What do BMI and ASCAP do?
ASCAP and BMI collect and distribute royalties to writers who have had their music publicly broadcast on TV, film, radio, etc. They operate in similar ways, so it is common to ask which performing rights organization is best for you. By now you might have checked out their sites and services, or you are signed up with one and wondering what's on the other side of the fence. While there are opinions galore on the subject, here is a current and real-world review of what each organization offers modern music makers.
Who Pays More - BMI or ASCAP?
You can search the internet and ask around, but everyone will give you a different answer. Some say ASCAP is better for bands and artists, while BMI is better at collecting royalties for production-music broadcast in TV and film.
The truth is that the math is mysterious and both companies change their formulas faster than most can figure out. It is a subject that can be argued to no end. A lot of what makes it to your pocket is determined by shadowy variables.
Was your placement or performance documented properly? Was it even reported? Did a promo on TV use your music, but outside of a scheduled survey window? Why did my 50/50 co-writer make $300 and I got 30 cents? All great questions that are often left to fate and not PROs.
ASCAP Is Better Than BMI
ASCAP currently offers a more modern user experience for their members. Unlike BMI, ASCAP shows you when cue sheets are submitted. This is important because it lets you know someone placed your song and it is airing. This helps prevent a lot of the cross-your-fingers and pray experience that comes with being hitched to BMI.
ASCAP royalty distributions are also displayed in nice graphs, data can be exported, and songs are listed by their performance and generated income. That is awesome. As far as being with the times, ASCAP is hipper and BMI is either asleep or not concerned that their members are left in the dark until their quarterly check comes.
BMI Is Better Than ASCAP
BMI and ASCAP collect data differently. While there is no proof, many "library" writers who create instrumentals and underscores for TV, suggest that BMI is the smarter choice.
It is rumored that their surveys and methods for collection capture more airings than ASCAP. When you see it on a co-writer statement, this is hard to argue. Not that it is the norm...but it does happen on both ends. There are plenty of cracks for your income to fall through when it comes to both ASCAP and BMI.
Who Has Better Customer Service?
This one is easy: they are both terrible. Picture Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Nobody is going to help you. If they do, it takes forever and probably doesn't answer your question in the first place. Why are they so awful with customer service? Probably because they are facing a zillion writers, new mediums for distribution, and less money being paid for music usage in general. If it sounds gloomy, don't let it get you down. The best and most successful songwriters and composers keep moving forward.
Should I Choose BMI or ASCAP?
This is a personal choice. Charlie Puth is BMI, Justin Timberlake is ASCAP. On the flip side, Adele left BMI for SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers). If you want a modern user experience, go with ASCAP. If that doesn't matter and free membership sounds appealing (ASCAP charges $50 to join), then BMI is your ticket. Either way, it takes awesome music to make the royalty engine work. BMI and ASCAP will both do their job once you've done yours. Write. Record. Repeat.