How Performing Rights Groups Funnel Money To Top Acts And Ignore Smaller Acts
from the nice-trick dept
But, back to the original point. ASCAP, BMI and their supporters insist that they're not as bad as the big, mean RIAA, and that they're especially focused on providing important royalties to less well known artists. Except... even that may be questionable, at least when it comes to live performance royalties (admittedly, a smaller segment of overall royalties). Reader btr1701 sent in some email exchanges from a mailing list, which I won't share directly since I don't have approval, concerning a jazz musician trying to find out why she doesn't receive any live performance royalties, despite knowing that these organizations collect them, supposedly on her behalf. In response, she's told that ASCAP and BMI only distribute that royalty money to "the top 200 grossing US tours of the year." If you're smaller than that? Too bad. Except... they do have one minor exception. If you play "serious music" (no joke), then they'll pay you your royalties. So, the musician asks what is "serious music" and is told it's "generally considered to be classical music."
The musician tried re-registering her own (jazz) compositions as "serious music" but it "does not appear to have made any difference whatsoever" and she notes that she is "yet to receive a single penny... for any US performance or radio broadcast of any kind" despite the fact that her music has been performed in the US for almost ten years, and "the vast majority of performances of my music take place in the US."
I went looking for some more details, and it appears that, indeed, ASCAP and BMI have a policy in place to only provide performance royalties to the top 200 grossing tours in the US. If you're a "smaller" act, the only way to get paid is to be an opening act on such a tour. Otherwise? Too bad, you're on your own. Aren't you glad you signed with ASCAP or BMI? Update Good clarifications in the comments on this. Despite what the musician was told originally, it appears that it's not that ASCAP and BMI only pay the top 200 tours, but that they only monitor them (it's not explained how they know ahead of time which are the top 200) in order to figure out who to pay. The end result, of course, is functionally quite similar. If they're only monitoring the top 200 grossing tours, then the likelihood of them finding out about songs from less well known composers is close to nil. But those big names? They get more than their fair share.