Broadcast Music Inc sale raises songwriter royalty concerns

“Songwriters have a right to understand these decisions and how they impact us”: Trade groups pen letter to CEO Mike O’Neill

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BMI President & CEO Mike O'Neill speaks onstage during the 2017 Broadcast Music, Inc (BMI) Film, TV & Visual Media Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on May 10, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.

Mike O’Neill / Getty: Frazer Harrison

Broadcast Music, Inc. – AKA BMI, a prominent US-based performing rights organisation – has announced its second attempt to sell the company within a year, prompting concerns from songwriters about the impact on their royalties.

The organisation, one of the primary music rights collection entities in the US, is known for representing songwriters and collecting royalties on their behalf. The latest potential buyer being considered is New Mountain Capital, according to Music Business Worldwide, a private equity firm. Although MBW reports that sources have indicated that an agreement in principle for the sale has been reached, there are still uncertainties about the deal’s finalisation.

BMI’s move to a for-profit model last year marked a significant shift in its 84-year history and stirred concerns about how it will operate in the future. Songwriters’ groups are particularly concerned about the possible repercussions of a sale to a private equity firm, as such firms are known for their aggressive return-on-investment goals and potential restructuring measures that could impact payouts to songwriters.

In a recent letter to BMI’s CEO, Mike O’Neill, the Artist Rights Alliance, the Black Music Action Coalition, the Music Artists Coalition, Songwriters of North America and SAG-AFTRA wrote:

“Songwriters have a vested interest in changes at BMI and in any proposed transaction which is wholly dependent on songs they have written… BMI does not own copyrights or other assets; it is a licensing entity for copyrights owned by songwriters and, by extension, publishers.

“Songwriters have a right to understand these decisions and how it impacts us.”

Right now, artist royalties are a hot topic in the music industry. Earlier this month, it was revealed that Google and UMG were in talks to agree on how royalties worked in relation to AI-made deepfake music.

In July, a website called the Get Paid Guide was set up to help independent artists have a stronger understanding of metadata and royalties.

Find out more about the Artists Rights Alliance via


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