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How To Be A PRO – Performing Rights Organizations

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

What are a performing rights organizations they and what do they do for music creators?

Man creating music
Congratulations! You're a Music Creator! What's next?

You’ve been creating music for a while now, and you’re ready to get out there and share it with the world! You may track down an open mic, or start a live stream concert series, or find local musicians who will perform your work in an upcoming concert, Once you start performing your music or having your music performed either on stage, online, or on the airwaves, you should consider joining a performing rights organization. In today’s post, we will explore what a performing rights organization is and why it can benefit you as a working composer.

What is a Performing Rights Organization (PRO)?

ASCAP I Create Music 2010 with Speaker Music Legend Quincy Jones; Photo: Janae Jean
ASCAP I Create Music 2010 with Speaker Music Legend Quincy Jones; Photo: Janae Jean

A performing rights organization acts as an intermediary between copyright holders and those who wish to use their copyrighted works. One of their main jobs is to collect performance royalties on the behalf of music creators and publishers for the public performances of their musical work.

PROs may also offer their members other benefits such as discounts on products and services, conferences, networking opportunities, career assistance and advice, and advocacy for musicians and the arts.

What is a music publisher?

A publisher is a person or company that prepares and issues books, journals, music, or other works for sale. A music publisher is a type of publisher that specializes in distributing music. Many independent artists acts as self-publishers and are both the creator and publisher of their work.

What defines a musical work?

A musical work is a song’s underlying composition created by a songwriter or composer along with any accompanying lyrics.

What is a performance royalty?

Performance royalties are paid to composers, lyricists, and songwriters and their publishers in exchange for the right to broadcast or perform a copyrighted musical composition in a public environment, including theaters, bars, restaurants, places of worship, concert halls, educational institutions, and other venues, as well as radio, television, and the internet. Streaming audio is considered a performance as well. Performance royalties are shared in a 50/50 split between the music creator(s) and its publisher(s). This distinguishes them from mechanical royalties which are royalties paid for the purchase of a physical copy of a performance, such as a compact disc or vinyl record. Venues purchase a license from a PRO that gives them permission to have the works of its members performed in their venue.

What is copyright in the music business?

A music copyright designates legal ownership of a musical composition or audio recording, including redistribution and reproduction rights as well as licensing rights.

A Short History of PROs