The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) sells blanket licenses for music that are created by individual music creators. How does ASCAP calculate each individual composer's share? I understand they conduct sample surveys, but if some piece of music isn't used sufficiently, it might be completely missed, although otherwise the royalties may not be negligible. Also, if a piece of music is tailored for restaurants or bars, how would it be reckoned? ASCAP doesn't seem to survey restaurants or bars.

Am I missing anything here?

Disclaimer: I'm not a musician but interested in understanding some industry practice.

  • Have you tried contacting them? I guess they should be able to give you the most accurate answer.
    – Matt
    Mar 24, 2021 at 8:35
  • 2
    idk the ASCAP structure, but for the PRS this is paid as "unlogged performance" shared out in some unfathomable way between all the people they think should have got paid this year. In a good year I make about £1.47 from this; I imagine Paul McCartney fares somewhat better ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 24, 2021 at 9:26

1 Answer 1


Performing rights royalties are always skewed to favor big artists. I guess that's a necessary downside to paying out royalties at all, because the cost of tracking ALL performances would quickly exceed the revenue collected.

But ASCAP does recognize that songs performed in bars aren't the same songs that are being played on the radio or other media they track, and they have come up with a way to compensate for that: the "classic song bonus".

Songs that get significant performance in bars are the ones that used to get significant play in other media. You might not hear "Mustang Sally" on the radio these days, but you probably couldn't avoid hearing it in the mid 60s. So once you pass a threshold of 300,000 performance credits but you haven't earned any "audio feature premium credits" in the last year (i.e. you've dropped off the top 40 playlists) they bump up any payments you get.

They don't release the exact formulas they use, but you can see a rough outline of how it works here

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