Why should you register with a local Performing Rights Organization (PRO)?

If you’re releasing music, you should register with your local performing rights organization (PRO).  Here in Canada it’s SOCAN which also allows you to choose a PRO in the United States to represent you, though you could also register directly with a PRO like ASCAP in the states if you wanted.

Visiting the creators & publishers page sounds promising and a no-brainer with the title “What to get paid when your music is played?”

Creators page of SOCAN

Yes, yes I would.  But is it really as simple as registering with someone like SOCAN and they handle the rest?

What is a PRO?

SOCAN recently released its “What’s SOCAN” video which aims to explain what they do.  Essentially a PRO aims to help you get paid when you music is played publicly, either at a business or at a live event.  If someone wants to use your music for something like a television or radio advertisement, that would usually be negotiated directly with you or your label.

This video doesn’t go into what visibility (or lack thereof) you have when your music is played at a live event or at a business, or what you’re compensated for various uses of your music, nor what SOCAN skims off the top as part of their administration fees, but we’ll go into that in future posts.

Why Join a PRO?

In short, registering with a PRO is one of your best bets to get paid something when your music is played, even if it’s you that plays it.  Even if you don’t have a hit track on your hands, you should still register now if you’re serious of having a go at making a living creating music works.  Since it can take 30+ days to get yourself registered with a PRO you don’t want to wait before your track gathers a lot of plays or is picked up and played by DJs in a club or live show, though you should have a decent amount of time to go back and claim previous plays.

While there are issues with how much actually gets tracked, joining a PRO is your best bet to get paid something when your music is played.

For example, venues should be paying tariffs to a PRO allowing them to have recorded music played, such as a DJ set.  If you play a live set and put in some of your own songs, make sure you submit a form detailing the songs you played.  If you know someone is playing your music, tell them to do the same.  You’ll get a percentage of the tariffs venues are already paying each time.  One day this will automatically be tracked and reported with systems like Pioneer’s KUVO and Gema’s new system but for now, submitting setlists manually is the best we’ve got.

Your PRO should also be tracking when your music is played worldwide, with royalties being transferred back to you.

And last but not least, you’ll have someone you can contact when you have concerns over how your music is being used and how to find out what and when you’ll be paid for it.

Join as a Publisher or an Artist?

To join as a publisher with SOCAN, you need at least five recorded works and already be a member of SOCAN or another PRO.  There is also a $50 charge.  Joining as a music creator is free, and all you need is to have something recorded either on your own or with others.

Next Steps

I’ll shortly release a post on joining SOCAN specifically, and some of the questions and hurdles I went through when doing so.  Stay tuned.