Broadcast Music Incorporated

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Broadcast Music, Inc.
FocusMusic Sales
HeadquartersNew York City, United States
Area served
Key people
Michael O'Neill (President & CEO)[1]

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is one of four United States performing rights organizations, along with the ASCAP, SESAC, Pro Music Rights[2], and Global Music Rights. It collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed. In FY 2018, BMI collected $1.199 billion in licensing fees and distributed $1.12 billion in royalties[3]. BMI's repertoire includes over 900,000 songwriters and 14 million compositions.[4]

BMI songwriters create music in many genres, ranging from mainstream pop and country to death metal and hip hop. BMI represents artists such as Patti LaBelle, Selena, Demi Lovato, Fifth Harmony, Lil Wayne, Birdman, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Rihanna, Shakira, Ed Sheeran, Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson, Fats Domino and Dolly Parton; bands as diverse as Maroon 5, Evanescence, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nickelback, and Linkin Park; and composers such as Harry Gregson-Williams, John Williams, and Danny Elfman and musical songwriters Richard & Robert Sherman. BMI also represents Michael Jackson's music catalog, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which features the late artist's music as well as the largest repertoire of any catalog in history.[5]


In the 1930s, radio was coming to prominence as a source of musical entertainment that threatened to weaken record sales and opportunities for "live" acts. The Great Depression was already draining artist revenues from recordings and live performances. ASCAP, the pre-eminent royalty/licensing agency for more than two decades, required radio stations to subscribe to "blanket" licenses granting ASCAP a fixed percentage of each station's revenue, regardless of how much music the station played from ASCAP's repertoire. In 1939, ASCAP announced a substantial increase in the revenue share licensees would be required to pay. BMI was founded by the National Association of Broadcasters to provide a lower-cost alternative to ASCAP.[6] As such, BMI created competition in the field of performing rights, providing an alternative source of licensing for all music users.

The vast majority of U.S. radio stations and all three radio networks refused to renew their ASCAP licenses for 1941, choosing to forgo playing ASCAP music entirely and relying on the BMI repertoire. In February 1941, similar to the agreement it had made with ASCAP. the Department of Justice and BMI entered into a consent decree, requiring certain changes to BMI's business model, including giving licensees the option of paying only for the music they actually use instead of buying a blanket license.[7] The U.S. District Court in Milwaukee was chosen by the Justice Department to supervise the decree for both BMI and ASCAP.[8]

Competing against the strongly established ASCAP, BMI sought out artists that ASCAP tended to overlook or ignore. BMI also purchased the rights to numerous catalogs held by independent publishers or whose ASCAP contracts were about to expire. To attract newer writers, BMI proposed to compensate songwriters and publishers on the basis of a fixed fee per performance, as opposed to ASCAP's two-tier system which discriminated against less-established songwriters. Thus, despite its original motivation regarding radio station royalties and its focus on radio station revenues vs artist revenues, BMI became the first performing rights organization in the United States to represent songwriters of blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel (black genres, performers, and writers that ASCAP did not want to represent), country, folk, Latin, and—ultimately—rock and roll. During the 1940s and 1950s, BMI was the primary licensing organization for Country artists and R&B artists, while ASCAP centered on more established Pop artists. Also during this time, BMI expanded its repertoire of classical music, and now represents the majority[9] of the members of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters and the winners of 31[10] Pulitzer Prizes for Music. In July 2017, BMI renewed long-term partnership with C3 Presents, world's largest music festival producers.[11]

BMI's practice of selling only "blanket licenses", rather than licenses for individual artists, led to a major antitrust law dispute between BMI and CBS that resulted in the 1979 case Broadcast Music, Inc. v. CBS, Inc., in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Sherman Act's prohibition of "price fixing" was not strictly literal, and should be interpreted in light of economic efficiencies an agreement brings.


BMI issues licenses to users of music, including:

  • Television and radio stations and networks
  • New media, including the Internet and mobile technologies such as podcasts, ringtones, and ringbacks
  • Satellite audio services, such as XM and Sirius
  • Nightclubs, discos, hotels, bars, and restaurants
  • Symphony orchestras, concert bands, and classical chamber music ensembles
  • Digital jukeboxes
  • Live concerts

BMI tracks public performances for more than 14 million works, and collects and distributes licensing revenues for those performances as royalties to over 900,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers it represents.[12] BMI has offices in Atlanta, London, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Austin, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.


BMI annually hosts award shows that honor the songwriters, composers and music publishers of the year's most-performed songs in the BMI catalogue. BMI Award shows include the BMI Latin Awards, BMI Pop Awards, BMI Film/TV Awards, BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards, BMI London Awards, BMI Country Awards, BMI Christian Awards, and the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Honors.[13]

See also[edit]

  • BMI Foundation
  • Copyright collective
  • Recording Academy
  • David Sanjek


  1. "BMI CEO Michael O'Neill Adds Title of President". BMI. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  4. "About |". Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  5. "Michael Jackson". Billboard.
  6. Taishoff, Sol (September 15, 1939). "NAB Creates $1,500,000 Music Project". Broadcasting. 17 (6): 9.
  7. The dispute between ASCAP and the radio industry is the subject of major articles in every issue of Broadcasting from mid-1939 through early 1941. The text of the consent decree is published in the February 3, 1941, issue, beginning on page 22.
  8. "Milwaukee Preferred: Waters Preference for Damm Led to Selection". Broadcasting. 20 (11): 40. March 24, 1941.
  9. "BMI Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters". BMI. BMI. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  10. "BMI Pulitzer Prize Winners". BMI. BMI. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  11. "BMI and C3 Presents Sign Long-Term Partnership Agreement". Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  12. "About |". Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  13. BMI Awards - BMI website

Further reading[edit]