BMI Revenue Growth Accelerates as Collections and Royalty Distributions Reach New Highs

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BMI President and CEO Mike O'Neill speaks on stage at Rialto Center for the Arts on Jan. 14, 2017 in Atlanta.

It was another record fiscal year for the U.S.-based performing rights organization.

BMI nearly reached $1.2 billion in revenue collections for its fiscal year ended June 30, a 6.1 percent increase over the $1.13 billion in revenue over the prior fiscal year ended June 30, 2017. In another record for the organization, distributions to writers and publishers increased 9.3 percent to nearly $1.12 billion from the $1.02 billion paid out in the prior year.

"Thanks to the incredible creativity of our songwriters, composers and publishers, BMI was once again able to generate record revenue and distributions on their behalf," BMI president and CEO Mike O'Neill said in a statement, adding in an interview, "What I love about our performance is that while our revenue is up considerably, our distribution to our writers and publishers is up even more; and that is a very positive development."

BMI's revenue collections breaks out to $880 million in domestic receipts and $319 million in foreign receipts, which respectively represent a 5.3 percent increase over the $836 million tallied in the prior fiscal year, while the latter grew 8.5 percent from $294 million.

Within its collections, BMI said that it included a $53 million collected from direct deals struck by publishers whereby the organization served as the administrator in making payouts to songwriters.

In looking at how the different kinds of licensing performed, BMI reported that within domestic revenue, digital services provided the biggest growth in royalties, reaching about $215 million in the fiscal year just ended. That represents a 31.9 percent increase over the $163 million collected from digital services in the prior fiscal year. General licensing also grew 4.7 percent to $156 million in the just completed year from the $149 million in the prior year. O'Neill attributed the increase to BMI finding 15,000 more businesses to license during the year.

Rounding out domestic revenue, all other media, i.e. television, radio, cable and satellite produced $510 million in revenue a decline of 2.6 percent from the $524 million collected from that media in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017. While BMI broke out that revenue for the first time for television and radio, which tallied about $220 million; and cable and satellite which paid about $290 million, prior year's numbers for those categories are not available.

However, O'Neill explained that the 2.6 percent decline in media came due to radio where BMI is involved in rate court because the Radio Music Licensing Committee and BMI couldn't agree on rates and the interim rate being paid currently is lower than expected. "We think we will win in rate court and recapture that revenue," O'Neill told Billboard.

Overall, domestic revenue breaks out to about 33 percent for cable and satellite, 25 percent for television and radio, or a total of 58 percent for media; 24.4 percent for digital; and 17.7 percent for general licensing. That contrasts with the prior year when media comprised 62.7 percent; digital 19.5 percent and general licensing 17.8 percent.

Meanwhile, expenses also decreased significantly slightly to just above 10 percent of revenue or about $125 million, from about 12 percent last year, or $135.6 million.  O'Neill said its a remarkable accomplishment to achieve lower costs  considering performances transactions grew by 21.4 percent to 1.7 billion from 1.4 billion in the prior year. Within that digital performance grew 23.7 percent to 1.67 billion transactions from the prior year's total of 1.35 billion transactions. 

Getting back to collections, BMI's growth to $1.199 billion keeps alive the game of leapfrog the organization has been playing with ASCAP, dating back to 2012. (For example, ASCAP reported $1.144 billion in Dec. 2017, preceded by $1.13 billion for BMI in June 2017, which was up from $1.059 for ASCAP in Dec. 2016, and so on.)

"When they [ASCAP] post a big number, it challenges you to elevate your game," says O'Neill. "It's fun to have competition."

Another thing to consider about BMI's revenue, even though this year represents its largest base, the organization's growth is accelerating. As noted above, this year's growth of 6.1 percent is greater than the 4.64 percent increased produced in the prior year afforded over the $1.06 billion tallied in the fiscal year ended June 30 2016, while the latter year's total was 3.7 percent bigger than the $1.013 billion in revenue in 2015; and that total was only 3.5 percent larger than the $977 million garnered in the year ended June 30, 2014. So each year growth has accelerated from the 3.5 percent growth the organization turned in for 2014 over 2013 up to this year's 6.1  percent growth over the prior year.

"While we are proud of achieving these results, we will always strive to do better," O'Neill said in a statement. "BMI will continue to advocate for our affiliates, ensuring that all songwriters and composers can continue to earn a living creating the music that is loved all over the world."