This is the second in a series of articles about the three performing rights organizations in the U.S.: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) and SESAC. In this issue, AS takes a look at ASCAP, and what its recent restructuring and board changes will mean for its members in the future.
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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles about the three performing rights organizations in the U.S.: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) and SESAC. In this issue, AS takes a look at ASCAP, and what its recent restructuring and board changes will mean for its members in the future.
ASCAP is the oldest performing rights organization in the U.S., founded in 1914 in New York City. It is the only performing rights organization whose board of directors, which consists exclusively of composers, lyricists and music publishers, is elected writers and publishers.
There are approximately 55,000 writer and publisher members of ASCAP, which considers itself the largest performing rights organization in the world. ASCAP was founded so that the creators of music would be paid for the public performances of their works, and users (licensees) could comply with Federal Copyright Law.
“ASCAP is a membership organization. We are the most aggressive in collecting revenues, and we are committed to getting royalties into our members’ hands with absolute fairness as quickly and efficiently as possible,” says John LoFrumento, chief operating officer at ASCAP. “The people at ASCAP also care deeply about the needs of our members. We have a great many member-service initiatives, including successful workshops, showcases, and awards. We have a board of writers and publishers, just like our members, who guide policy to the best advantage of those we serve.”
Changes in the structure of the ASCAP board are the latest in a series of changes at the organization which executives say will provide its members with the best representation possible in the 21st century.
The board has voted to change eligibility criteria with the adoption of age limits for board members. Further, the board voted to reform the rule setting aside six board seats for symphony and concert members to one writer and one publisher in this category. These changes, if ratified by the ASCAP membership, will result in a vastly different board in 1995. Because of the proposed changes, four current writer member seats and two publisher member seats will be open.
“These changes in the Board requirements will result in a largely different board in 1995,” says Morton Gould, president of ASCAP. “That means some new perspectives, a fresh outlook, and new ideas. Of course, ASCAP members elect the board, so who is on the board will reflect the choices of the membership. But I expect the new board will reflect the choices of the membership. But I expect the new board to be more diverse in terms of genre of music and region.”
In an article in the November/December issue of AS, three key objectives of a new agenda for ASCAP as it goes into the 21st century were outlined. Basically, they are expanding the pool of distributable money, improving service to members and users, and establishing new leadership for a new direction.
In a progress report to ASCAP members, Gould expressed the opinion that the society has made significant headway on the new strategies. “ASCAP’s board and management are energetically working to implement ASCAP’s new agenda. New or expanded procedures are already in place and I will be making further announcements about our progress in the near future. As we enter a multi-media, interactive era, we are positioning ASCAP to stay ahead of changes that impact the way we do business so that we can continue to most successfully license and protect the rights of our members.”
Apparently progress is already underway. The ASCAP board authorized the disbursement of a record first quarterly distribution totaling $55 million to ASCAP’s writer and publisher members – 10 percent more than was distributed for the same period last year. The board reports an expansion of ASCAP’s radio and television surveys, the implementation of a full package of payment system enhancements to be in place by June of this year, and a new radio bonus award. Additionally, new producers to further strengthen the monitoring and collection of foreign revenues are being set in place.
The March 1994 publisher and May 1994 writer distributions will reflect an increase in radio survey size of roughly 25 percent, due to the use of radio station logs, and electronic monitoring, in addition to current tape monitoring. By the June 1994 publisher distribution and August writer distribution, the radio survey will be more than double the size it was in December of 1993. Plans call for the radio survey size to continue to increase over the long-term, while maintaining what Gould calls the “follow the dollar” principle.
Television surveys will also increase in size through the greater availability and more widespread use of electronic programming data. ASCAP’s census of top local television stations, as ranged by station license fees, will double from 50 to 100 stations by the March publisher and May writer distribution. ASCAP’s survey of the remaining stations will increase 300-400 percent in size by the new award to be funded entirely from radio and allocated general licensing distributions.
ASCAP’s pool of distributable money is also being expanded through new procedures to monitor and collect foreign revenues, and via cost reduction in the ASCAP way of doing business. ASCAP is now tracking performances on key television channels in France, Italy, and Spain. The society has also begun targeting tracking of the radio chart airplay, cinema and live concert performances. The purpose of these activities is to help ensure proper crediting and payment to ASCAP members.
New methodologies are being used in the radio survey that will substantially reduce the total cost, and ASCAP is pursuing more cost-effective approaches to licensing and collecting fees from general licensing establishments. Utilizing the latest technologies and streamlining operations will result in significant cost reductions in 1995 and thereafter.
“We are positioning ASCAP to be the strongest it can be in meeting the challenges of the future with respect to licensing new technologies and new delivery systems for music,” says LoFrumento. “We will continue to take the lead in making sure our members’ rights are protected in Congress and the courts.”
As reported in the November/December issue of AS, new members of the ASCAP senior team have been announced, while the search for a CEO continues. John LoFrumento is now chief operating officer; I. Fred Koenigsberg is special counsel to the board; Peter Boyle is chief economist; Todd Brabec is director of membership; Jim Collins is chief financial officer; L. Barry Knitter is director of licensing; Karen Sherry is director of operations and systems. “Responsibility to our membership at large dictates that we carefully and thoughtfully proceed in making ASCAP’s works as efficient as possible,” Gould concludes. “as for the new governance bylaws, they reflect a board serious about reforming itself. I believe that we are well on our way to making the society the strongest and best it has ever been as we enter the next century.”