|We are always asked by people releasing their first record, "Will I get BMI/ASCAP royalties if I get airplay?" This question is similar to asking, "If I open a restaurant, will I make money?". While it is the job of BMI/ASCAP to pay airplay royalties, it's also the job of restaurant customers to pay their check at the end of their meal.
But most new restaurants don't make a profit, and most records pushed to radio don't make more than a few dollars from publishing. Our recommendation: Don't do radio for the purpose of publishing. Do it instead for other reasons... like tour distribution. There are some exceptions (one out of a hundred records do make some money), but you wouldn't open a restaurant if you knew for a fact you only had one chance in a hundred of making it.
The reason that a new indie act will probably not see a check from BMI/ASCAP is that they will not get enough spins on the larger stations. BMI/ASCAP does pay for college spins (just check their websites,) but even they state that they pay only about a million dollars a year for all college records. The problem is that there are about a thousand records mailed to college radio EVERY WEEK in this country (not all stations get all records, of course,) so using the numbers from BMI/ASCAP would show that each record gets $20. But what you don't see is that most of the money goes to less than one percent of all the records... the major label and major indie records... because they get the majority of spins, because of the level of marketing that they do.
So the majors get a bit more royalties from college radio, and the small indies get nothing.
With commercial radio, there is no comparison... unknown indies make zero publishing in comparison with even midsize indies. If you are a grassroots indie with your first release, don't even waste the energy with BMI/ASCAP... spend your time finding paying gigs to play, and sell your CDs there.
On the other hand, if you are indeed a midsize indie (meaning your average title scan 50,000, and you have been doing this for at least three years,) with at least indie distro, and if you are getting newspaper press in at least 50 of the top 100 markets, and if your videos are also airing in these markets, and if your gigs are pulling 500 to 1000 paid people... and finally, if you have some good low-medium level radio promotion ($50,000 or more) going into your next release, then you will probably get enough airplay to be getting some good sized publishing checks, although probably not enough to pay for your promotion.
The point here is that small indies have a certain amount of time they can spend on dealing with different areas of marketing, and BMI/ASCAP issues should not be one of the first things dealt with. By all means use radio, but use it for getting more paid gigs (and more people at those gigs) so that you can make some money each night, and sell CDs and merch while you are there.
And use radio to get referrals to newspapers/magazines, stores, even labels and managers. Use radio chart results to build your marketing kit. Use non-commercial radio to drive people to you site. Use commercial radio morning shows to showcase crazy tunes and jokes. Just don't try to use radio for publishing.
Bryan Farrish Radio Promotion is an independent radio airplay promotion company. Our staff promoter of the month is Larry Santiago (formerly of Premiere)... he can be reached at 818-905-8038 x15. Further info can be found at www.radio-media.com
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