Collective Management Organisations


CMOs (collective management organisations), were founded by the French, for copying music and later as a result of their laws having introduced a right of public performance. As a matter of history, the first music CMO for public performance (SACEM in France) arose because of a 19th century squabble in a Paris bar over a drinks bill and a small chamber orchestra.


A CMO is a body that either owns, or is agent for, a strand of a copyright such as the right of public performance, and administers the royalties generated by usage. Authors and performers assign the ownership of the particular strand of the copyright, or the element of the performers’ rights needed by the CMO, or appoint the CMO agent. This then empowers the CMO to negotiate usage fees from users of the rights.


The CMOs issue licences to users of whichever strand(s) they control – broadcasters, copying operations, radio stations, cinemas, clubs, music venues, book and magazine publishers etc. in exchange for fees. These licence fees are accompanied by usage information and the CMO analyses usage and pays the owner of the right. The money can be paid 100% to an owner or shared between owner and talent – the author or performer in question. It all depends upon the industry and type of CMO.


A CMO is sometimes called a PRO (or performing right organisation). They usually, but not always, have talent-run boards of operation – a rare place where the talent can, in theory, influence policy and their economic destinies. CMOs are mainly not-for-profit, but as they administer large sums of money they are increasingly being circled by equity investors and venture capitalists seeing an opportunity to become yet another mouth to feed in the talent’s royalty food chain. A profit motive need not be a problem, but Fairness Rocks’ advice to any talent member of a CMO board, or talent advocacy group, would be to insist upon talent having the controlling interest in any CMO.


Music CMOs for composers and songwriters operate in a very specific manner. 50% of the money is always paid by the CMO to the songwriter or composer, four times a year. This share is retained and is not used to recoup advances from a music publisher. The other 50% is paid by the CMO to the music publisher, as they are also members of these CMOs, despite their not owning or controlling the right. Publishers do not own the performing right even if they have a contract with a songwriter who has assigned their copyrights. The performing right has been granted to the CMO under a personal contract by the authors. Publishers have to be members in order to access their share of the money.


The publisher then shares some of its 50% with the composer/songwriter according to the individual contract provision, though this half share is used first to recoup any advance. Some older, outmoded contracts enable a publisher to keep all of “its” 50%.


For recording artists, revenue from use of recordings by licensees is shared between the labels and the performers – both featured or contracted recording artists and session musicians and singers. In most countries, the performers have a CMO which either works alongside a label CMO, and negotiates jointly, or the two parties jointly control the CMO. Exceptions are the CMOs in the UK (PPL) and Eire (PPI) which are owned and controlled by the record labels and therefore they are operated in accordance with label commercial priorities (see Shocking Facts).


The CMOs for authors – music, film, art and the written word – are regulated and represented globally by CISAC. In the EU, SAA works on behalf of all the EU CMOs for screenwriters and directors. The CMOs for performers are regulated globally by SCAPR (International music publishing by ICMP). The interests of the record labels are represented globally by IFPI, which represents “recorded music” that is the record labels, often representing to governments that they ARE the music business. No prizes for guessing their top priority.
Links to some of these are in Talent Help and reports from some of these bodies can be found in the Fairness Rocks Library.


Who can help?

Having got here, you may now need more information and support in your fight for fairness. Collective associations are the best place to start.

Although you may feel David to the industry's Goliath, having the backing of trade bodies helps level the playing field.

Information is power!

Discover more

Wanna be a whistleblower?

Learn about the steps to take and the protections afforded to those who wish to call out wrongdoing.

Discover more