Maximizing Pay Sources: 5 Essential Differences Between PROs and CMOs

Music publishing can be complex and confusing, especially when understanding the different pay sources available to songwriters and music publishers. Two of the most essential pay sources in the music industry are PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) and CMOs (Collective Management Organizations). In this article, we will delve into what these pay sources are and the differences between them.


  • The music industry relies on payment sources like PROs and CMOs.
  • PROs collect and distribute performance royalties.
  • CMOs offer a more comprehensive range of services, including mechanical royalties and synchronization licenses.
  • Music publishers collaborate with PROs and CMOs to ensure songwriters receive their rightful share of royalties and income from their musical works.



What is a Pay Source?

Before diving into the specifics of PROs and CMOs, let’s first understand a pay source. In music publishing, a pay source refers to any avenue through which income is generated for songwriters and music publishers. This can include royalties from various sources, such as mechanical royalties, performance royalties, synchronization licenses, and digital downloads.

What is a Performing Rights Organization (PRO)?

A Performing Rights Organization (PRO) is an entity that collects and distributes performance royalties on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers. PROs play a crucial role in the music industry by ensuring that creators are appropriately compensated for the public performance of their musical works.

There are several PROs around the world, with the most prominent ones being ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), and SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers). These PROs collect performance royalties from various sources, including radio and television airplay, live performances, and streaming services, and distribute them to their members.

What is a Collective Management Organization (CMO)?

A Collective Management Organization (CMO) is similar to a PRO in that it collects and distributes royalties to songwriters, composers, and music publishers. However, CMOs go beyond performance royalties and handle other music publishing income types, such as mechanical and synchronization licenses.

In addition to collecting and distributing royalties, CMOs provide other services to their members, such as publishing administration, copyright management, and licensing assistance. They work closely with music publishers and ensure that the rights of songwriters and music publishers are protected and adequately monetized.

Responsibilities of Mechanical Royalty Collection

One of the critical responsibilities of PROs and CMOs is the collection of mechanical royalties. Mechanical royalties are generated when a recorded composition is reproduced, such as through the sale of physical copies or digital downloads. PROs and CMOs ensure that music publishers receive the mechanical royalties they are entitled to.

CMOs, in particular, play a significant role in mechanical royalty collection as they license musical works for various uses, including synchronization in films, TV shows, and advertisements. They negotiate licenses with production companies and collect royalties on behalf of music publishers.

The Role of Music Publishers with PRO or CMO

Music publishers are crucial in working with PROs and CMOs to ensure that songwriters and music publishers receive their rightful royalties. They enter into publishing deals with songwriters, acquiring the rights to their compositions and administering them on their behalf.

Music publishers work closely with PROs and CMOs to register their catalog of songs, collect and analyze royalty statements, and resolve any issues that may arise. They act as a liaison between the songwriters and the pay sources, ensuring that the royalties generated from the public performance and reproduction of their musical works are appropriately accounted for and distributed.


Understanding the different pay sources in the music industry is essential for songwriters and publishers to monetize their creations effectively. PROs and CMOs are two key pay sources crucial in collecting and distributing royalties to creators. While PROs focus primarily on performance royalties, CMOs provide a more comprehensive range of services, including mechanical royalty collection and synchronization licensing. Music publishers work closely with these pay sources to ensure that songwriters and music publishers receive their rightful share of royalties and income from their musical works.

Q: What is the difference between PRO and CMO?

A: PRO stands for Performing Rights Organization, and CMO stands for Collective Management Organization. They are both organizations that manage and collect royalties on behalf of songwriters, composers, and publishers. However, PROs primarily collect performance royalties, while CMOs may also collect other types, such as mechanical royalties.

Q: What are royalties?

A: Royalties are payments made to the rights holders of a piece of music or composition. They are typically earned when the music is used or exploited in various ways, such as through public performances, digital streaming, or licensing.

Q: What is music publishing?

A: Music publishing refers to managing and exploiting the rights to musical compositions. It involves administrating, licensing, and collecting royalties on behalf of songwriters and composers.

Q: What is a music publisher?

A: A music publisher is a company or individual who administers and exploits musical compositions. They help songwriters and composers by handling tasks such as promoting their work, negotiating licensing deals, and collecting royalties.

Q: What is a publishing deal?

A: A publishing deal is a legal agreement between a songwriter or composer and a music publisher. It outlines the terms and conditions of the partnership, including the publisher’s rights to represent and exploit the songwriter’s compositions for a specified period.

Q: What is music copyright?

A: Music copyright refers to the legal protection granted to original musical works. It gives the creator of a piece of music exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their work.

Q: What are mechanical royalties?

A: Mechanical royalties are earned from the reproduction and distribution of a musical composition. They are typically paid to the songwriter or composer when their work is recorded and released on physical formats, such as CDs, or through digital downloads and streaming platforms.

Q: What is a composition?

A: A composition refers to a piece of music a songwriter or composer created. It can include melody, harmony, lyrics, and arrangement.

Q: What are performing rights?

A: Performing rights are granted to songwriters, composers, and publishers for the public performance of their musical works. This includes live performances, broadcasts, and Spotify and Apple Music streaming.

Q: What is a performing rights organization?

A: A performing rights organization (PRO) is an entity that represents songwriters, composers, and publishers in the collection of performance royalties. They track and license the public performances of musical works and distribute the earned royalties to their members.


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