to receive compensation for writing great songs. Most educated people in the Western business world are well aware that music usage is not free, largely due to the PRO’s effectiveness at collecting royalties.

Given the tenor of the conversation with our sports bar owner, it’s understandably difficult for a PRO to demand not only annual fees, but also a detailed a log of what songs were played, when they were played, and for what duration. I would be happy just to leave the bar with all my teeth.

It’s easy to forgive an ASCAP representative for leaving that meeting without a list of songs that were performed and thus an idea of who to pay. But what if you are a member of said PRO who 1) Creates music that isn’t normally played in a sports bar, but rather a more narrow type of public performance 2) Are not a household name 3) Do not possess the clout or resources to navigate a huge bureaucracy?

That’s where the concept of a direct performance license enters the picture…more on that this week. Stay tuned.


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of http://www.musicrevolution.com, a production music marketplace where media producers and business owners can license high-quality, affordable music from a online community of musicians.

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