BMI, which will turn 75 in 2014, is thinking big and looking forward. Its songwriters and publishing affiliates may understand that, but it wants to ensure the rest of the music industry knows it too.
In order to spread the news, it just launched a rebranding campaign, updating its logo and reminding everyone that it has been "Valuing Music Since 1939," when Broadcast Music Inc. was founded. In addition to raising BMI's corporate profile, the campaign aims to raise awareness of BMI's capabilities within the music business.
BMI president/CEO Del Bryant said in a statement: "This new campaign underscores our mission and commitment to valuing music and managing the rights associated with it in the future-wherever music is played."
So BMI, which represents such songwriters as Kanye West, Foo Fighters, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5, can talk the talk, but can it walk the walk in tracking value in the music industry's future?
Once upon a time, valuing music was easier, but nowadays the digital music landscape has changed all that. Today, the digital music space produces billions of listens and views, and if the publishing business used to say it made money one penny at a time, now it has to count many slivers of a penny before the whole penny can be claimed. Making matters worse, many other organizations are laying claim to each sliver of the penny and are also looking to expand into new areas of the music business. Yet, the ability to track micro-pennies must remain at BMI's core, if it's to be successful in whatever new areas it explores for growth.
BMI senior VP Richard Conlon says to simply call BMI a performance rights organization and collection society sells it short. "There will be other opportunities, licensing additional kinds of properties and offering administrative services," he says. "As we move forward, everything is becoming more rights-driven versus the sales marketplace. We believe that the bigger category is the rights management space, and bigger still is the permission rights space."
In Europe, the PROs handle other kinds of intellectual property, including artwork and photographs. Some European societies also handle mechanical royalties.
In the United States, BMI is precluded from entering the licensing mechanical royalty business by the consent decree under which it operates. But BMI could carve out an administrative business in that space. Beyond that, it just signed a deal to administer performance royalty payments for Sony/ATV's direct-licensing deal with Pandora.
BMI isn't the only rights organization looking for ways to grow and remain relevant. Stateside alone, the Harry Fox Agency, SESAC and, no doubt, ASCAP have similar aspirations.