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What is a PRO in the Music Publishing Industry?

The term "PRO" may bring to mind various things depending on your line of work, but if you're in the music industry, it specifically refers to a "Performing Rights Organization." Understanding what a PRO is and how it operates is essential for anyone who is a songwriter, composer, music publisher, or even a business owner who plays music in a public setting.

The Role of a PRO

In a nutshell, a PRO collects royalties on behalf of songwriters and publishers when their music is performed publicly. This can be in the form of a live performance, a broadcast on TV or radio, or streaming on digital platforms. The PRO then distributes these royalties to the rights holders after taking a small administrative fee.

Why PROs are Important

  1. Financial Compensation: The most obvious benefit of a PRO is that it provides a revenue stream for songwriters and publishers. This enables creators to earn a livelihood from their craft.

  2. Legal Protection: PROs license the right to play music in a variety of settings, ensuring that usage is lawful. This protects against copyright infringement claims.

  3. Efficiency: The labor of tracking every single usage of a song would be monumental for an individual. PROs use sophisticated tracking methods to ensure that royalties are distributed fairly.

  4. Global Reach: Many PROs have partnerships with similar organizations in other countries. This means your music is protected and monetized even when played internationally.

a confused musician listening to music
Confused Musician

How to Choose a PRO

While many countries have just one PRO, the United States has several, including ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, membership requirements, and royalty distribution methods. When selecting a PRO, consider the following:

  • Repertoire: Some PROs specialize in certain genres or have more relationships within certain segments of the industry.

  • Fee Structure: Understand how much the PRO takes as an administrative fee and how frequently they distribute royalties.

  • Additional Services: Some PROs offer extra services like workshops, networking events, and opportunities for additional exposure.

Navigating Relationships with PROs as a Music Publisher

As a music publisher, your relationship with a PRO is crucial for maximizing revenue streams for both you and the songwriters you represent. Here are some tips:

  1. Register Works Promptly: Ensure that all the songs in your catalog are registered with the chosen PRO.

  2. Monitor and Verify: Regularly check statements to ensure that royalties are accurately being distributed.

  3. Leverage Networking: Utilize the resources offered by the PRO to connect with other industry professionals, which can be beneficial for both parties.


A PRO is not just a middleman; it's a vital part of the music ecosystem that allows for the fair distribution of royalties and offers legal protection for copyrighted works. Whether you're a seasoned music publisher or a songwriter at the dawn of your career, a deep understanding of PROs is invaluable for achieving long-term success in the industry.

By understanding the function and benefits of a PRO, you'll be better equipped to navigate the complexities of music publishing and make informed decisions that positively impact your career or business.

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