A songwriter takes the stage at a local club and plays their original music. At the end of the night, they’ve hopefully gained a fan or two and earned some money to get them to their next gig. That was the precarious life of an aspiring artist, who hadn’t yet “made it big.” That is, until BMI made it possible for them to be paid for these performances.
BMI Live allows performing songwriters to input up to six months of their performance data to be considered for payment. Songwriters may input their tour information at their convenience for concerts from the previous six months and receive these royalty payments quarterly. The program is open to all BMI songwriters…playing in any size club across America. In 2013, BMI tracked some of the top earners through the program.
Granger Smith, who played close to 200 tour dates in 2012, was one of them. Fast forward to 2015, Granger’s debut single “Backroad Song” climbed up the charts, earning a BMI Award as one of the year’s most performed songs. In 2017, Granger toured with BMI superstar Luke Bryan and is currently on a nationwide tour in support of his latest release, When the Good Guys Win. Without BMI Live, Smith acknowledges things would have been a lot more difficult for him, as he says below:
“Years ago, we were playing a lot of shows, but most were low paying and sometimes couldn’t even cover the price of gas for the van. My girlfriend, Amber (now wife) and I entered all my tour dates and set lists into BMI.com. Every little bit counts for a starving artist, but we were both surprised that the royalties were actually substantial. Although I didn’t have a song on the radio at the time, my songs were getting played throughout all the little venues and bars in our touring circuit through live performance. It made perfect sense to me, and those quarterly checks were instrumental in sustaining my growth as a young musician on the road.”
Same story for songwriter Sam Lewis, who has shared the stage with country luminary Chris Stapleton, among others. Explaining that BMI Live helped him gain traction in the industry from people who saw he was picking up steam in the clubs he played, Lewis stated:
“BMI Live has made it more attractive to report and receive royalties for live performances. They have been supportive and have helped me to have better control of the shows I do within a year. Reporting from my phone with the BMI app makes it even more convenient!”
Many bar and restaurant owners proudly support burgeoning songwriters who “do their own thing,” either exclusively or in between cover tunes. What they may not know is that their BMI license helps these songwriters get paid for the use of their original songs, the same way established songwriters are paid when their work is performed in clubs through any means. Paid gigs may get them to their next stop, but BMI Live helps songwriters get there with a little something extra for food, new guitar strings, rent back home, and all the other bills we all have to pay.
For more information on how to obtain a BMI music license, please visit bmi.com or call a BMI representative at (800) 325-1395.