5 Associations All Music Business Professionals Should Know About

The study of music business covers how money is made by various entities in the industry, from independent musicians and songwriters all the way up to major record labels and publishing companies. Many different factors, including laws and agreements, affect music industry revenue. In an advanced music business degree program like Frost's online Master of Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries (MBEI), students will study legal and contractual issues in music, to help themselves understand and navigate these aspects of the industry.

Essential to the development of these laws and binding agreements that help music industry professionals are the associations that advocate for and provide assistance to these professionals. They serve various functions like lobbying congress to protect intellectual property rights, administering and overseeing royalty collection, and organizing and educating music professionals. Those aspiring to any sort of career in the industry should study up on these and the many other associations that could help them succeed.


As any working songwriter or publisher probably knows, earning royalties from music is an essential source of income. By law, the copyright owner of a song (i.e. the songwriter or the publisher to whom the songwriter assigns ownership of a song's copyright) is due money (royalties) when that song is used by someone else to make money. This can be anything from a song being played in a jukebox in a small-town bar to a song being used on a major film soundtrack.

But collecting these royalties is a complex process. So, generally, songwriters in the U.S. join a performing rights organization (PRO). PROs are dedicated to collecting royalties for their members and distributing them to songwriters and publishers according to publishing contracts, copyright ownership, etc. ASCAP (initially known as the American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) are the two largest PROs in the U.S. Understanding (and becoming a member of) PROs is extremely important for success as a songwriter.

It is also important to note that PROs like ASCAP and BMI advocate for their members and the music industry as a whole in other ways as well. They promote and lobby for the legal rights of musicians and publishers, organizing those in the industry to petition lawmakers. They have foundations that promote and develop young composers and music education programs. PROs are invested in the rights and success of both present and future music professionals.

The American Federation of Musicians

The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) is a trade union established in 1896 to protect the rights of paid, working musicians. Members of this union organize campaigns to address many developments in the music industry. For instance, when phonorecords grew to dominate both the radio airwaves and nightclubs, performing musicians lost significant income. The AFM acted by organizing a recording ban, effectively shutting down the recording industry for two years until the industry agreed to terms of payment through royalties and other methods.

The AFM continues to fight for musicians' rights through lobbying, local organizing, and even fundraising to provide disaster relief for musicians affected by recent hurricanes.

The Recording Industry Association of America

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is another music industry trade organization that focuses on music companies (i.e. major record labels and distribution companies). The RIAA supports and advocates for the well-being of its member companies through advocacy, research, and the widely known standards of sales achievement certification: Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum.

The Recording Academy

The Recording Academy is the association behind the GRAMMY Awards, the most widely recognized music awards in the U.S. The Recording Academy does a lot to legitimize and celebrate the highest levels of artistic achievement in the music recording industry. In addition, the association also supports music professionals in various ways, from providing financial assistance through the healthcare charity "MusiCares" and lobbying congress to educating musicians on subjects like their (and their instruments') rights when flying.

These are just a few of the many music associations focused on the well-being of today's music industry. These associations have directed the development and growth of the music industry as well as helped individual professionals and companies cope with big changes like technological developments. Music business professionals can benefit greatly from understanding the unique roles music associations play in the industry, and, when appropriate, becoming a member of such associations.

Learn more about Frost Online's Master of Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries (MBEI) program.


RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America): Become an RIAA Member

ASCAP: Recording Industry Professional Organizations

ASCAP: About Us

Grammy: About the Recording Academy

BMI: BMI's Timeline Through History

AFM (American Federation of Musicians)

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