1914: Five years after the Copyright Act of 1909 affirmed the rights of songwriters to be paid for their work, some of the most prominent composers of the age convene at the Hotel Claridge in New York on Feb. 13, to launch the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Music publisher George Maxwell is ASCAP’s first president.
1915: Irving Berlin, one of America’s greatest songwriters and an ASCAP charter member, writes “I Love a Piano,” one of his first hits published after joining ASCAP.
1916: Inspired by Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” composer Raymond Hubbell and lyricist John Golden, both ASCAP charter members, debut the jazz standard “Poor Butterfly” in a Broadway production of “The Big Show.”
1917: ASCAP wins a landmark victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes presiding, in the case of Herbert v. Shanley, which gives ASCAP the legal backing to pursue the licensing of music users.
1918: Turner Layton, a leading songwriter in New York’s African-American community and an early ASCAP member, has his song “After You’ve Gone” released by Marion Harris, a white recording artist known as Queen of the Blues.
1919: ASCAP and PRS (Britain’s Performing Rights Society) sign the first agreement for representation of ASCAP members abroad. Today, ASCAP has reciprocal agreements with more than 100 countries.
1920: George Gershwin joins ASCAP after his song “Swanee,” with lyrics by Irving Caesar, becomes a hit.
1921: With the music fueling the Roaring ’20s, ASCAP takes on the task of licensing restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and all other sites of public performances, and makes its first royalty distribution to its writer and publisher members.
1922: Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle join ASCAP. The two are collaborators on “Shuffle Along,” one of the first Broadway musicals written and directed by African-Americans.
1923: The discovery and use of music moves to an emerging new technology — radio. And ASCAP begins licensing radio stations for the first time.
1924: A delegation of 18 leading ASCAP members meets with Congress and successfully lobbies for stricter copyright laws on the airwaves.
1925: “St. Louis Blues,” written by blues pioneer W.C. Handy, becomes a hit for ASCAP member and influential jazz vocalist Bessie Smith. The record features Louis Armstrong on cornet and Fred Longshaw on harmonium.
1926: Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart join ASCAP. The two become giants of musical theater, writing such standards as “My Funny Valentine,” “Blue Moon,” “Where or When,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “The Lady Is a Tramp” and others.
1927: “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson, launches a new medium for music. The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue also has six songs, making it the first movie musical.
1928: “Blackbirds of 1928,” featuring the standard “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” marks the songwriting partnership of composer Jimmy McHugh and lyricist Dorothy Fields, one of the first successful female songwriters of Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood.
1929: “Stardust” is written by lyricist Mitchell Parish and composer Hoagy Carmichael. It becomes one of the most recorded and performed songs in history.
1930: Composer Harold Arlen joins ASCAP and launches a career that will produce such classics as “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Stormy Weather,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” “Get Happy,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” and “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road).” Arlen served on the ASCAP board later in his career.
1931: One of the greats of musical theater of the 1920s and ’30s, Cole Porter joins ASCAP in 1931. His standards include “Night and Day,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “You’re the Top.”
1932: Ira Gershwin becomes ASCAP’s first member to win the Pulitzer Prize (in drama) for the musical “Of Thee I Sing.”
1933: ASCAP opens its first general licensing office in Charlotte, N.C. Today, ASCAP has more than 700,000 licensed customers, and licensing representatives who cover every region of the country.
1934: ASCAP members Herb Magidson and Con Conrad become the first people to take home an Academy Award for music in a motion picture, winning for “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee.” ASCAP members have since won Oscars in all but three years, for a grand total of 169 Oscar-winning scores and songs.
1935: The big band boom spreads from ballrooms and clubs to radio and motion pictures. “The Lullaby of Broadway,” by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, becomes a hit for the Dorsey Brothers.
1936: ASCAP members including Rudy Vallée, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin are among those who return to Washington, D.C., to lobby lawmakers on behalf of music creators.
