UPDATED: In a groundbreaking show of unity, ASCAP and BMI, the nation’s two leading performing rights organizations, announced today that they will create a single, comprehensive database of musical works from their combined repertories that will deliver an authoritative view of ownership shares in the vast majority of music licensed in the United States.
Expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2018, the database will feature aggregated song-ownership data from ASCAP and BMI and offer greater transparency to music users and the industry.
According to a release, team of copyright, technical and data experts from the two organizations began working on the project over a year ago in anticipation of the demand from licensees and the industry for more clarity around ownership shares. The database, which will be publicly available initially via the two organizations’ searchable repertory databases — ASCAP’s ACE Repertory and BMI’s Repertoire Search — will feature aggregated information from those repertories and will indicate where other performing rights organizations may have an interest in a musical work. The joint database will serve as a foundation that can evolve to include a broader range of music information across the entire industry.
The two organizations will continue to maintain their own websites, but users will see the combined database when they search for information on titles. The move is a welcome one to virtually anyone seeking songwriting and publishing data, which for decades has involved often-laborious digging and combining of information from different sources.
While ASCAP and BMI work together frequently on common-interest matters such as the ongoing battle with the Department of Justice over song licensing, the two organizations are traditionally competitors and often-fierce rivals. Thus, this database initiative is unprecedented in its level of scale and cooperation. The two organizations are also the two best entities to host it — the U.S. Copyright Office was also considered — as they are constantly updating and refining their data for accuracy and have strong market-driven reasons to do so.
ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said: commented, “ASCAP and BMI are proactively and voluntarily moving the entire industry a step forward to more accurate, reliable and user-friendly data. We believe in a free market with more industry cooperation and alignment on data issues. Together, ASCAP and BMI have the most expertise in building and managing complex copyright ownership databases. With our combined experience, we are best positioned to make faster headway in creating a robust, cost effective market solution to meet the needs of the licensing marketplace.”
BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill, added, “This is an important solution for the marketplace created by the experts who know their data best. We have always advocated for data transparency and supported the need for a user-friendly and comprehensive solution that would benefit music users and music creators alike. While BMI and ASCAP remain fierce competitors in all other regards, we recognize that our combined expertise allows us to create the best solution for our members and the marketplace. We’re excited by our momentum and the promise of what this database can become in the future.”
Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a champion of creators’ rights and an original sponsor of the Songwriter Equity Act, issued the following statement in response:
“Today’s announcement from ASCAP and BMI is a substantive step forward in helping modernize the music industry. ASCAP and BMI are working together to better serve songwriters, publishers, licensees, and the entire music community through a free-market solution that leverages industry expertise and efficiencies. ASCAP and BMI represent 90% of American songs and have built this database with the potential to include an even broader range of information across the music industry. I’ve been working to protect the constitutional rights of America’s songwriters for years, and this is a good day for music creators and music lovers.”
On the other side of the fence is Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who criticized the organizations for not involving Congress and the other, significantly smaller PROs — namely SESAC and Global Music Rights — in the process. His comment was circulated by the MIC Coalition, whose members include the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Restaurant Association, the Digital Media Association and other organizations whose members are licensed by performing rights organizations to play music publicly. “If BMI and ASCAP were serious about establishing a music database, not only would they have spoken to my office and other interested Members of Congress about their plans, but they would have also included their fellow PROs in the initiative,” he wrote. “With their announcement today, they are grasping at straws; trying to maintain power over a failing process that only serves their interests, not those of the American consumer.” (In response, a BMI rep said: “We believe a marketplace solution is the right solution, created by the experts who know the data best.”)
ASCAP and BMI’s respective teams are analyzing, testing and reconciling the data from each organization, addressing incomplete and/or incorrect registrations, share splits, U.S. representation of international works and complicated ownership disputes, among other things.
The joint database will roll out in phases with Phase One expected to launch by the end of 2018, and include the majority of ASCAP and BMI registered songs, the release says. Future phases will explore customizable, interactive API solutions and the potential inclusion of other databases. Both organizations’ public databases include the following information, which will be combined in the joint database:
ASCAP and BMI have proven their commitment to industry-wide data transparency by making public aggregated song share ownership through their respective online, Both PRO public databases already include the following information, which will be combined in the joint database:
- Song and composition titles
- Performing artist information
- Aggregated shares by society for ASCAP & BMI
- International Standard Work Codes (ISWC) and other unique identifiers
- IP names and numbers.