ASCAP, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, reported record financial results for 2019, with total revenue topping $1.274 billion in 2019, a $47 million increase over 2018, according to an announcement from the performing rights organization. Royalty distributions to ASCAP members also hit a record high in 2019 and increased by $75 million, crossing the $1 billion mark for a third year with $1.184 billion in royalties paid out to ASCAP songwriter, composer and publisher members.
Domestic revenue collected by ASCAP in 2019 was $945 million, up $39 million over the prior year, driven in part by an increase in audio streaming, which increased 16%. Domestic distributions from ASCAP-licensed and administered performances in the US totaled $869 million, up $55 million over last year. Foreign revenue increased to $329 million and foreign distributions were $315 million, up by nearly $20 million over 2018. ASCAP operates on a not-for-profit basis and distributes all revenues collected, less operating expenses.
“We are pleased to report ASCAP’s strong financial results for 2019, but we know that our members are concerned about the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their royalties in 2020 and beyond,” said ASCAP Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Matthews. “Fortunately, ASCAP closed a record number of multi-year licensing deals in 2019 and instituted immediate operational changes and expense cuts in early March 2020. As a result of these efforts, while collection efforts are increasingly challenging, our first quarter 2020 royalty distributions have proven to be among our highest ever. Hopefully, this distribution will provide a cushion to members to help weather the storm of COVID-19.”
As a result of the pandemic, last month ASCAP delayed payments scheduled for April 6 until April 28 in a move to ensure quarterly writer payouts are fully funded; a rep for the company confirmed to Variety that the payments went out as scheduled, noting that they were funded at an amount greater than 2019’s and among the company’s highest to date. The delay was due to late payments from licensees, according to messages to members from Matthews and ASCAP president and chairman Paul Williams.
“As COVID-19 has continued to escalate and more and more of our licensee businesses have shut down, we have had to carefully review our cash forecasts and plan for more disruption to our revenue collections and member distributions,” Williams’ wrote on April 3. “The pandemic will have a material and negative impact financially on almost every category of licensing, so it is important to ensure that we are prepared for a decline in both revenues and distributions, which is why we took the step weeks ago to freeze numerous operational expenses.” ASCAP will be transitioning to a more flexible distribution schedule throughout 2020 and 2021, he added.
In a statement accompanying the 2019 results, Williams wrote, “Music remains essential to our culture and to humanity. We see it in good times as evidenced by the achievements of our members and ASCAP in 2019, and we see it now, when music creators show their generosity and compassion, even as they struggle with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their own lives and livelihoods. We are proud of ASCAP’s strong 2019 financial results, but our focus now is on the future, and fighting for our members. The ASCAP team is working tirelessly on behalf of our members to navigate through this crisis and protect their livelihoods, even in these challenging times. I am grateful to stand together with so many talented and dedicated members of the ASCAP family, at a time when we need each other more than ever.”
The company detailed several advances during 2019, including technology innovations (noting investments in technology systems to process performance data and a project that moved its survey and distribution systems into the cloud); a member wellness program that includes access to discounts; and the recruitment of new members including Mariah Carey, Dua Lipa, Mustard, Charlie XCX, Hayley Kiyoko, Courtney Hadwin, Epikh Pro and composer Siddhartha Khosla, and the renewal of deals with Billie Eilish, Finneas, Louis Bell, Diplo, Ne-Yo, James “Poo Bear” Boyd, Brothers Osborne, Andrew Taggart of the Chainsmokers, film/TV composers Michael Giacchino, James Levine and Daniel Romer; and the estates of XXXTentacion and Tom Petty.
The ASCAP 2019 Annual Report can be viewed at http://www.ascap.com/annualreport19.