1937: Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington celebrates the success of “Caravan,” first performed a year earlier by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In recent years, director Woody Allen has used the Ellington classic in his films “Alice” and “Sweet and Lowdown.”
1938: Singing cowboy movies of the 1930s — starring Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Sons of the Pioneers, Tex Ritter and Johnny Marvin-make cowboy songs part of the national fabric. Autry also co-wrote “Back in the Saddle Again” with Ray Whitley.
1939: “The Wizard of Oz” introduces movie-goers to the magic of “Over the Rainbow” by composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg.
1940: To celebrate great American music of the 20th century, ASCAP presents a concert in San Francisco featuring, among others, Harold Arlen, accompanied by Judy Garland on “Over the Rainbow,” as well as Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, W.C. Handy, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer and Deems Taylor. (Taylor subsequently was elected president of ASCAP in 1942.)
1941: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” co-written by Don Raye and Hughie Prince and recorded by the Andrew Sisters, appears in the Abbott & Costello film “Buck Privates” and becomes an iconic World War II tune.
1942: Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is recorded by Bing Crosby for the film “Holiday Inn” and strikes a deep chord with listeners during World War II. The Armed Forces Network is flooded with requests for the song as the holidays near, and by year’s end it becomes a No. 1 hit, later earning Berlin an Oscar for best original song.
1943: Cab Calloway performs with his orchestra in the film “Stormy Weather.” Calloway, who joined ASCAP a year earlier, was a songwriter, jazz singer and bandleader most associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem. ASCAP in 1988 presented him with its Duke Ellington Award.
1944: Jerome Robbins creates a ballet called “Fancy Free” using the music of Leonard Bernstein. It evolves into the 1949 Broadway musical “On the Town” with music by Bernstein and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
1945: ASCAP member Aaron Copland’s famous piece of Americana, “Appalachian Spring,” wins the Pulitzer Prize in the music category.
1946: “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66,” written by Bobby Troup, is first recorded by the Nat “King” Cole Trio. Other notable versions of the song include those recorded by Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode and John Mayer.
1947: A boom year for Broadway musicals includes the debuts of “Brigadoon,” with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe; “Finnian’s Rainbow,” with a book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy and music by Burton Lane; and “Kiss Me Kate,” with music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
1948: A songwriter with a background in law and music publishing, Fred E. Ahlert is elected ASCAP’s fourth president and was an integral part of the ASCAP team during his 30-year career.
1949: ASCAP begins licensing a new, emerging technology featuring music — TV. The organization creates a “tabulating department” to process an ever-increasing amount of data, the forerunner of its current state-of-the-art data center. In 2012, ASCAP collected more than $308 million from its TV and cable licensees.
1950: “Luck Be a Lady,” written by Frank Loesser and published by Frank Music, debuts in the Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls.” Otto Harbach is elected as ASCAP’s fifth president.
1951: By the 1950s, ASCAP had established an “index department,” in which staff listen to hours of radio recordings from across the nation to ensure royalties would be properly distributed. Today, ASCAP processes more than 250 billion performances annually.
1952: Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly star in the classic western drama “High Noon,” with a score by Dimitri Tiomkin, who also co-wrote the theme song with lyricist Ned Washington. Both the score and theme song won Oscars.
1953: The instrumental theme song for the original TV series “Dragnet,” composed by Walter Schumann and inspired in part by Miklos Rozsa’s score to the 1946 film “The Killers,” becomes a hit in a version recorded by Ray Anthony.
1954: “Rock Around the Clock,” written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Meyers (aka Jimmy De Knight), becomes a hit for Bill Haley & the Comets and opens the film “Blackboard Jungle.”
1955: Tito Puente emerges as a leader in the dance-oriented mambo and Latin jazz scene. Puente, nicknamed El Rey de los Timbales, wrote his best-known work, “Oye Como Va,” in 1963. It was famously adapted in 1970 by Santana.
1956: Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Man Who Knew Too Much” stars Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day and features Day’s performance of “Que Sera, Sera,” written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. It wins the Oscar for best original song.
1957: “West Side Story” debuts on Broadway with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and conception, choreography and direction by Jerome Robbins. It also marks the Broadway debut of a young lyricist named Stephen Sondheim.
1958: Cartoonist, artist, engineer, songwriter and inventor Rube Goldberg, of “Rube Goldberg machine” fame and one of ASCAP’s most unique members, was a great advocate of music creators’ rights. In 1958, he made headlines when he teamed with former ASCAP president Otto Harbach to draw a political cartoon criticizing a loophole in copyright law that forbade artists to collect royalties from jukebox profits. Unfortunately, the two were unsuccessful, and the law wasn’t revised until 1978.
1959: John Cage joins ASCAP. A pioneer of the post-war avant-garde movement in music, Cage was a composer, music theorist, writer and artist who drew inspiration from Eastern and South Asian cultures, as well as Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism.
1960: “The Magnificent Seven” debuts in theaters, with a score by Oscar-winning composer Elmer Bernstein. The score has been frequently adapted in new settings in the decades since.
1961: After his success a year earlier with “The Twist,” Chubby Checker returns with the Grammy Award-winning “Let’s Twist Again,” written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell. ASCAP opens its Los Angeles office.
1962: “Days of Wine and Roses,” starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, features theme music by composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer, which wins the Oscar for best original song.
1963: To better serve its growing country music membership, ASCAP opens its first office in Nashville.
1964: Dionne Warwick has a top 10 record with “Walk On By,” one of her many hits written by the songwriting team of Hal David and Burt Bacharach, who brought a new sophistication to the Brill Building sound of the 1960s.
1965: “The Sound of Music,” with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, originally appeared on Broadway in 1959. But the 1965 film musical adaptation, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, becomes one of the most successful and beloved movie musicals.
1966: Cy Coleman is elected to the ASCAP board, the same year that the musical “Sweet Charity” — with music by Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and a book by Neil Simon — debuts on Broadway. Coleman was a major advocate for his fellow music creators and served on the ASCAP board from 1966 to his death in 2004.
1967: “Light My Fire,” from the debut album by the Doors, spends three weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. The song is credited to all four members of the Doors, who join ASCAP the same year.
1968: Jimi Hendrix joins ASCAP the same year he releases the album “Electric Ladyland.”
1969: Woodstock marks a milestone in pop culture. ASCAP members among the performers include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Richie Havens, Melanie and Arlo Guthrie.
1970: “Tears of a Clown” is the latest hit for ASCAP member Smokey Robinson (co-written with Stevie Wonder) with his group the Miracles. Robinson also wrote for Motown labelmates the Temptations, Mary Wells, the Marvelettes and others.
1971: Music From Big Pink, the debut album from the Band, includes the hit “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” written by ASCAP member Robbie Robertson.
1972: A year after Bob Marley joins ASCAP, his song “Stir It Up” becomes a hit in the United States and the United Kingdom for fellow ASCAP member Johnny Nash.
1973: Composer Marvin Hamlisch teams with lyricists Marilyn & Alan Bergman (future president of ASCAP) for the film “The Way We Were,” starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. The title song wins an Oscar for best original song.
1974: ASCAP songwriter/guitarist Jose Feliciano writes the theme to the hit NBC sitcom “Chico and the Man,” which presents the Mexican-American barrio to mainstream TV audiences.
1975: Jack Norworth, an ASCAP charter member and writer of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” leaves his royalties to ASCAP, and the bequest results in creation of the ASCAP Foundation, committed to nurturing talent and preserving the legacy of American music.
1976: The Copyright Act of 1976 overhauls U.S. copyright law for the first time since 1909. Among its many provisions, the act extends protection of copyrighted works to 75 years for pre-1978 works, and “life plus 50 years” for works published in 1978 or later. (These terms are extended again in 1998.)
