Music Royalties Rise, Even as CD Sales Fall


“Despite the travails of the music industry, with CD sales still slumping and record executives still suing suspected Internet pirates, one part of the business is thriving. Royalties paid to songwriters and music publishers from radio and television broadcasts of their songs, and from live performances, are at record highs.

“When it comes to the downloading issue, which is killing record labels and music publishers, we’re only indirectly affected by it,” said Bill Velez, the head of Sesac, one of the leading performing rights organizations in the United States. “We’re able to weather economic storms better than other segments of the entertainment industry.”

In 2003, America’s three recognized performing rights organizations – Sesac, B.M.I. and Ascap – reported record revenues, which, in turn, have generated bigger royalties distributions to songwriters and music publishers.

Ascap – the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a nonprofit association – is the oldest and by most measures the largest of the performing rights organizations in the United States. Its preliminary data indicate that Ascap took in $668 million in 2003, 5.2 percent more than in the previous year. The association plans to release its official year-end results at its annual meeting in February.

B.M.I. – Broadcast Music Inc., also a nonprofit and the longtime chief competitor to Ascap – reported that revenue in its last fiscal year, which ended in October, increased 9.7 percent, to nearly $630 million, from $574 million in fiscal 2002.”

Music Royalties Rise, Even as CD Sales Fall
The New York Times, January 26, 2004

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