Finally, at long last, BMI has created a system for performing songwriters to get paid for their live performances. At first blush, it is very similar to the SOCAN system in Canada. Now, with this new potential income stream, it is more important than ever to save your set lists from all of your gigs. (Please see Important Considerations below.)
BMI has an instructional video on their website: www.bmi.com/live.
It seems a simple process to file your set lists. The form tells you the exact time-frame for which BMI is accepting submissions. You can even submit a new song for inclusion in your catalog directly from this form.
BMI member assistants are standing by to help you with any questions and they have created a helpful FAQ area that will answer most of your questions.
Once you submit your set-lists, you can get specific information about when you can expect to get paid your royalties. They pay quarterly.
The first step to participating in this program is to make sure that you have registered all of your songs, most importantly, the ones you regularly perform live. Get those into the system first, then register the ones you might include in your set lists from time to time.
Next step is to go back six months and see if you can piece together your set lists from the last six months worth of gigs. Hopefully, you have a folder, a binder, a book of some sort where you keep a record of your sets lists. If you have not done this up to now, START at your next gig. Make sure you include the name and address of the venue on the page where you write your list. This is required information on the BMI form.
Now if you haven’t yet signed up at BMI to be able to access your account online, you must do this in order to input your set lists for this program. You’ll need to know your BMI account number and your Registration Code. To get your code, you’ll need your Tax ID or Social Security Number. If you are a publisher who is not also a songwriter, you’ll need your company name. All of this login information will be required only this first time, after that you’ll just need your login name and password to access the account. Now more than ever, this is worth doing.
I speak to so many songwriters who have neglected to register their songs with their Performing Rights Organization (PRO). It has been a frustrating process for the unknown songwriter to get their broadcast royalties in the face of the mainstream recording artist competition. But now finally, BMI has created a logical, simple system to give the non-mainstream songwriter, at least, a chance to get paid for their live performances. Now one word of caution, BMI does say your submission will be considered for payment — but you will never get the consideration you are due if your songs are not registered — so start there.
Important Considerations: I would recommend that you use this for when you perform at clubs and concert venues that you KNOW already have a license agreement with the PRO’s in place. If you perform at house concerts or other small rooms and non-traditional venue types that are unlikely to even know what a performing rights organization is, you might want to ask the organizer if they are registered before submitting your set lists for that gig.
Another consideration is which PRO you belong to and what their live performance payment policies are. You may find a better deal with another PRO if you are not yet registered with one already. In the US, the other possibilities are ASCAP and SESAC.
OK, songwriters, the additional income stream for live performances has just widened. Find out all you can about this, register your new and old songs that are likely to end up on your live performance set lists and then keep track of those set lists so you may submit them when the time frame is appropriate.
Good luck and I hope this helps,