Songwriting & Music Publishing

EMI Pulls Digital Rights From ASCAP In Radical Plan To Streamline Licensing

image from In a radical shift, EMI Music Publishing today announced that it is taking back the responsibility for licensing digital rights in North American from ASCAP. The performance rights society will continue to license EMI’s performance rights for traditional media services, including television and radio stations. 

As digital music innovation has picked up pace, bundled rights and one stop licencing has become the mantra of music tech startups and academics.  But until today, no major player had taken real steps to make streamlined licensing a reality.

For EMI, the change is designed to streamline the performance rights licensing process for its EMI April Music catalog to for audio streams, streaming video, cloud music and other similar services. April Music is one of EMI's two largest catalogs, featuring almost 200,000 songs. Now, they can easily license many digital services whether they need a mechanical license, a synchronization license, a performance license or all three.

Without ASCAP taking a cut, EMI Music Publishing could also see a net revenue increase. 

“The digital world demands a new way of licensing rights in musical compositions,” said EMI Music Publishing Chairman & CEO Roger Faxon in a statement. “We are reunifying the rights in many of the songs that we represent. By bringing these rights back together our aim is to reduce the burden of licensing, to create greater efficiency and importantly to reduce the barriers to the development of innovative new services. That absolutely has to be in the interest of everybody involved in the process – songwriters, licensees and consumers alike."

Share on:


  1. Well what a surprise! the performing right societies are next on the list of dinosaurs who are going to see their cosy world turned upside down by the evolution of the music industry. Did they see it coming? yes, a long time ago. What was their initial response? protectionism and law suits. Ask John Buckman from Magnatune as he was sued at least once by them but won.

  2. I’ve been been advocating this for a while now, but I’ve been talking to Indie artists. Who would’ve thought a label, a major one at that, would make such a smart move.

  3. Hey Phil, I think it shows clients who buy music and the artists themselves that there is now, and will be more and more, a better choice for ways to license music rather than traditional ways that will continue to fall behind with innovation.

  4. So they take away from one of the license companies. That still leaves BMI, SESAC and SoundExchange with their greedy hands out!

  5. If bad guy A is doing something bad to bad guy B does it make bad guy A a good guy?
    That meaningless PR babble from Mr Faxon is just a smokescreen as usual. How can he talk about “… in the best interest of .. songwriter, licensees and consumer.” REALLY. The record companies pretend to care about anybody else than their own wealth and the wealth of their share holders? That would be the real news.

  6. It’s interesting to see this in the aftermath of the “Rethink Music” conference where the conversation kept coming back to Volker Grassmuck’s call for a “new social contract” … this is how social contracts really get forged: unilateral decisions by powerful players.

  7. I “get it” that this is about being able to do worldwide streaming (and other digital licensing) deals, and to that extent I *guess* it’s good. BUT: thinking long-term, doesn’t it blow the door wide open for these 2 possible scenarios: (1) an artist who is signed to EMI, publishing is owned by EMI/April, kinda gets forced into a 360 deal by default and without their consent; and (2) An artist SWITCHES LABELS and then cannot extricate him/herself from the tangled jungle of separate rights deals that the label’s publishing arm cut with this and that distributor?
    The whole thing makes my head explode frankly. I’ll have to think about it more, but my gut instinct is that further on down the road, the opportunities for fraud against the artist are just LIMITLESS here.

  8. Soundexchange just furnishes royalties.
    And there’s a reason that their job is done by a government-created non-profit and not a private entity – it’s a gigantic pain in the ass.

  9. Soundexchange is the same structure as ASCAP. Non-profit, works off of Gov’t royaltie ratest, etc.

  10. Even though there is a non-disclosure agreement in the EMINEM case, it does not stop the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee from revving up its investigations against copyright and intellectual property infringements.
    Congressman John Conyers, Jr. in conjunction with George Clinton, have spearheaded actions to protect the rights of all Americans to pass on the legacy of their work products to the future of society, the children and to preserve the rich and illustrious history of this country.
    For entertainers, this will be the reintroduction of HR 848, Performers Rights Act.
    For others, it is part of making the dream come true…
    Beverly Tran

  11. If I understand this right, and its quite possible I don’t.. but if I do: This just means you have to now go to ASCAP, BMI, SESAC… and now EMI April Music to cover your Internet radio station, streaming video service, streaming service, etc.. whatever kind of start up you have. In order to make sure you are covered for performance rights, you now have to secure 4 licenses, instead of three. And watch, your ASCAP yearly fee won’t go down. See if ASCAP lowers their minimum yearly fee for experimental licenses, now that their catalog of songs they are licensing just got smaller.
    someone help me out if I don’t understand this correctly. but that’s what this seems to really mean. EMI just did this to avoid ASCAPs fees to EMI for providing the service. If this works for EMI April, I’m sure they will extend the policy to all EMI controlled songs… which is way more than 200K songs. All within their legal rights, but still it leads to what could become a real pain in the ass if other big publishers follow their lead. This makes it easier for EMI, not people wanting blanket licenses.
    The whole point of blanket licenses is to make it easier to operate. The more fragmented it gets, the harder it gets.
    Any publishing experts want to weigh in?


  13. Your correct that working with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or Sound Exchange is voluntary.
    I suspect that saving money is a secondary benefit to EMI, but rather that they think they can do it faster and bundle those rights with others they control in a single more streamlined process.

  14. @…said…
    Yes, you get it. And why this is good news for Artists is news to me. Can you imagine if the other Big Three did this? Yes, in time (a long time) it would gut the PROs of their bargaining power and their income. Then, you’d have a massive hydra-effect, with so many entities hitting up venues and radio stations that it would surely inspirer new legislation that will truncated the existing law. This is great news if you are a venue and you hate PROs, but bad news for the music industry in general.
    We need reform, yes, but more fragmentation? Not sure. Not right now, anyway. The music biz needs to pull together and change together, not have its income streams chopped up like some arbitrage wet dream.
    If EMI’s move is to stream-line the streaming licensing process (sorry for the pun) then it’s very premature: streaming cash is still just pennies. If it’s to keep the overhead charge that ASCAP takes on digital licensing, it’s still pennies. But, if it’s to send a message to the PROs, that they better start getting more involved (financially) with the war against our industry or that they should begin sharing the wealth a bit more with the entities that are the investment infrastructure of the music biz– major labels/publishers– then it’s forward-thinking genius. It’s the corporate version of a strike and it may just work.
    Oh, point of fact, neither ASCAP nor BMI are non-profits, despite what they have claimed in the past. ASCAP has a 501c3 branch that donates (its members) money to causes, but this is completely separate from the for-profit collection entity that takes in almost $1 Billion a year. Look it up if you don’t believe me. (Not on their website. Try a 990 data base.)
    Mo out

  15. It’s exactly the way it’s always been. Artists who control their own publishing are free to sign with the label’s counterparts or go elsewhere. Master rights will probably stay with the label, even if the artist signs to a new one. Sound messy? Yup, it is.

  16. I am unclear if that leaves out BMI and SESAC or if they just meant all PRO’s when they said ASCAP…By the way, SoundExchange is for Performers, not for songwriters and publishers like the PRO’s (performing rights societies).

Comments are closed.