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ASCAP'S PAYMENT KERFUFFLE

Songwriters, producers and managers are asking why ASCAP isn’t paying them just when they need income the most.

Discontent is said to be brewing among ASCAP writers who are still waiting for their promised April income distribution. The PRO has already made its latest scheduled publisher payment but a letter from CEO Elizabeth Matthews went out to writers saying their money would be delayed. ASCAP’s letter blamed the fact that it works on a “cash basis” rather than an “accrual basis,” meaning payments are based on income received in the same quarter, rather than money stored up from previous quarters. And when closed businesses declined to pay stipulated licensing fees on time (or at all), they were caught with a shortfall.

When asked to comment, a representative from ASCAP reiterated the accrual vs. cash argument and underscored the claim that the rights org had already issued its 3/20 pub payment when it learned that licensees intended to pay late, pay less or not pay at all. However, this rep adds, the writer payment on 4/28 is expected to be at the level writers would have received prior to the outbreak.

But writers, managers and others on the receiving end say there were plenty of indicators that mass shuttering of stores, offices and venues was on the horizon and that the org could have planned ahead.

Compare this to BMI; chief Mike O’Neill also sent a letter to members recently, assuring them there’d be no immediate impact to payments due to the pandemic (and indeed the June distribution is due to go out ahead of schedule), with a shortfall expected in January 2021. However, O’Neill wrote, the org planned to use payments from a settlement with radio and increased digital revenues to make up that shortfall. “Given BMI's business model,” the missive reads, “we have the time and ability to plan for this outcome.”

In the past, ASCAP has touted its model for being able to pay writers more quickly. 

 

Photo by Skitterphoto for Pexels

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