It's possible, but it is a major decision and can have more consequences than you might realize.
It is possible to switch your Performing Rights Organization (PRO) affiliation, however, each PRO has it's own process on how to do this, so you will need to check with them directly whether or not you are eligible to terminate your affiliation with them, as well as the specific steps you need to take to terminate your affiliation.
If you are a member of an American PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) and are looking to switch affiliations to a different American PRO, you will need a release letter from your current PRO before you can become a member of another American PRO. As this change has to do with your writer affiliation, Songtrust is unable to assist in helping you retrieve a release letter. However, each American PRO has its own requirements that must be met before you can terminate your affiliation and receive a release letter.
BMI requires a minimum of a two-year term, and thus you will not be able to terminate your affiliation with them until two years after your initial affiliation date. You can learn more about terminating your BMI affiliation here.
While ASCAP does not have a minimum term, they do have specific windows throughout the year where you can request to terminate your affiliation, and your specific window will depend on when you first affiliated with them. If you miss your specific window, you will have to wait until the following year to request termination. You can learn more about terminating your ASCAP affiliation here.
In addition, while changing your PRO is possible, it is important to know that it could have extremely adverse effects on your payments for songs registered with the PRO you are looking to terminate your agreement with.
When switching to a new PRO, you will almost certainly lose money and you may not earn as much money at your new PRO depending on what kind of performances you are receiving. If you rely on the cash from your PRO to pay your bills and do not have backup income, this can be a very financially irresponsible decision.
Things To Consider
- Membership Terms: When you affiliated with your PRO, you agreed to their membership terms. These likely included a minimum amount of time, typically one to five years, that you agree to be affiliated with them before you can switch to another society. This can also depend on the number of songs you’ve registered with them, when you registered those songs, and how much money those songs are making.
- Delay In Song Registration: Additionally, you may be able to switch your affiliation, but your old society will continue to license the songs you’ve already registered with them for a period of time before you can switch those over to your new society.
- Membership Fees: Some societies charge a small affiliation fee, while others don’t. You may have to pay to sign up with a new PRO.
- Delays In Payment: When you switch your society, there will likely be a delay in your royalty payments, as your new PRO processes all of your information and songs, new licenses are executed, and licensees switch their payees.
- Foreign Collection: Payments from foreign societies may be coming into your society at a very delayed pace, these ‘in-flight’ (e.g. coming in the next quarter or two) payments are likely to be lost through bureaucracy or will take 3-4 years to untangle, if at all possible.
Lastly, they are some factors that could prevent you from switching at all. For example, if you have an unrecouped advance or adjustment, you will most likely not be able to leave until it is paid back, or your term ends.
If you do change your affiliation, you must notify us via our Support Form of your new PRO affiliation and IPI so we can update your account information. If we are not notified of this change, your registration and royalties will be significantly delayed.
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