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BMI Layoffs Hit ‘Just Under 10%’ of Workforce

The PRO said the cuts were "necessary... to ensure that we are best positioned for continued success in the future."

Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), the performance rights organization that works with thousands of songwriters and brings in more than $1 billion in revenue annually, announced layoffs of “just under 10%” of its workforce last week.

President and CEO Mike O’Neill announced the cuts in an email obtained by Billboard. “I’m writing to let you know about some difficult actions we took today,” he noted. “After a careful and comprehensive review process, we are reducing BMI’s total workforce by just under 10% through a combination of headcount reduction and not filling a number of current open positions. This impacted most departments and is effective immediately.”

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A source close to the situation said the total number of people cut was close to 30. That group included Alex Flores, svp of creative, and Ann Sweeney, svp of international and global policy.

“These decisions are never easy,” O’Neill’s email continued. “At the same time, they are necessary for us to ensure that we are best positioned for continued success in the future.” A rep for BMI offered no additional comment on the layoffs other than O’Neill’s message.

BMI’s cuts came just a few days after Bloomberg reported that the company stopped exploring the possibility of a sale. A sale “is no longer an avenue we are considering,” the company said in a statement earlier this month. “We’ve been clear from the start that as we explored strategic opportunities for BMI, we were going to evaluate all options that would support our affiliates and grow the value of their music.”

Despite the company’s decision to pull itself off the market, it announced in 2021 that it set financial records — distributing or administering $1.335 billion to songwriters, composers, and publishers (up 8% from the previous year), and bringing in $1.409 billion in revenue (up 7%). In September last year, O’Neill said in a statement that “BMI was once again able to demonstrate record growth, both in revenue and with the largest royalty distributions in our history.”

In his email to employees last week, O’Neill acknowledged the dissonance between setting records on the one hand and cutting employees on the other.

“I appreciate that you may wonder why, when we regularly highlight how we continue to outperform the competition, this year included, we need to take these difficult steps,” the executive wrote. “It’s a fair question, but our success does not mean that we shouldn’t also take a critical look at our business and ensure we are operating in the most efficient and effective way possible, particularly as we head into uncertain economic times.”

O’Neill’s email appeared to indicate that BMI had been contemplating these layoffs for some time. “We learned some important lessons during the pandemic about how we could operate more effectively,” he wrote. “Unlike many other companies, we made a concerted effort to maintain headcount as COVID took hold, the right decision for us at that time.”

However, he continued, “as we emerged from the pandemic, it became clear that there were areas in our workforce that needed adjustment.”