Performing Rights Organizations: How to Register with a PRO and Why it is Important

Are you a songwriter? Or have you ever co-written a song? Are you looking to release your first work as an artist? Then it is probably time to start registering your songs with a PRO. 

What exactly is a PRO?

A PRO is a performing rights organization (or society). There are three major performing rights societies in the United States: ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. These companies allow you to register as a songwriter under them so they can track and collect performance royalties. A performance royalty is the money you earn from having your musical composition streamed online, played in a public venue, played in a live performance, etc. When you register with a PRO, you have the ability to collect royalties earned from your songs.

Why do I need to register?

Performance royalties are a major revenue source within the music industry, especially for artists. In order to obtain these royalties, you must register and affiliate with one of the three performing rights organizations. You can only register under one PRO at a time. ASCAP and BMI allow any songwriter to join, whereas SESAC requires songwriters to be invited to join.

Whenever you earn performance royalties on a song, the earnings are split 50/50, between a writer and publisher. These splits are known as the “writer’s share” and the “publisher’s share”.

If you are a songwriter, either with or without a publishing deal, you need to register with a PRO in order to obtain the “writer’s share” of earnings from royalties, which is paid directly to the writer from the PRO. If you are a songwriter who is not signed with a publisher, then you need to register both as a writer and publisher (under the SAME PRO) in order to obtain both the writer and publisher’s share of earnings.

How do I register as a songwriter under a PRO?

NOTE: Process is described based on BMI’s website, as this is the PRO I am personally affiliated with and familiar with.

  1. First, you need to decide which performing rights organization you want to register with. Do some research on both ASCAP and BMI (assuming you have not received an invitation to join SESAC) and decide which is the best for you.
  2. After deciding which PRO you want to affiliate with, you will want to begin by creating an account on the PRO’s website. 
  3. Once you create an account, start by registering as a songwriter. 
  4. The first step in this process is entering all of your basic personal information – name, country, contact.
  5. Next, you will continue on filling out the affiliation status.
  6. Review prior information you entered to be sure it is all correct.
  7. You will then read over the contract from the PRO, sign, and submit your application to join.
  8. Congrats! You are now fully registered as a songwriter under a performing rights organization. You will receive an email confirmation from the organization shortly thereafter.

How do I register a song with a PRO?

NOTE: Process is described based on BMI’s website, as this is the PRO I am personally affiliated with and familiar with.

  1. Head over to your PRO website and login to your account.
  2. Under the applications menu, select “Works Registration”.
  3. This will then take you to the “In-Process Works” page. Click on “Add New Work”.
  4. Select which account you want to add the new work to and identify the genre of the work. Unless you are a classical composer, you will select “All Other Genres”.
  5. Add basic work info – title, duration, music and/or lyrics, language, etc.
  6. Next, indicate whether this work is a public domain arrangement or if the work contains samples.
  7. On the next page, you will add publisher and writer information. Indicate all writers that took part in writing the song, the various splits, as well as the publishers and PROs they are affiliated with.
  8. You will then answer a few additional questions regarding the artists and recordings on the song.
  9. A new dialogue box will appear to add the artists’ name(s).
    1. If it is performed by a solo artist, fill out both first and last name fields.
    2. If it is being performed by a band, the band name should be entered into the last name field with the first name field left blank.
  10. The add recording dialogue box will then appear. You will specify the type of recording (album, EP, single), the recording title, release date, and whether it was released with a record label.
  11. Look over the information to review and make changes.
  12. Read over the terms and conditions. If you agree and all previous information is entered correctly, check the box at the bottom of the Summary page.
  13. If you are ready to register your work, hit “Submit”. If you would like to save your work and finish registering at a later time, click “Save & Exit”.
  14. Congratulations! You have now successfully registered your song.

To learn more about the individual performing rights organizations, visit their websites:

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