If you are writing or co-writing your own songs, and have at least one available to the public. Whether you’ve performed them on CD or online on a YouTube video , sold them or had them played on radio or have a sheet music available, you are eligible to join ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) or BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.). Which company you choose is a personal choice. I would recommend researching the benefits of both before you choosing. You can only belong to one society at a time. I believe with BMI you must sign a 2 year contract. I would check that. They both have their pros and cons.
The importance of belonging to one of these groups is that it is the only way you can be sure you will be PAID if your music gets published, sold and played. These companies keep track of your copyrighted material and collect your royalties for you. They will give you reports of how many copies were sold or how many times your song has been played on the radio, and they issue you a check for your work. ASCAP and BMI are the only two highly recognized groups out there that do this, so don’t fall for any other company. Do your research! There is a one time application fee with ASCAP of $50.oo but they do not charge any annual dues or fees.
As an example of what these performing right companies do for you, I am attaching a link to the BMI Contract here http://www.bmi.com/forms/affiliation/bmi_writer_kit.pdf I am also including links to both ASCAP and BMI pages where you can join:
Again, I highly recommend researching both to see which society is a better fit for you and what you are doing.
If you haven’t gotten radio play on Public Broadcasting yet and haven’t sold any songs to publishing companies or had your songs purchased for commercials, TV, etc…there are still some online radio stations that work with ASCAP and BMI and pay artist royalties for spinning your songs. Some will charge YOU for the exposure..I don’t like those companies. Stay away from them. If an online radio station offers to play your songs, and it is free, let them! It doesn’t hurt to ask though if they pay royalties. There are not many online (that are not major broadcasting companies) that actually pay royalties, but search because I know there are at least a handful that claim they do. If they are paying, they will be pickier about what they will play so don’t expect them to give you a quick “yes” if they give you a yes at all. Once you get yourself to the point where your stuff is being professionally produced and sounding great, and you have joined one of the above societies, you will see your opportunities begin to grow.