All Performance Rights Organizations (“P.R.O.s”) do essentially the same job. They license the work of writers, particularly songwriters, for commercial use. They all use relatively the same methods to calculate and pay royalties to the copyright owners (writers and publishers) on the public performance of their works on radio, television, movie soundtracks, jukeboxes, live shows, etc.
In talking with many different songwriters affiliated with all three of the “major” P.R.O.s about their satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction with the particular P.R.O. which represents them, the only real consensus seems to come from new, unestablished artists. Highly successful writers who are accustomed to seeing steady income from the licensing of their works seem to be pretty content with their P.R.O., regardless of the affiliation. This is likely because at this point in their careers, the job that they expect to be done by their P.R.O. is largely an administrative one. They monitor the use of the writers’ works, report to them, and pay them. Pretty routine, actually.
However, among new artists, those who haven’t yet established themselves — those who are still striving to create that “mailbox money” that the P.R.O.s collect and distribute — the consensus seems to be: Go with the P.R.O. that has a representative (an Artist Relations Rep) that YOU can get to know. One that likes your music and offers to be even minimally involved in your career. One that you can get on the phone and develop a relationship with—a relationship that will hopefully blossom and get the checks flowing.
P.R.O.s have direct contact with all the major publishers and many of the major recording artists, and their management. Your P.R.O. rep can introduce you to important people in the music business. P.R.O.s sponsor songwriter and performer events in the major music centers: New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. Sign with the company that offers to do more than collect and pay your royalties. Sign with the P.R.O. representative that expresses belief in you and offers to help you develop as an artist. Join the P.R.O. that champions you!
Performance Rights Organizations panel discussions, which include representatives from all the major P.R.O.s, are a staple of the very popular Durango Songwriters Expo. Click on the player below to hear an excerpt from one of these informative panels. (The topic of this portion is Setting Up Your Own Publishing Company hosted by Linda Lorence of SESAC and Gabrielle Vitellio, a Music Attorney).
Setting Up Your Own Publishing Company [15:29]
Also see The Returned Value of PROs.