The issue primarily stems from the payments received from streaming royalties, which most publishers think is too little, especially when compared to downloads. Then there's the fact that the performing rights organizations (PROs) have always been nebulous how their payouts are determined. Writers and publishers alike have been frustrated for years over the disparity between royalties payments between ASCAP and BMI on the same song, where one will be higher than the other on one statement, than switch on the next.
Given the fact that we live in an age where song use tracking and royalty accounting is so much easier than in the past, it would seem that the PROs usefulness might now be diminished. Where for most of the 20th Century they were a total necessity for the publishing business, today that's becoming less true, since every play can be digitally tracked.
Sony/ATV has a catalog of over 2 million songs, including huge earners from The Beatles, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. Pulling out of ASCAP and BMI would be a significant blow to those organizations, and probably just the beginning of the snowball rolling downhill. It wouldn't be long before the other large music publishers followed suit.
It's probably inevitable that this will happen eventually. What's for sure is that we're about to witness both big changes in the industry and some history in the making right before our eyes.
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