1977: ASCAP negotiates a license fee with HBO, the first network to broadcast continuously through satellite and the first true premium cable network. Other major cable providers are soon to follow. Today, ASCAP licenses some 11,000 cable services.
1978: Following a decade of successful songwriting, film scoring, arranging and producing, Quincy Jones joins ASCAP. In 2012, he receives the prestigious Founders Award at the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards.
1979: ASCAP becomes the first performance rights organization (PRO) to license, survey and make royalty payments for college radio performances. Today, ASCAP licenses more than 750 college stations throughout the United States.
1980: Lyricist Hal David becomes ASCAP’s ninth president. A tireless advocate for intellectual property rights, he serves as president for five years.
1981: ASCAP adds another legend to its roster of country superstars when Johnny Cash joins ASCAP, where he would stay until his death in 2003.
1982: The ASCAP Foundation presents the first Richard Rodgers Award for lifetime achievement in musical theater. Notable recipients have included Betty Comden, Al Green, Stephen Sondheim, Marvin Hamlisch and Irving Caesar. In November, Michael Jackson releases Thriller with production by ASCAP member Quincy Jones. It becomes the best-selling album in history.
1983: The same year she releases her debut album, featuring first single “Everybody,” a young New York singer and dancer named Madonna becomes an ASCAP member.
1984: ASCAP holds its first Pop Music Awards, initiating a tradition that has become one of ASCAP’s most star-studded events. The first songwriter of the year at the event is Lionel Richie, who would win again in 1985 and 1986.
1985: ASCAP members Neil Young and John Mellencamp co-found Farm Aid with Willie Nelson. The organization stages its first benefit concert for America’s farmers on Sept. 22 in Champaign, Ill. ASCAP member Dave Matthews subsequently joins the Farm Aid board.
1986: Morton Gould, renowned composer of classical music, musicals and ballets, is elected president of ASCAP and guides the organization through the early years of the Internet.
1987: “Les Misérables” — written by PRS members Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer and SACEM member Jean-Marc Natel — debuts on Broadway, where it runs for 16 years and 6,680 performances.
1988: Composer Fred Karlin founds the ASCAP TV and film scoring workshop to nurture young composers. Graduates have scored major films, TV series and videogames. Several have won Emmy and BAFTA Awards.
1989: ASCAP holds its second Rhythm & Soul Music Awards. Originally titled the Black Music Celebration, the annual event recognizes the achievements of ASCAP members in R&B, hip-hop and soul. The 1989 ceremony honors hitmakers Rick James, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Prince, George Michael, Smokey Robinson and more.
1990: Broadway’s 46th Street Theatre is rechristened the Richard Rodgers Theatre. To celebrate this honor for one of its most beloved members, ASCAP builds a permanent exhibit in the theater that details Rodgers’ rich career.
1991: Metallica releases its self-titled “Black Album,” with songs credited to each of the four bandmates, all ASCAP members.
1992: After 30 years, ASCAP’s Nashville branch outgrows its original headquarters and opens a new, modern building on the same site.
1993: Brad Paisley interns at ASCAP Nashville during his tenure at Belmont University. More than 20 years later, he’s one of the most decorated singer/songwriters in country music.
1994: Oscar-winning film/TV songwriter Marilyn Bergman becomes ASCAP’s first female president in 1994. Bergman holds this post during some of the organization’s most crucial years, ensuring that ASCAP remains ahead of the many technological developments affecting its members.
1995: In the same year that ASCAP.com goes online, ASCAP issues its first performance license to a website, RadioHK.com. ASCAP would later become the first PRO to distribute royalties from Internet performances.
1996: ASCAP officially launches its member benefits program, with a credit union membership. The program has since grown to include insurance options and discounts for travel and online education.
1997: The Jazz Wall of Fame is dedicated at ASCAP’s New York offices to honor members who have made important contributions to this vital American genre. Each year, awards are given to both “living legends” and promising young jazz musicians. The first of ASCAP’s living legends is saxophonist/composer Benny Carter.
