What is a Performing Rights Organisation?
Image Credit: Everardo Sanchez
A performance rights organisation or performing rights society can be a vital resource for artists so here we’ll explain what they are and where you can find them.
A performance rights organisation (PRO) is a company that ensures the protection and collection of royalties for music played in public. In an essence, they are what keeps the potential wild west of music being played in pubs, supermarkets, on radios, covered by bands, and so much more in check.
When a listener buys or streams music for their own personal pleasure then the royalties will normally go directly through to the music rightsholders; streaming services will pay labels and distributors for streams who will then pass revenues on to the artists, for example. Performing rights societies collect royalties for the uses of that music in public that isn’t being consumed directly by a single listener.
The way these organisations collect royalties can be from a direct agreement and deal, like with most radio stations, or it can come from a license or one-off payments as is often the case with shops, venues, and other public spaces where music is played.
Artists and labels who are signed up with a performing rights organisation will then receive a percentage of the company’s income based on a number of things to calculate each artist/label’s usage in public spaces. PRO’s have garnered criticisms from some for their methods and particularly their methods of dividing the royalties that come from sources such as cover songs played in venues (which can’t reasonably be tracked) are criticised as they are often based on what amounts to guesswork.
Here are the most significant PRO organisations around the world (collected from Wikipedia):
- AllTrack (U.S.)
- ASCAP (U.S.)
- BMI (U.S.)
- Global Music Rights (U.S.)
- SESAC (U.S.)
- SoundExchange (U.S.)
- SOCAN (Canada)
- Re:Sound Music Licensing Company
- CMRRA (Canada)
Most countries (that observe copyright) have the equivalent: