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May 14, 2006


Heuristics Inc.

The ASCAP music publisher agreement states that the songs have to be copyrighted. Have you found that a Creative Commons label serves as a copyright, or do they make requirements on having government copyrights filed?
Also, re: the name checks are written to, the ASCAP agreement has a box to check and a line to fill in that allows you to specify the name the check should be written to if you'd like to have a publishing company name that's different from that.
Thanks for a great article - I hope you read old comments!
-bill (Heuristics Inc.)

Paul Dickson

The BMI "work registration form", which you can find at http://www.bmi.com/songwriter/resources/forms/work-reg-e.pdf explicitly allows for works with no publisher at all, in which case the publisher's share is divided among the writers. So the premise of your preference for ASCAP over BMI has no validity.

I do not work for BMI, but I do have a piece registered with them and this clause is one of the things that swayed me in my choice of PRO.

Ryan Sawhill

ahh and the plot thickens.

sunday freedman

opinions of small-town bar owner about to file bankruptcy because of BMI. In my opinion, there's really no reason for any songwriter to sign with either of these publishing corporations unless your songs will be played on the radio. you see, what most musicians dont know is that only the artists currently being played on the radio will be receiving any royalties from these "soprano"-esque (& i'm mainly talking about BMI here) organizations. and most songwriters are unaware of the shady business practices being conducted on "their" behalf when it comes to the bar/restaurant industry. they (BMI) harass, threaten, send in spies,(we're talkin border-line extortion/racketeering here) to get you to pay outrageous annual licensing fees for offering live entertainment (bands playing cover tunes or karaoke). We would've been more than happy to pay reasonable annual dues. but, the amount they "billed" us for was laughable! (based on CAPACITY, not annual sales) we NEVER have anywhere NEAR the amount of people our capacity allows, & already pay a license for the jukebox ($800/year) for a small-town bar that only brings in avg. $100/night mon-thur & $400 on fri or sat nite, that's a lot of dough. they wanted us to pay for an additional license ($1200) for our weekly karaoke and 2 times/month live band performances, but we called our attny general's office & they were unaware of any LAW that required us to do so... so we blew it off. BMI was ruthless in its taticts. they harrassed employees, sent threatening mail, and sent in spies to document copywrite infringements of "their" artists' music. (14 violations) then hit us with a lawsuit stating they have the right to collect up to $1.5 million from us. we are a small-time business in a small town barely able to pay our payroll taxes each month, let alone an amount as enormous as that. we'll probably have to sell the business we've been building for 7 years, be forced to file bankruptcy, and face the possibility of losing our home &/or all assets. meanwhile, we've had to stop karaoke & live band performances (the only potentially busy nites for the bar); and the only time the bar has more than 20 people in it. so, it's looking pretty bad for us. what really pisses me off though, as shady as their collection tatics are, the distribution policies of these funds to "their" artists are even worse! they only pay out a questionable amount & only to artists with songs in rotation on a small sampling (20%) of radio stations nation-wide. so, even if a band does play a cover of gary stewart's "empty glass" or david allen coe's "you dont have to call me darlin"... neither of them will be seeing any royalties cause their songs arent being played on the radio anymore. ashlee simpson, kelly clarkson, & kenny chesney will be receiving a check. not the artists whose songs are being performed. basically, it's a bunch of b.s. cuz a karaoke or live performance of a song might even help the sales of that record. & i'm pretty sure that most musicians wouldnt want businesses like ours going under so that the multi-million dollar artists whose songs are currently on the radio can have bigger checks and BMI can afford to pay the $200,000.00 a month lease for their corporate offices in NYC. but that's just my opinion.

Ryan Sawhill

whoa. what a story.
sorry man. that really sucks.

Karen Johnson

I used to sing once I sung at TCL when it was open. But based over an illness I'm not able to sing anymore. My illness grew worse over time. Now the only time I sing is like around the house. I do write songs and I have a website if you would like to check the site out. I try to get in contact with all singers and songwriters-publishers and producers so on. If you have any questions let me know.