1998: The same year her R&B group Destiny’s Child releases its first album, Beyoncé Knowles chooses ASCAP as her PRO.
1999: ASCAP stages the first Stories Behind the Songs concert in Washington, D.C. The event, featuring music by Marilyn & Alan Bergman, Hal David, Rudy Perez and Jimmy Webb, aims to raise awareness among government leaders of ASCAP’s mission by giving a glimpse into the work and experiences of songwriters.
2000: John Mayer plays the ASCAP Presents…Quiet on the Set showcase at South by Southwest in 2000, shortly before signing to Aware Records. He is awarded the ASCAP Foundation Sammy Cahn Award the following year.
2001: Tom Waits earns the Founders Award at the 2001 Pop Awards. “To say a few serious things about songs,” Waits said in his acceptance speech, “I guess they’re really like vessels. When people migrate, they take with them their seeds and their songs, and I think that’s pretty much all you’ll need when you get there.”
2002: Alpert Jazz Composer Award and the Frederick Fennell Prize for Concert Band.
2003: Unsigned Las Vegas band the Killers performs at ASCAP’s annual showcase at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York. Two days later, the group signs to Island, going on to sell millions of albums and earn seven Grammy nominations. Frontman Brandon Flowers reminisces: “When record labels were not willing to step up, ASCAP took us under their wing.”
2004: ASCAP and the Radio Music License Committee, representing most of the nearly 12,000 commercial radio stations in the United States, strike a new licensing agreement totaling more than $1.7 billion — the largest single licensing deal in the history of American radio.
2005: R&B luminaries Jermaine Dupri and Alicia Keys share songwriter of the year honors at the 2005 Rhythm & Soul Awards. Just a few months earlier, Keys earned four Grammys and Dupri was honored with the Golden Note at ASCAP’s Pop Awards. Keys wins the Golden Note in 2009.
2006: ASCAP holds its inaugural ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo in Los Angeles. The first panel brings together music luminaries Jimmy Jam, John Rich, Linda Perry and Michael Giacchino. The Expo continues to educate and inspire the music community today. The ninth annual Expo will be held April 24-26.
2007: ASCAP gives its first Troubadour Award to Stevie Wonder. The honor is bestowed at ASCAP’s exclusive annual Songwriter Night in Washington, D.C., and accompanied by a tribute concert featuring Tony Bennett, Smokey Robinson, India.Arie, Wyclef Jean, Joan Osborne, Chaka Khan and Diane Reeves.
2008: ASCAP establishes a Bill of Rights for Songwriters and Composers and publishes its position paper, Music Copyright in the Digital Age. The Bill of Rights has received more than 13,000 signatures so far at ascap.com/rights.
2009: Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe-winning songwriter Paul Williams is elected ASCAP president in April. The charismatic writer of “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “The Rainbow Connection” brings new passion and vigor to ASCAP’s advocacy efforts in the digital age.
2010: ASCAP member Katy Perry launches into the pop stratosphere with her third studio album, “Teenage Dream.” She becomes the first female artist in pop music history to have five songs from the same album hit No. 1, and eventually breaks the record for the most consecutive weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
2011: ASCAP brings 18 songwriters to a medieval chateau in France for a retreat aimed at writing hits. Formerly a hit-making haven, the chateau was dormant for a decade before ASCAP came calling. The retreat has since become an annual tradition.
2012: ASCAP launches ASCAP OnStage. The program gives ASCAP members the opportunity to receive royalties when their music is performed live at venues of all sizes throughout the country.
2013: ASCAP takes streaming service Pandora to task for its attempts to lower payments to songwriters and composers. ASCAP’s petition against Pandora receives more than 7,000 signatures and a combined 2,800 tweets and Facebook posts, for a total reach of more than 5 million supportive viewers.
2014: ASCAP celebrates its 100th anniversary.