ASCAP Vs. BMI – Which Performance Rights Organization is Right for You?


BMI and ASCAP offer similar perks for their members, including discounts on songwriting tools, workshops, and travel. Both organizations give back to the music community with affiliations at festivals, award shows, and musician services.

Both PROs provide blanket licenses to businesses and broadcasters who wish to use copyrighted songs. They then payout artists quarterly based on estimated song usage.

Copyright Protection

BMI and ASCAP both protect their members’ copyrights by monitoring public performances of the musical works they represent. These two organizations do this by licensing music users, like radio stations or restaurants, to play their members’ songs in return for a fee. This process is called collective licensing, and it allows businesses to save time by not having to negotiate individual licenses with each songwriter or publisher.

These organizations are also responsible for collecting royalties from these performances and paying them to their members. It is important to join one of these two PROs if you are a songwriter or composer.

BMI and ASCAP are non-profits giving back to the music industry through various programs. They fund charities, musician services, and more. However, BMI gives back more to the music industry than ASCAP does.

In 2019, the Department of Justice reviewed the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees to see whether they remain relevant today. The Department of Justice wants to ensure that these organizations are not shaping the market in ways that benefit entrenched participants at the expense of newer participants.


If you run a bar or restaurant that plays music, you’re probably aware it is against the law to play copyrighted songs without the author’s permission. The Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC collect license fees from businesses and then distribute royalties to the appropriate songwriters and artists for each song that is played.

However, you may need clarification about the differences between these three major PROs. While they both do the same basic thing, each has its structure, fees, and rules.

ASCAP focuses on the performance rights of songwriters and music publishers. These include public performances of their musical compositions in bars, restaurants, and other venues open to the general public. It includes live performances, broadcasts on radio and TV, and online streaming services. It also covers nondramatic performances, such as a singer singing a medley of songs from Broadway musicals or other concerts and revues. However, it does not cover the use of a musical work in an instructional video or a recording used for commercial purposes.


BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, and PRS (in the UK & Canada) all do the same basic thing: they collect performance royalties. In other words, these organizations are a good place for artists to register their songs because they’ll be paid each time they’re played on TV or radio. It is in addition to what they get from their music distributor.

ASCAP and BMI are not-for-profits and give money back to the music community. They also provide a variety of affiliate deals and perks for musicians. Due to its affiliation with more festivals, award shows, and musician services, BMI performs better in this area.

It is up to you to decide whether you’re going with ASCAP vs BMI. As soon as your song is played publicly, it would be best to become a PRO; nevertheless, you can select the one that best meets your requirements. BMI is the obvious choice whether you’re a small- to medium-sized music publisher or a solo artist because they have lower sign-up costs and quicker payouts. However, ASCAP can be a good fit if you tour, perform live, and desire awesome benefits and discounts.

Online Registration

BMI and ASCAP offer a convenient online registration process allowing you to submit your music for registration. Once your music is registered, you will receive royalties when played in public places such as restaurants, bars, and performance venues.

BMI also collects digital royalties, such as fees paid when a song is streamed on Spotify or Pandora. It makes them an excellent option if you are publishing your beats. Unlike ASCAP, BMI does not charge a recurring membership fee.

It is important to note that neither BMI nor ASCAP copyrights your music. Copyrighting your music is a separate process handled by the US Copyright Office and takes, on average, three months to complete. For this reason, many musicians rely on a third party known as a publishing administrator to handle their song registrations. It can save you time and money since it is much faster than trying to do it yourself. Also, knowing that you can register with both ASCAP and BMI simultaneously is important.


There are a few key things to remember when choosing a PRO. The first is that all of them are legitimate non-profit organizations that pay artists according to the terms of their agreement.

BMI was founded in 1939 and represents over 1.1 million songwriters, composers, and music publishers. Its licensing repertoire includes over 900,000 songs. It also distributes and administers over $1.233 billion in royalties to its clients domestically and internationally annually.

ASCAP’s culture and network are some of the most well-developed in the industry. They intentionally organize events that connect their members with other musicians. It is a great way to make connections and find opportunities to perform. They are also a bit cheaper, charging only $50 to join versus BMI’s one-time fee of $55.

Both organizations are not-for-profits and give back to the music community in various ways. However, BMI gives back more to the music industry through affiliations with Billboard, award shows, festivals, and musician services like ArtistShare. Ultimately, it comes down to what perks and benefits are important to you.