Thank you,

Karen Johnson

1009 west caddo

Cleveland, Ok. 74020


Bootsie Daniels

Hi Karen, I'm a soul singer my comment is if BMI is this ruthless about going after people that use your original material, why don't ASCAP do the same thing?

Karen Johnson

I have a website on the blog that displays the songs I have written. I also have another website that a friend displays the songs I've written and that he had sung. On this website of his that displays these songs. Is on www.monk-music.com that you can be connected to both of the sites that displays all of these songs.

Karen Johnson

some late comments...

"This means they have the right to make CDs of your music, as well as the right to license that right to anyone else. The exceptions are: as long as it's not to sell the CDs to the public, to sync the music with film or TV, or distribute via cable. Obviously, those seem like the main reasons you'd want to make CDs, but I can think of lots of other reasons, for example, they can make thousands of your CDs and give them away for free, or license them to a car company who would include the CD in their cars (or hotel CD collections, libraries, etc... anything that's not "to the public")"

BMI is not manufacturing and licensing CD's to hotels. Tons of small publishers would protest. It has nothing to do with the business they're in. They aren't doing it, they won't do it.

"Clause C. gives them the right to adapt or arrange the work, however they want (think "techno remix") for performance use. I don't see ASCAP getting this right in their agreement."

Of course ASCAP gets this right. What about when a radio station adds bleeps to a song, or slows it down near a break, or does any number of hip-hop style things to it, adds delay, whatever.

Let me make a few arguments in favor of BMI. First, a while ago I wanted to license some music to a store for in-store play. I spoke with both P.R.O's, neither of which had a problem provided the licenses were on store premises. More importantly, BMI's customer service is way better than ASCAP's. ASCAP will put you through the most ridiculous phone tree, and you'll end up speaking to someone who is an idiot. BMI is completely different, I've gotten emails back, great answers, and it takes a lot less time.

I agree that BMI's tactics are crappy re: shakedowns of bar owners, but ASCAP does the same thing. It's something that sucks about both of them.

You made some other points about contract terms that I actually want to look into (for my own benefit), including the 5-year term, etc., but I the choice between the two is not so cut and dry.


Karen Johnson

This is to the comment over what I have posted. I'm not sure over how the BMI and ASCAP works or even the SESAC. I really wished I knew though. Because this can help me over how one's get reconition over their material. I have been trying to get in contact for reconition over my work. I would think they would work the same way. But so far I have noticed there are people that can be under the same name in any business industry. And be out there for the wrong reasons-only for money. Instead of helping people out for their talent. And others don't realize this is alot of work!! I can understand how it can be considered a job. It is work!! I have worked with companies that made promises and are under names that are familiar in the music industry. But I feel this is only label and not the real thing. And this makes the real business look bad. The one's that are under the same name and aren't the real thing. It can happen in the acting business or modeling business also. And I feel the same way over that. It doesn't matter what business it can pertain too!!!! And because of this people have falling victims to fraud!!!!I have a friend that worked with BMI. And this company made him all kinds of promises. And that's all it was were broken promises. They were sure enough there to take his money though. And he's a very talented artist. I hope they realize that when they make promises that they don't keep. This is illegal-false advertisement. And because of this there are others that can be harmed because these people are only trying to reach for their dreams. And these companies are there just for their banking accounts. Falling victims to false advertisements!!!!Because there are so many as I call it like alligators (gators) out there ready to swallow you up!!!! By using your dream to get to your money or for them to place harm upon others. And one's end up loosing their life because of false dreams!!!!So I'm not sure exactly why some of these business do things differently. I do wish I knew though. A person could sure live out their dream when they know what they are up against.

Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson

Bootsie I didn't realize until now that jon had made a comment to your question. I hope this helps. I know it does me. Because I am still learning about how BMI and ASCAP or even SESAC works. I know when I first started doing more songwriting Diane Warren is the one that recommended me to look up information with BMI and ASCAP. Which has helped me to learn who does the most connection. Thank you Jon!



Wow! I am just starting in the music writing buz. This brought me down a few steps. Almost makes me want to throw a way my piano.



