BMI's Revenue Keeps Growing, Despite Pandemic Setbacks

BMI Logo 2017
Courtesy of BMI


Performance rights organization BMI distributed and administered $1.335 billion to writers and publishers in the 2021 fiscal year

Performing rights organization BMI released its annual report on Wednesday (Sept. 8), revealing record highs in both distribution to writers and publishers as well as domestic licensing revenue. Despite the ongoing effects of COVID-19, the PRO has reported increasing revenue in both 2020 and 2021. For the fiscal year, ending June 30, 2021, BMI distributed and administered $1.335 billion to writers and publishers and totaled $1.409 billion in revenue -- up nearly 7% from 2020 and 6% from 2019's pre-pandemic earnings.

This year, a new accounting guidance was enacted. Dubbed the ASC 606 accounting guidance, it modified BMI’s revenue recognition policies. This means that “any revenue generated by the PRO in a previous fiscal year, but that was collected and distributed in the current fiscal year, does not factor into the final reported revenue total,” according to a statement by BMI. The ASC 606 had no bearing on the 1.335 billion BMI distributed and administered this year, but affected digital and international revenues. All figures below will note whether or not the figure is affected by ASC 606 accounting guidelines, but numbers from previous years reflect historically reported revenue totals. 

Much of this total $1.409 billion in revenue (or $1.361 billion per ASC 606 accounting guidance) can be attributed to its total domestic licensing revenue which exceeded $1 billion for the first time this year. Citing the growth of several FAST (free ad-supported TV) services, subscription video-on-demand services, and newfound direct-to-streaming film premieres as bolsters of domestic licensing revenue growth, digital licensing accounted for 47% (or $448 million which is reported as $423 million per the ASC 606 accounting guidance) of that revenue.

Although digital licensing peaked over the year, media and general licensing were dampened, in part by pandemic concerns, with general taking the greatest hit. Since fiscal 2019, which raked in an all-time high of $169 million in general licensing, revenue from general, public spaces like bars, restaurants, shops and concert venues -- has dropped by 25%, and amounted to just $127 million in the past year.

Meanwhile media licensing, which accounts for cable and satellite television and radio, decreased by 11% from last year to a total of $469 million (or $472 million per the ASC 606 accounting guidance). This is the first time in recent years that media has taken a dip and may be indicative of a major upcoming downturn for traditional TV and radio. In 2020, the category made $527 million in revenue for BMI, up by 3% from the previous year.

The 2021 fiscal year, much like the year prior, is revealing of how deeply music consumption can be affected by circumstance. In the wake of shuttered venues, mask mandates and event cancellations, consumers adopted new, digital methods of entertainment and music listening -- as evidenced by BMI's shifting revenues. Over the year, the number of licensed musical works from BMI's catalog grew by 10%, totaling now 18.7 million, and total performances grew by 13%. Notably, of the 1.98 trillion performances BMI documented during fiscal 2021, 1.95 trillion of them were digitally-based.

BMI also signed a number of notable new songwriters for their membership, like 5 Seconds of Summer and Saweetie, and welcomed renowned international talent Karol G and Rosalía as well. Overall, BMI affiliate membership grew by 11% this year and now totals to 1.2 million members.

Here's a look at BMI's 2021 fiscal year by the numbers:

  • Distribution and administration totaled $1.335 billion to its affiliated songwriters and publishers this year, up by 8% from last year ($102 million)
    • Distributions from domestic and international royalties totaled $1.25 billion
    • Direct deals administered by BMI on behalf of its publisher and digital service provider clients totaled $85 million, up from $14 million last year
  • Revenue totaled $1.409 billion, a 7% increase from the year prior ($1.361 billion per the ASC 606 accounting guidance) 
  • Total domestic licensing revenue totaled over $1 billion for the first time
    • Digital licensing revenue increased by 47% from last year, totaling $448 million ($423 million per the ASC 606 accounting guidance)
    • Media licensing revenue decreased by 11% from last year, totaling $469 million ($472 million per the ASC 606 accounting guidance)
    • General licensing revenue decreased by 2% from last year, totaling $127 million. From 2019 to 2020, general licensing revenue decreased by 23%
  • International revenue totaled $365 million ($339 million per the ASC 606 accounting guidance), a 4% increase from last year
  • Membership grew 11%, totaling 1.2 million with almost 120,000 new writers, composers and publishers
  • Total performances grew to 1.98 trillion, up 13% from last year.
    • 1.95 trillion of them were digitally based


Update: This story was updated at 12:10 PM EST on Sept. 9 to reflect the difference between figures that use ASC 606 accounting guidance and those which do not