Relevant Music Industry Organisations

Person Holding White Musical Note Sheets
Vocal Coach Lisa Popeil encourages singers to learn everything they can about the Music Industry.

Learn everything you can about how the music industry works.  While reading about contracts may not seem like a fun way to spend an afternoon,  you’ll be glad you understand what you’re reading when a contract is put in front of you.  


If you’re a professional singer, you’ll need to know about joining a union eventually such as SAG-AFTRA. Like all unions, SAG-AFTRA has rules about how its members must be paid for recording sessions and for TV or film appearances whether on-camera or if your voice is used off-camera such as for commercials or animation. There are yearly dues which can add up whenever you join a union but I suggest you at least learn about how unions work so you’re ready if and when the time comes that you’ll need to join.

Sync Agents

If you’re a songwriter, learn everything you can about sync agents and music supervision.  The days of huge checks coming to songwriters, called “mailbox money” seem to be over with streaming paying measly parts of pennies for each play.  But there’s still money to be made when your song is played on cable or network TV.  There is so much filmed content being produced these days and they need songs of all sorts. Might as well be your song with you singing!

Performance Rights Organisations

As a professional songwriter (as almost all singers are nowadays!)  you’ll need to sign up for either ASCAP, BMI or SESAC . These are known as Performance Rights Organizations or PROs.  These non-profit organizations gather payments from end music users such as TV and radio stations, films played outside the US, internet use, even restaurant chains.  All these end users must pay yearly license fees to be legally able to use the music created by people like you. The first PRO was ASCAP, formed in 1914 while BMI began in the 1930s so they’ve been around a long time. The most important thing to remember is that PROs were established to make sure their writer and publisher members would be paid for the use of their creations.  

I recommend that if you have already been collaborating with an ASCAP or BMI writer (they’re the two largest PROs of the four PROs in the US), consider joining the same PRO as your frequent collaborator.  I’ve been an ASCAP writer and publisher since 1994 and have found it much easier to register my songs when my co-writers are also ASCAP members.

How to Sign Up

Something to keep in mind as you take a deep dive into Performance Rights Associations (that’s a mouthful) is that ASCAP requires that you sign up as a writer AND a publisher in order for you to collect your full share, whereas with BMI, you only have to sign up as a writer.  But I recommend going full bore with either ASCAP or BMI, that is, sign up to be BOTH a writer and a publisher. Don’t worry, being a publisher doesn’t mean you have to do a bunch of paperwork or open up an office.  It’s just the way the value of your song is divvied up. For example, if you write the song by yourself, half of the song’s value is called your writer’s share and the remaining half  of the song’s value is called your publisher’s share.  If you do create a publishing company, as I recommend,  you’ll have to choose a publishing company name and pay an upfront, but not yearly, fee. Signing up for both writer and publisher also shows others that you’re serious about your creative collaborations and will be ready to sign contracts whenever they come your way.

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