When you’re in the business of composing royalty free music the term PRO will often come up. PRO stands for Performing Rights Organization and in this article I will take a look what a PRO can do for you, when it comes to rights and getting paid from your music being used.

Every composer has exclusive copyright to his or her work

Whether you have registered you work or not you alone have the rights. This means that no one is allowed to use your music without your permission. If it happens anyway you can take legal action against the offender.

If someone uses your work you’re entitled to royalties, but making a contract with every person who wants to use your music is nearly impossible. This is where the Performing Rights Organizations comes in.

Performing Rights Organizations helps you collect royalties

performing-rights-organizationThe Performing Rights Organizations is responsible for collecting royalties when your music is being played. If you register you music with a PRO they will monitor broadcasting of your music on radio, TV, films, commercials and so on.

If your music is used in TV and film the producer have to fill out a cue sheet. This contains information about the usage of the music and is then sent to the PRO so they can collect the royalties on behalf of the musician.

When it comes to royalty free music PROs only collect money if the music is being used for public performances. For other use the composer are being paid according to the terms of the music libraries where the music was bought.

Many people think that when you have bought a royalty free piece of music you can use it for anything you want and as many times as you wont, without paying any royalties.  This is a wrong assumption; the producer has to pay royalties if the music is used for broadcasting.

How are the payment rates determined?

PROs have different ways of determining how much the composer should be paid. Some of the factors are where the music is played, how big the audience and if the music is being played live. So how much you are being paid all depends on where your music is being used.

When it comes to royalty free music it’s common that a cue sheet is sent for 3-10% of the tracks sold. If you make a living from selling royalty free music you would probably be looking at a couple of hundred dollars extra every month. But again it all depends on where your music is being placed. The PRO payment could be much higher or lower than a couple of hundreds.

Do notice that it can take a very long time before you see any money form a PRO. It’s not uncommon waiting for years before seeing any of the royalty money on your account. Yes, the system is really that slow.

Are there any advantages of not being a member of a PRO?

Some producers simple don’t want to pay royalties if their production becomes popular. They therefore only use tracks that are not registered with a PRO.

Many libraries even have the option of only searching for tracks that are not registered with a PRO. Not having tracks registered with a PRO could therefore lead to more sales at the music libraries.

In the long run I am however convinced that being a member of a PRO will pay off. Pretty much every composer who has music listed in royalty free libraries, recommend that you register all of your tracks with a PRO.

Should your music by chance be used in a broadcast production, it sure would be sad to miss out on the money.

Are you a member of a PRO and what are your experiences in getting PRO payments from your music?