ASCAP and BMI Team Up to Launch Musical Works Database, Eyeing Increased Transparency

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ASCAP and BMI, the two largest performing rights organizations in the U.S., are working together on a single database of musical works in an effort to bolster transparency in the tangled-up world of licensing, it was announced on Wednesday. The joint database, expected to launch in late 2018 on ASCAP's and BMI's web sites, will feature aggregated data from both organizations with the goal of making it easier to find out whether another PRO has a share of a musical work.

Work on the database started a year ago, with a team of copyright and tech experts scrutinizing data from each org for errors regarding registrations, share splits, ownership disputes and complications related to international works. The joint database will have much of the same information already available on the PROs' existing sites -- ASCAP's Ace Repertory and BMI's Repertoire Search -- including song and composition titles, performing artist info, aggregated shares broken down by societies, unique identifiers like the International Standard Work Codes and IP names and numbers.

Both PROs see an aggregated database as a necessary step toward bringing more clarity around ownership data -- as well as a worthy excuse to set aside their usual competitive nature.

"ASCAP and BMI are proactively and voluntarily moving the entire industry a step forward to more accurate, reliable and user-friendly data," said ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews in a statement accompanying the announcement. "We believe in a free market with more industry cooperation and alignment on data issues. Together, ASCAP and BMI have the most expertise in building and managing complex copyright ownership databases. With our combined experience, we are best positioned to make faster headway in creating a robust, cost effective market solution to meet the needs of the licensing marketplace."

BMI president and CEO Mike O'Neill called the proposed database an "important solution," adding, "We have always advocated for data transparency and supported the need for a user-friendly and comprehensive solution that would benefit music users and music creators alike. While BMI and ASCAP remain fierce competitors in all other regards, we recognize that our combined expertise allows us to create the best solution for our members and the marketplace. We’re excited by our momentum and the promise of what this database can become in the future."

Phase one of the searchable, constantly-updated database will rollout in the fourth quarter of 2018 and include the majority of ASCAP and BMI registered songs. Future phases will improve upon the interactivity of the site and may include the addition of other databases -- a possible nod to the nation's other leading PRO, SESAC.

Until the joint database is completed, ASCAP's and BMI's respective sites will continue to operate as usual.

News of the database has already caught the attention of lawmakers in Washington. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), an outspoken advocate for songwriters and publishers, called it a "substantive step forward in helping modernize the music industry. ASCAP and BMI are working together to better serve songwriters, publishers, licensees, and the entire music community through a free-market solution that leverages industry expertise and efficiencies."