American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

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The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (commonly known as ASCAP) is an American not-for-profit performance-rights organization (PRO) that protects its members' musical copyrights by monitoring public performances of their music, whether via a broadcast or live performance, and compensating them accordingly.

ASCAP collects licensing fees from users of music created by ASCAP members, then distributes them back to its members as royalties. In effect, the arrangement is the product of a compromise: when a song is played, the user does not have to pay the copyright holder directly, nor does the music creator have to bill a radio station for use of a song.

In 2008, ASCAP collected over US$933 million in licensing fees and distributed $817 million in royalties to its members, with an 11.3 percent operating expense ratio.[1] In the United States, ASCAP competes with two other PROs — Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC).



ASCAP was founded by composer Victor Herbert in New York City, New York, on February 13, 1914, to protect the copyrighted musical compositions of its members, who were mostly writers and publishers associated with New York City’s Tin Pan Alley. ASCAP’s earliest members included the era’s most active songwriters — Irving Berlin, Otto Harbach, James Weldon Johnson, Jerome Kern and John Philip Sousa. Subsequently, many other prominent songwriters became members. As of July 2009, ASCAP membership included over 360,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers.[2]

In 1919, ASCAP and the Performing Rights Society of Great Britain (since 1997 known as PRS for Music), signed the first reciprocal agreement for the representation of each other’s members’ works in their respective territories. Today, ASCAP has global reciprocal agreements and licenses the U.S. performances of hundreds of thousands of international music creators.

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