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ASCAP Revenue Jumped 4% During Pandemic Year to $1.3 Billion

ASCAP posted a 4.16% gain in overall revenue for 2020 to $1.327 billion, versus the $1.274 billion collected in 2019. ASCAP has released financial details for pandemic-impacted 2020, showing a…

If ASCAP is being impacted by the pandemic-fueled economic downturn, you can’t tell it by overall revenue collections for 2020 as the performance rights organization posted a 4.16% gain to $1.327 billion, versus the $1.274 billion collected in 2019.

That’s better than the 3.83% gain the PRO produced in 2019 over 2018, when revenue collections were $1.227 billion.

Breaking out collections, domestic revenue grew 2.54% to $969 million, up from $945 million in 2019, while foreign revenue increased 8.81% to $358 million from $329 million in 2019.

ASCAP pointed out that from 2015 through 2020, the organization had produced a 6% compound growth rate with revenue increasing from $1.014 billion in 2015, noting that 2020 marked the sixth year of ASCAP’s strategic plan begun in 2015 to transform its business and grow revenues.


This marks the eighth straight year in a row that ASCAP has produced an increase in collections, with the streak beginning in 2013 when revenue grew to $945.4 million from $941.7 million in 2012. But 2012 had been down from the $982.8 million in 2011.

“2020 challenged all of us unlike any other year in modern history,” ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said in a statement. “It also defined ASCAP’s dedication to our members. That meant strengthening our commitment to our mission to serve our songwriters, composers and music publishers by taking every step necessary to secure their livelihoods and careers. Inspired by our members each and every day, the ASCAP team proved that innovation, efficiency and progress really can be escalated in a crisis.”

ASCAP provided some color behind the revenue growth, reporting that audio streaming revenue grew by 28% while audio/visual formats grew by 8% but its transparency was void of the hard revenue numbers for each category. Likewise, it did not provide breakout figures when adding that general licensing revenues — from places like concert halls, bars, clubs, restaurants, stores and hotels — declined by 30% due to businesses that were shut down or operating at reduced capacity during the last three quarters of 2020.


Meanwhile, distribution to songwriters and publishers grew 2.45% to $1.213 billion versus $1.184 billion in 2019, or $29 million more. Within that, domestic distribution grew 2.53% to $891 million from $869 million in 2019; while foreign distributions were up 2.22% to $322 million from $315 million in the prior year

ASCAP distributions growth has outpaced collection increases in recent years. For example, in 2019 overall revenue grew 3.83% while distributions increased 6.76%; in 2018 revenue collections increased 7.26% while distributions grew 10.13%; and in 2017 revenue grew 8.03% while distributions grew 9.69%.

Last year, marks the first time since 2014 that ASCAP’s distribution growth was smaller than revenue collection increases. However, this slowdown likely marks a matter of timing, with licensee payments probably coming in late December, after the year’s final distribution was made in early December.


Despite the slowdown in distributions this year, ASCAP payouts grew by a 7% compound annual growth rate, or better than the 6% compound annual growth rate in collections, from 2015-2020.

“I am so impressed by ASCAP and its extraordinary efforts in 2020,” said ASCAP chairman of the board and president Paul Williams. “The team worked extremely hard and under incredibly difficult circumstances to make up for revenues lost due to the pandemic and to deliver the financial security and support that music creators need to survive the crisis of our lifetime. Their work will have an impact for years to come and as an ASCAP member, I am deeply grateful. Together, we have met the demands of this challenging time period and we look to 2021 with greater hope and strength as a community.”

ASCAP said it did the following in response to the downturn:

  • Made a “major donation” to MusiCares, earmarked for its songwriters in need;
  • Lobbied for governmental COVID-19 relief for music creators on the federal and state levels;
  • Launched Music Unites Us, a website to provide information on COVID-19 resources for music creators.

Other efforts ASCAP was involved in during 2020 included rallying for racial and social justice through its “Fight For Change” resources page by raising money for “Color of Change” and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. It also established an annual internship program for students at HBCUs, among other endeavors.

On the music front, ASCAP and BMI jointly unveiled SONGVIEW, a data platform that displays detailed and consistent copyright ownership data for more than 20 million songs in their combined repertories.

Finally, during 2020, ASCAP said it grew by 58,000 new members and is “now home to over 800,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers.”