I have an ASCAP song writers membership .... and I was about to get a publisher membership with ASCAP. I better step back two and punt. Don't know if I should ____ or go blind.



Okay, well, I am a SOCAN member in Canada and a BMI affiliate for a synchronization of my music on an American prime-time TV show. I have NEVER had a problem with BMI, and have heard from my new co-writing partner that it was ASCAP who charged, not BMI...hence, she became a BMI member. So...contradictions here.

i just dont understand why bmi charges $150 to be a publisher and ascap charges $25 for being a publisher and writer. whats up with those digits????


Wait a minute - i thought the title of this whole segment was how to publish your music, not, who is better BMI or ASCAP -
OK - If your music 'somehow'gets (duhh ..licensing agreements) placed on the radio,placed in a movie, on TV, in a commercial - UNLESS you are a member of a society (BMI -ASCAP)whose job it is to hunt down the people who use your music, - 'somebody else' will register the song as the publisher, and will be making royalties, when it airs - Why havent you talked about this?? - I belong to BMI - yes they charge 150.00 to be listed - you get what you pay for- the fact of the matter is if you dont pay to be a publisher - you, by default, get youre publishing amount, being listed as the writer - Yes ture fact - i dont know if thats the case with ASCAP-what the 150.00 gets you is 'European coverage' - yes, BMI is way better at recovering American's royalties abroad -
True fact - hey -you get what you pay for..
Im not a spokesman by any means - ive placed a 'handful of of song placements on American TV 1 Austrian commercial- and a couple of songs that air in South America to Estonia - no problems with BMI - its all itemized on my check stub
Hope this was helpful-

Auto D.

Wow. what a world of commentary! Somewhat helpful, and somewhat confusing all at the same time. I've been a registered BMI songwriter for 9 years, and now have had my own publishing company registered with BMI and no problems. They've been really great with taking calls, and scheduling me for in person meetings, offering career advice, etc. I have often wondered myself if ASCAP was more helpful to young artists, etc. Our first EP has airplay around the globe, earned many positive reviews and non- exclusive publishing offers. Now, with a debut album on the way, we wish to do this right. I would like to team up with a more experienced publisher or agent who will provide solid advice/ mentorship in trade for insider contacts / connections in todays music market. As an independent artist, I've learned to do my homework, becoming my own songplugger, label, etc. If there are any solid publishing organizations that someone could recommend, please let me know. From what I understand in this business so far, the thing I should do is hire someone to handle administration (Paperwork). This is a very fun and competetive business! I would enjoy trading notes, and networking with a like-minded artist to grow and learn in a positive environment.


Auto D.

Ben Green

thanks a bunch..im switching to ascap pronto

Kathy  McDougal

Everyone that I have talked to has started to use SESAC. Artists are very pleased, as they get paid regularly not spuraticaly and they have a reasonable fee-Just my two cents to throw into the mix


I realize this is 5 years old but I just wanted to say...this didn't really teach me how to self-publishing...just told me that BMI sucks more than ASCAP...which is cool and stuff but the title doesn't match the article. That is all, thanks.

Christian Kramer

This is good info, but I take it as one persons opinion. The BMI V.S. ASCAP debate has been going on for a long time. Everyone has an opinion on this. My advise is to do your own research and decide for yourself. Call BMI and ASCAP and let them answer your questions. Read reviews from publishers and songwriters. Scour their websites. Then make a list of pros and cons for each and then make a decision. While other peoples opinions are valuable, opinions vary. One person may have had a bad experience with ASCAP, while another person has had a bad experience with BMI. Proper research will give you peace of mind. Good luck!


A while back, when I knew nothing about anything pertaining to publishing and/or PRO's, I registered with BMI and ASCAP at the same time. I was young and didn't read either agreement and have missed both termination windows. I wish to remain with ASCAP, but BMI's contract renews automatically every two years. Is my only option to wait until the next termination window and terminate my contract with BMI? Or is either contract void for registering with both. I don't have a single work registered, so there is no money involved on either side, but I've always been confused at the best approach to solving this situation.

Any help is appreciated!

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