Should I Join ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC?

By: Jerry A. Greene

Question: Should I join ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC?

Answer: The answer to this really depends on your personal preferences.

First thing you must realize is that SESAC is usually very hard to get into, unless you are already having great success in the music's almost like you have to be invited to join. For most composers, songwriter, or publishers, this isn't an option..

This leaves, ASCAP vs BMI. Now, this is my personal opinion, not because of my affiliation, but I "believe" ASCAP to be the better choice. My reason for this is that ASCAP was founded and is still run by the composers, authors and publishers which makes up it's membership. BMI, on the other hand, is run by broadcasters, and are generally the same people that don't want to pay for use of music (broadcasters make money through advertising, and the more of it they can keep, the better). This seems, to me anyway, to be a conflict of interest. I would rather have people on my side, helping me to make a living from my music.

As a writer, you can only belong to one of the 3 performing rights organizations. As a publisher, you can belong to all 3, which is important if you want to publish other writers' works. If you are going to self publish, please bear in mind that a publisher can only publish songs owned by a member of that organization.

Both ASCAP and BMI fight for the top spot in the music industry. They both want to be known as being the best and paying their members the most money. Which pays more? Well, from what I heard lately, BMI seems to pay out bigger in the beginning, adding bonuses to member that get their songs into the mainstream quickly, but then the money tapers off. ASCAP seems to pay a more steady rate over the long haul and (usually) a better income over time. This is all subjective though because it relies on so many factors including where the song is on the charts and how the competition is doing. There are never any 2 songs doing exactly the same thing on the charts and also getting the most cover recordings and other performing rights. The best way to tell how each organization pays its members is for a song to be owned by an ASCAP writer and publisher (50%) and a BMI writer and publisher (50%) and then compare the income.

I have not seen the two sides in writing, so it is hard to make a clear distinction as to who really pays more.

If you are a member of BMI, and would like to voice your opinion on this, please contact me: