Download full PDF version
Standing as a Community: A Message from ASCAP President and Chairman of the Board Paul Williams
I hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe and finding ways to cope with the hardship and disruption of the COVID-19 crisis. In this unprecedented time, we know that many of our members are struggling with both the health and economic consequences of this pandemic. I want you to know that the ASCAP staff is working day in and day out on your behalf to collect and pay out as much as possible during this challenging time so you can feed your families and pay your bills.
Like most of you, I’m spending my days and nights in self-imposed isolation. The streets are empty, but my heart is full. Alive with admiration for the men and women on the front lines fighting for our lives, deep sadness for those who’ve lost loved ones, and hope for our recovery and return to a planet treated with greater respect.
I’m a songwriter. My emotional landscape provides seeds for future songs. It’s what we do. We celebrate the complexities of being human and caring deeply.
Music unites us. It has the power to heal, calm our fears and restore our faith. Right now, with the world facing life and death challenges, your music has never been needed more.
What is the greatest value of music? I like to think of it as a midwife for the soul. Much like a midwife assists in the birth of a new life, music delivers emotions and liberates people to feel - and feel connected to each other. That connection is supporting us through these difficult times.
We are a membership organization and we always share our annual report highlighting the activities and achievements of the previous year. So it is strange to share this report with you when we are all experiencing the intensity of the here and now. However, I am proud to report that 2019 was an incredibly successful year for our members. Your music made history, topped the charts and shaped the culture in numerous ways. I can’t wait to see and hear how your creativity responds to this challenging moment.
ASCAP exists not just to get you paid. We are here to connect you with your peers, offer you resources and fight on your behalf. We have strength in numbers. If a single piece of music, written by a single person can move hearts and change people’s minds, just imagine the power of thousands of music creators united. We will continue to thrive together if we stand together, fight together and weather the difficult times together – as a community.
This moment shall pass. But the music you create today will live on. ASCAP will be here, as always, to value, protect and support you – the world’s greatest music creators.
Protecting the Value of Your Music: A Message from ASCAP CEO Beth Matthews
As I report on ASCAP’s 2019 financials, so many of our members and colleagues are struggling with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned about their health, their families and their future. Our hearts are with you and we are laser-focused on navigating through this crisis on your behalf.
These are not normal times. In normal times, we would have gathered together by now for our Annual Membership Meeting to share our record-high financial results for 2019 and to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our songwriter, composer and music publisher members.
Instead, like our colleagues at performing rights societies all over the world, we are working from home and doing everything possible to prepare for the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis. ASCAP began making operational changes and expense cuts in early March 2020 and the ASCAP team is doing everything possible to optimize our collection efforts even during this challenging time when so many of our licensees are closed or suffering revenue declines.
Fortunately, ASCAP closed a record number of multi-year licensing deals in 2019 across many sectors, including audio and audio-visual streaming services, television, cable and more. 2019 seems like a different universe than 2020, but the work we did then, and in the early part of this year, resulted in first quarter 2020 royalty distributions that are among our highest ever. We hope that starting the year strong will provide a cushion for our members to weather this COVID-19 storm.
Let’s look at our 2019 results:
In 2019, ASCAP achieved historic, record-breaking financial results for the fifth year in a row, with total revenue topping $1.274 billion, a $47 million increase over 2018.
Royalty distributions to ASCAP members also hit a record high in 2019 and increased by $75 million, crossing the $1 billion mark for a third year with $1.184 billion in royalties paid out to ASCAP songwriter, composer and publisher members.
Domestic revenue collected by ASCAP in 2019 was $945 million, up $39 million over the prior year, driven in part by an increase in audio streaming which increased 16%. Domestic distributions from ASCAP licensed and administered performances in the US totaled $869 million, up $55 million over last year. Foreign revenue increased to $329 million and foreign distributions were $315 million, up by nearly $20 million over 2018.
ASCAP continued its track record of innovation in 2019, with investments in state-of-the-art technology systems to process trillions of performances annually. We also completed a project that moved ASCAP’s survey and distribution systems into the cloud, making them more efficient and cost-effective in the distribution of over $1 billion annually to ASCAP rightsholders.
At the end of 2019, ASCAP launched a first-of-its-kind comprehensive wellness program, becoming the first US performing rights organization to focus heavily on its members’ physical and mental well-being to support their creativity, life balance and longevity. ASCAP members receive a range of benefits including access to and significant discounts on innovative services that support mental health, mindfulness, exercise and nutrition. The program also includes recovery support, wellness events and dedicated wellness content on the ASCAP website and social media. As part of ASCAP’s commitment, the organization commissioned an extensive research survey to determine the needs of its members: “The US Music Creator Wellness Study.”
I am thankful for the incredible and innovative work that the ASCAP team delivers each and every day. Their commitment to serving and supporting you is stronger than ever. While things are tough right now, I remind myself that ASCAP has survived two world wars and several economic crises. I promise you that we will do whatever it takes to fight for ASCAP and fight for you. We will get through this together. Thank you for your loyalty and your ASCAP membership.
Leading ASCAP into the Future
The 12 writers and 12 publishers on the ASCAP Board of Directors know the needs of our members first-hand, represent no outside interest group and combine deep experience and strategic vision to lead the organization into the future.
Get to know the ASCAP Board →
ASCAP President and Chairman of the Board, Songwriter
ASCAP Board Writer Vice Chairman, Composer
Irwin Z. Robinson
ASCAP Board Publisher Vice Chairman, Cromwell Music
Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Ten Ten Music Group
BMG Music Publishing
Kobalt Music Publishing
James M. Kendrick
ASCAP Board Treasurer, Schott Music
Universal Music Publishing
Warner Chappell Music
Mary Megan Peer
Expanding ASCAP Music's Impact
ASCAP is well-prepared to meet the challenges of 2020 and beyond. Read on to see the progress ASCAP and our members made in 2019, and how our collective work will help ASCAP through this moment in history.
Growing as a Family
In 2019, the ASCAP family grew to more than 735,000 music creators. We welcomed 45,875 new members, including pop divas Mariah Carey and Charli XCX, beatmaking powerhouse Mustard, This Is Us composer Siddhartha Khosla and rising rapper Lil Tecca. We renewed our relationship with modern hitmakers in every genre, like Billie Eilish & FINNEAS, Louis Bell, Dua Lipa, Ne-Yo, Justin Timberlake, Diplo, Brothers Osborne, Tommy Brown, Andrew Taggart (The Chainsmokers), Poo Bear, Chris Jeday and the estate of XXXTentacion; screen composers Michael Giacchino, James Levine and Daniel Romer; and all-time legends Tom Petty and Quincy Jones.
Pictured: Ariana Grande at Lollapalooza 2019 (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
ASCAP songwriters wrote the hits that crowned 29 separate Billboard year-end charts, plus nine of the top 10 spots on the year-end Hot 100. And while they ruled radio and streaming, they were also making history. Ariana Grande became the first artist since The Beatles to occupy the top 3 spots on the Hot 100. Garth Brooks was named CMA Entertainer of the Year for an unprecedented seventh year. Captain Marvel composer Pinar Toprak became the first woman to score a film grossing over $1 billion. Latin rock legends Maná played a record seven sold-out shows at The Forum in LA. Ellen Reid, the first composer to have works commissioned and performed by all four major LA classical music ensembles, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her visionary opera p r i s m. And Billie Eilish became the first woman to sweep the four major Grammy categories, less than a year after she became the first artist born in the 2000s with a #1 single and album.
Protecting Music Creators' Rights
In 2019, The Department of Justice opened a review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. ASCAP and BMI put forth a proposal to the DOJ to replace the current decrees with transitional decrees that would bring us on a gradual pathway to a free market. The modernized, transitional decrees would preserve four things: 1. The rate court process, as reformed by the Music Modernization Act; 2. The requirement to license our repertories upon request, but only if there’s a more efficient, automatic way to receive interim fees; 3. Non-exclusivity: Meaning that our members can still enter into direct deals if they really want to; and 4. Alternatives to the blanket license.
These are reasonable proposals and they take into consideration the needs of all stakeholders, including licensees. There were over 850 public comments submitted to the DOJ on our consent decrees and considerable opposition from licensees - from bars to wineries to the National Association of Broadcasters to the Digital Media Association to Netflix and cable television. But we also had close to 30,000 creators who supported ASCAP and BMI’s joint recommendations to the DOJ. If they agree with us, and we can finally move to modernize the framework in which ASCAP and BMI can operate, it will have been because of a broad coalition of music creators and our allies, speaking as one.
In 2019, ASCAP continued working with bipartisan allies on Capitol Hill to build consensus and workable solutions to revamping our music licensing system. Our annual “We Write the Songs” concert at the Library of Congress along with our ASCAP “Stand With Songwriters” Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill brought together ASCAP members and executives with legislative leaders for meetings to explore ways to update the outdated federal laws that regulate how songwriters license their works.
Pictured: Natti Natasha (left) and ASCAP "She Is The Music" Song Camp participants at Marc Anthony's studio in Miami
The music community thrives on collaboration, and in 2019 we forged and deepened partnerships with organizations doing vital work in support of music creators. We partnered with MusiCares® to launch new recovery support groups in multiple cities, including cyber support groups accessible to music creators everywhere. With She Is The Music, we hosted an all-woman, cross-genre song camp including Latin superstar Natti Natasha. Our partnership with Luck Productions resulted in Luck Embassy, a unique portal geared toward helping a growing circle of country and roots music artists. And we welcomed numerous new partners to our ever-expanding ASCAP Member Benefits roster, including Aaptiv, Betterhelp, Daily Burn, Motiv, Shine and Soundfly.
We also brought ASCAP members together at intimate get togethers across the country, including the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul team’s Check It Out and Mind Your Business series, our Pop/Rock team’s Open House and Collab Lab mixers, and the cross-genre Break Bread gathering.
Driving the Power of Music for Licensees
The hundreds of thousands of businesses licensed by ASCAP all recognize the tremendous value of ASCAP music to their bottom line. Last year, ASCAP licensing revenue hit an all-time-high of $1.274 billion, a $47 million increase over 2018 - translating into $1.184 billion in royalties to our songwriter, composer and publisher members, our highest distributions ever. This was achieved in part by closing a record number of multi-year licensing deals with major music users, including audio streaming services, TV broadcasters, cable networks and more.
ASCAP works hand in hand with our licensees to ensure that our members are getting paid what they deserve, and that businesses have an affordable, efficient way to legally perform the greatest music on earth.
Pictured: Sarah Finegold (l) interviews Tony-winning Hadestown creator Anaïs Mitchell for VERSED: The ASCAP Podcast
Innovating and Exploring
ASCAP has a 106-year history of innovation in the PRO space, and we continued that legacy in 2019. We completed a project that moved ASCAP’s survey and distribution systems to the cloud, making them more efficient and cost-effective in the distribution of over $1 billion annually to ASCAP rightsholders. With the launch of VERSED, we became the first American PRO to offer a podcast in the modern podcasting era. We formally launched ASCAP Lab, an innovation program that will explore new technologies and business approaches to expand what’s possible as we serve and support our members.
Supporting Our Members Where It Counts
ASCAP’s support for our members goes far beyond quarterly royalty payments. In 2019 we continued to host workshops, showcases and song camps as a platform for our members to build their skills and create tomorrow’s hits. Our signature ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO brought together thousands of music makers to learn from icons, including keynote speaker Questlove. We also know that supporting our members’ careers means supporting their well-being. Based on findings from an extensive study of our members, we launched the ASCAP Wellness Program, intended to help nourish the body, mind and spirit so our members can be at their creative best.
When COVID-19 struck the country, ASCAP quickly launched Music Unites Us, an important web portal for our members and the community, with continuously updated vital information to help our members cope with this crisis, including how to access financial relief through government and other programs and many more resources.
Pictured: ASCAP Rhythm & Soul team honors Roc Nation’s Shari Bryant, artist-songwriter Victoria Monét and Capitol Records’ Britney Davis at ASCAP's Women Behind the Music event in LA on October 9
“Inclusion” is more than a buzzword at ASCAP. Our membership is made up of music creators of every age, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation - and we celebrated that fact over and over in 2019. From our inaugural ASCAP Pride celebration, to our all-woman, cross-genre song camps with She Is The Music; from our Shirley Walker Award (honoring music creators whose achievements have contributed to the diversity of screen music) to the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul team’s annual Women Behind the Music event; from the amicus brief we filed with the Supreme Court in support of LGBTQ workers, to our CEO Beth Matthews's membership in the Recording Academy’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, ASCAP believes that the music community can only grow if it opens its arms to everyone.
As an organization, ASCAP walks the walk when it comes to inclusion. Women make up more than 50% of all ASCAP employees, including half of our top level executives.