Broadcast Music, Inc.
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|Key people||Del Bryant (President & CEO)|
|Area served||United States|
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is one of three United States performing rights organizations, along with ASCAP and SESAC. It collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed. In 2012, BMI collected $898.7 million in licensing fees and distributed $749.8 million in royalties.
BMI songwriters create all forms of music in all genres, from mainstream pop and country, to death metal. BMI represents artists such as Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Rihanna and Shakira; bands as diverse as Maroon 5, Evanescence, Nickelback, Linkin Park and Death; legends such as Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson, Fats Domino and Dolly Parton; as well as composers such as Kevin Keller, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Williams and Danny Elfman and musical songwriters Richard & Robert Sherman.
In the 1930s, radio was coming to prominence as a source of musical entertainment that threatened to weaken record sales and opportunities for "live" acts. The Great Depression was already draining artist revenues from recordings and live performances. ASCAP, the pre-eminent royalty/licensing agency for more than two decades, required radio stations to subscribe to "blanket" licenses granting ASCAP a fixed percentage of each station's revenue, regardless of how much music the station played from ASCAP's repertoire. In 1939, ASCAP announced a substantial increase in the revenue share licensees would be required to pay. BMI was founded by the National Association of Broadcasters to provide a lower-cost alternative to ASCAP. As such, BMI created competition in the field of performing rights, providing an alternative source of licensing for all music users.
The vast majority of U.S. radio stations and all three radio networks refused to renew their ASCAP licenses for 1941, choosing to forgo playing ASCAP music entirely and relying on the BMI repertoire. In February 1941, BMI and the Department of Justice entered into a consent decree, requiring certain changes to BMI's business model, including giving licensees the option of paying only for the music they actually use instead of buying a blanket license. The U.S. District Court in Milwaukee was chosen by the Justice Department to supervise the decree for both BMI and ASCAP.
Competing against the strongly established ASCAP, BMI sought out artists that ASCAP tended to overlook or ignore. BMI also purchased the rights to numerous catalogs held by independent publishers or whose ASCAP contracts were about to expire. To attract newer writers, BMI proposed to compensate songwriters and publishers on the basis of a fixed fee per performance, as opposed to ASCAP's two-tier system which discriminated against less-established songwriters. Thus, despite its original motivation regarding radio station royalties and its focus on radio station revenues vs artist revenues, BMI became the first performing rights organization in the United States to represent songwriters of blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel (black genres, performers, and writers that ASCAP did not want to represent), country, folk, Latin, and—ultimately—rock and roll. During the 1940s and 1950s, BMI was the primary licensing organization for Country artists and R&B artists, while ASCAP centered on more established Pop artists. Also during this time, BMI expanded its repertoire of classical music, and now represents the majority of the members of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters and the winners of 30 Pulitzer Prizes for Music.
A non-profit-making corporation, BMI issues licenses to users of music, including:
- Television and radio stations and networks
- New media, including the Internet and mobile technologies such as podcasts, ringtones, and ringbacks
- Satellite audio services, such as XM and Sirius
- Nightclubs, discos, hotels, bars, and restaurants
- Symphony orchestras, concert bands, and classical chamber music ensembles
- Digital jukeboxes
- Live concerts
BMI tracks public performances for 7.5 million works, and collects and distributes licensing revenues for those performances as royalties to over 550,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers it represents, and thousands of creators around the world who have chosen BMI for representation in the U.S. BMI has offices in Atlanta, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, and Puerto Rico.
BMI annually hosts award shows that honor the songwriters, composers and music publishers of the year's most-performed songs in the BMI catalogue. BMI Award shows include the BMI Latin Awards, BMI Pop Awards, BMI Film/TV Awards, BMI Urban Awards, BMI London Awards, BMI Country Awards, BMI Christian Awards, and the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Luncheon. BMI is also a supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act bill.
See also 
- "BMI Annual Review 2012"
- Taishoff, Sol (September 15, 1939). "NAB Creates $1,500,000 Music Project". Broadcasting 17 (6): 9.
- The dispute between ASCAP and the radio industry is the subject of major articles in every issue of Broadcasting from mid-1939 through early 1941. The text of the consent decree is published in the February 3, 1941, issue, beginning on page 22.
- "Milwaukee Preferred: Waters Preference for Damm Led to Selection". Broadcasting 20 (11): 40. March 24, 1941.
- BMI Awards - BMI website
Further reading 
- Choquette, Frederic, "The Returned Value of PROs", Music Business Journal, Berklee College of Music, May 2011