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A performance rights society created in 1940 by a group of broadcasters. BMI is a corporation owned by stockholders (over 300 radio and television broadcasters own the stock), however, it does not pay dividends to its shareholders and therefore is, for all practical purposes, a nonprofit corporation. Its Board of Directors are broadcasting executives chosen by broadcaster stockholders, plus one employee. Members include over 300,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers.

To be eligible to become a writer affiliate, one must have "written a musical composition, alone or in collaboration with other writers, and the work is either commercially published or recorded or otherwise likely to be performed." Writers pay no initiation fee or annual dues.

Publisher affiliation is open to those who have the ability and financial resources to undertake broad-based exploitation of their works and have reasonable standards of literacy and integrity. Publishers are charged an initiation fee but pay no yearly dues.

Writers usually sign a two year contract while publishers usually sign a five year contract, but there is really no uniform term for BMI affiliates.

The BMI Writer Clearance Form is the form BMI uses to record information about an affiliated songwriter and to clear the title of a song. Forms may be secured from any BMI office or on the Internet at

BMI is an agent representative for its members (music publishers and writers) which issues nonexclusive use licenses (called performance licenses) to users of music (e.g., radio stations, network television, MTV, HBO, cable networks, stadiums, arenas, concert halls, nightclubs, hotels, ballrooms, dance studios, exercise studios, restaurants, casinos, malls, skating rinks, in flight entertainment, and other commercial users of background music) for the non-dramatic public performance of the copyrighted works of such members.

Performance licenses are granted to music users on a "blanket" basis, or on a "per program" basis (e.g., for single concert performances which are issued to the promoters or producers renting the concert facility).  See Cross-links: PERFORMANCE RIGHTS SOCIETY, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHERS (ASCAP), RIGHT under "Small Right," and "Grand Right," LICENSE under "Performance License," ROYALTY under "Performance Royalty."

The fees charged to obtain performance licenses vary. With broadcast station licenses the use license fee is based on the gross receipts of the station. The fee charged to clubs varies with respect to the number of jukeboxes being used, hours of background music played, seating capacity, the number of nights per week live music is performed, and whether or not they charge an admission to see such performances. (The performing artists themselves are not expected to pay these fees, but instead, the venue management or producer of the performances.)

If the user has an objection to the fee he is charged, he has the right to petition a U.S. District Court to have them determine a reasonable fee.

The fees collected by BMI are about 44% from television broadcasts, 26% from radio, and 30% from other sources.

Royalties are paid to BMI members with regard to the number of performances of the member's song. For example, the number of radio airplay performances for a particular work is estimated via a scientifically chosen representative cross section of radio stations that are sampled each quarter. The stations being sampled supply BMI with complete information as to all music performed. These lists, called "logs," are put through an elaborate computer system which multiplies each performance listed by a factor which reflects the ratio of the number of stations logged to the number licensed. BMI logs over a half million hours of commercial radio programming annually. Non-commercial college radio is also logged and payment is made separately for those performances.

Television feature, theme and cue music is logged with the aid of cue sheets, which list all music performed in the program. TV networks provide BMI with cue sheets for all network programming. All syndicated programs and motion pictures shown on local television are logged through information obtained through cue sheets and computerized data. Cable television is logged in a similar fashion. All of these trackings are true trackings of all performances and therefore BMI pays for each one of these types of performances as opposed to the radio broadcast performance estimates.

Although BMI collects license fees from nightclubs, hotels, concert halls, etc., it does not pay royalties to its members for these performances. This is because it is not feasible to track all of these performances. Reimbursement for such nonbroadcast performances is reflected via increased payments for logged radio and television performances.

Payments for commercial jingles are made, but only under certain circumstances…

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