Set to go live by end of 2018
ASCAP and BMI, the nation’s two leading performing rights organizations, have joined forces to create a single, comprehensive database of musical works from their combined repertories that will deliver an authoritative view of ownership shares in the vast majority of music licensed in the United States.
As you know, virtually all other countries get by with one P.R.O. The USA has three: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Actually, there are four, if you include Global Music Rights (GMR) an invitation-only organization formed by Irving Azoff in 2013. Although all the P.R.O.s have a good working relationship, there have been limited instances of any of them truly working together. Until now.
We now have what appears to be good news for songwriters, publishers and those wishing to more easily identify information to, say, acquire sync licenses. The announcement came a few days after news that Rep Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis) had introduced the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act that was not viewed favorably by the P.R.O.s representing songwriters and publishers.
Predictably, the lawmakers who sponsored the bill reacted negatively to the announcement from the P.R.O.s. Also expressing a negative opinion was the Music Innovation Consumer (MIC) Coalition. MIC is an organization that lobbies on behalf of the radio and tech sectors, such as the Digital Media Association and the National Association of Broadcasters.
ASCAP, BMI issue joint statement
Expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2018, the first-of-its-kind database will feature aggregated song ownership data from ASCAP and BMI and offer greater transparency to music users and the industry. The announcement was made today by Elizabeth Matthews, CEO, ASCAP and Mike O’Neill, President and CEO, BMI.
A cross functional team of copyright, technical and data experts from BMI and ASCAP began working on the project over one year ago in anticipation of the demand from licensees and the industry for more clarity around ownership shares. The database, which will be publicly available initially via ASCAP’s and BMI’s websites, will feature aggregated information from BMI’s and ASCAP’s repertories and will indicate where other performing rights organizations may have an interest in a musical work. The joint database will serve as a foundation that can evolve to include a broader range of music information across the entire industry.
Matthews commented, “ASCAP and BMI are proactively and voluntarily moving the entire industry a step forward to more accurate, reliable and user-friendly data. We believe in a free market with more industry cooperation and alignment on data issues. Together, ASCAP and BMI have the most expertise in building and managing complex copyright ownership databases. With our combined experience, we are best positioned to make faster headway in creating a robust, cost effective market solution to meet the needs of the licensing marketplace.”
“Best solution for our members”
O’Neill added, “This is an important solution for the marketplace created by the experts who know their data best. We have always advocated for data transparency and supported the need for a user-friendly and comprehensive solution that would benefit music users and music creators alike. While BMI and ASCAP remain fierce competitors in all other regards, we recognize that our combined expertise allows us to create the best solution for our members and the marketplace. We’re excited by our momentum and the promise of what this database can become in the future.”
The respective teams are analyzing, testing and reconciling the data from each organization, addressing incomplete and/or incorrect registrations, share splits, U.S. representation of international works and complicated ownership disputes, among other things. They are now testing the combined data sets in a cloud platform, and the results of that analysis will serve as the foundation for the joint database.
Rollout scheduled for 2018
The joint database will roll out in phases with Phase One expected to launch by the end of 2018, and include the majority of ASCAP and BMI registered songs. It will be secure, user-friendly and searchable and will be updated as new information becomes available. Future phases will explore customizable, interactive API solutions and the potential inclusion of other databases.
ASCAP and BMI have proven their commitment to industry-wide data transparency by making public aggregated song share ownership through their respective online, searchable repertory databases – ASCAP’s ACE Repertory and BMI’s Repertoire Search. Both PRO public databases already include the following information, which will be combined in the joint database:
Song and composition titles
Performing artist information
Aggregated shares by society for ASCAP & BMI
International Standard Work Codes (ISWC) and other unique identifiers
IPI names and numbers
ASCAP’s and BMI’s respective databases will continue to be available on each organization’s respective website during the creation and initial launch of the joint database.