October 22, 2009

wonderful_wideweb__470x365,0I’ve been with BMI for almost half-a-century as a writer, a friend of the organization for 30 years when I was GPM of Warner Brothers music, and CEO of Irving-Almo music. And when I opened my own publishing company, my late friend, Ron Anton a senior V.P. at BMI, named it…WayneArt Music.

I’ve steered hundreds and hundreds of writers to BMI because I thought it was the best of the performance societies, but then I became outraged a few royalty periods ago when BMI started withholding monies from songwriters if they earned less than $250 in that quarter. I bitched about it on my blog and urged my songwriting pals not to take this lying down!

About a month ago when I got a check from BMI for $115, for a song I wrote 40 years ago, I felt proud that I might have been able to help in a small way to change the practice affecting thousands and thousands of songwriters who need every penny they could get their hands on…after all songwriters have always been on the bottom of the music business ladder.

Then got dozens of e-mails from my readers who offered praise, scorn, and conflicting information about what was going on at BMI. I guess it was my ego that stopped me from going directly to the company and finding out for myself. I was afraid of dealing with people I didn’t know, who didn’t realize that I am a legend in my own mind, expecting a certain level of respect.

Then while dealing with BMI on an unrelated matter, I was contacted by Phil Graham, a senior VP at BMI who once worked closely with the late Ron Anton.

Dear Artie,

I have been following your blog recently, with growing concern about the exchange of misinformation about BMI’s royalty payment policies. In an effort to provide accurate information, let me begin by listing several ways in which BMI writers are paid that I believe responds to the many concerns you have posted, and have been posted by others in your blog:

BMI writers have had available for many years the ability to receive payments on the day of the royalty distribution electronically, either through direct deposit with one’s bank, or through an industry leading initiative we call “The Card from BMI”… essentially an ATM card that draws money from an account into which BMI deposits royalties. The forms to set up these kinds of payment facilities are available on and thousands of writers have already taken advantage of these methods. However, if a writer does want a check we will make payment in that form if requested through one of our Writer/ Publisher offices for amounts over $2.

As part of BMI’s “Green initiative” two years ago, we made a decision to mail out royalty checks only once a year for writers who earned $250 or less. It appears that the check you recently received was our annual royalty payment. We send out thousands of these annual checks for very small amounts… some of them as small as $2 to any writer who has earnings from BMI the prior year. Let me emphasize that this annual check in no way prevents any writer from receiving their royalties each quarter as outlined above. It has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars each year that reduces our overhead and increases the overall distribution. It is one of the efficiency measures BMI has put into place to bring our overhead rate down to approximately 12%… among the lowest of any copyright organization in the world.

I would be happy to talk over all of these matters in person with you, either on the phone or… even better… during an in person visit. I would also be pleased to personally set up an appointment for you with one of our senior writer publisher relations executives in our offices in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta, or Miami.

Phil Graham

BMI Senior Vice President

Writer – Publisher Relations

New York

Thank you Phil, that clarifies a lot for me and I’m sure many of my readers. I also feel comfortable working with you and your staff…sorta’ like the old days. If we have any further questions I’ll contact you.

Regards, Artie

Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne


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  1. Artie, When the CIA uses loud music to torture inmates at Guantanamo Prison, do they have to pay royalties to BMI (or ASCAP)? If they don’t, are the prisoners sent a bill for them?

  2. Sharon Brown Says:

    This info is nice to have however I too am a BMI songwriter/publisher and I have found one of my first compositions ” Family Tree” had been recorded time and time again and BMI has not paid me funds that were due. Just recently a UK record company released my song on a group named the Baker Brothers featuring a vocalist named Vanessa Freeman without a licensing fee…. I contacted the record company and was told that I needed to have sub-publisher in order to get paid. I have since received a copy of the license still no payment and I requested a copy of the product along with liner notes and was told it’s in the mail… no mail yet… My song has also been sampled by the Mighty Dub Cats and re-mixed by Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim and no payment and Norman Cook has his name plastered all over my song along with selling ringtones… No payment to me as writer or publisher, to add insult to injury my song according to BMI has also been featured in a film and still no payment.. I have requested that the Harry Fox Agency represent my publishing company and my app is pending copy of product that has just been released. I am still a struggling artist and there is no money for an entertainment lawyer to handle this mess so here I am airing my dirty laundry on a public forum.. Help
    Sharon Brown
    I Specialize In Love

    • Craig Chereek Says:

      Sharon, I must tell you I feel for you and your situation. I, too, am a struggling songwriter, who has been struggling to find a way to turn a gift into a living. This problem is much larger than just BMI, however, and not at all a new one. The late Eden Ahbez, composer of Nature Boy, a good friend, told me he was not paid a dime for 25 years (by ASCAP), and received none of his back royalties ever.

      Modern technology is only exasperating the problem. Sampling and looping are abusing the “fair use” exception and nobody in Congress gives a damn. It is my belief that we need to revisit the entire question of intellectual property and the law, yet Google, Apple and Microsoft want things just the way they are, and they contribute mightily to the politicos.

      My solution has been to stop writing music for a living. I got a straight job, and I am slightly less miserable. I still get to write, play and sing, but I no longer delude myself that just because there is a market for my songs it doesn’t mean it is realistic to expect that its earnings will ever make their way to me.

      This is no consolation at all, I know, but even a top entertainment lawyer is unlikely to make anybody but himself a penny.

      In closing, I refer you to my song on the subject (“POLLY’S GOT A PROBLEM”) found at

  3. […] final word on compensating composers (previous words here and here), in a letter to Artie Wayne from BMI Senior VP Phil Graham: BMI writers have had available for many years the ability to receive payments on the day of the […]

  4. Craig Chereek Says:

    Artie, I love what you do, writing can be such a solitary life, and hearing your insights makes me feel like I am not whistling entirely alone. Thank you.

  5. Love what you do Artie
    Love BMI

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