Background Music Strategy

15 Minute Read

Choosing the Right Music Licensing Solution for Your Business: GMR vs BMI vs ASCAP vs SESAC

by Ryan Santangelo, Ph.D., Co-Founder & CEO, Dynamic Media

Music is integral to creating the right atmosphere for your business, whether it’s a cozy café, a bustling retail store or a tranquil spa. The right playlist can enhance customer experience, reinforce brand identity and even increase sales. However, the use of music comes with a crucial responsibility: ensuring that the creators of the music are fairly compensated. This is where music licensing comes into play.

Performing Rights Organization

This article will explain how performing rights organizations (PROs) provide music licenses and explore the differences between ASCAP vs. BMI vs. SESAC vs. GMR to help you identify the best music licensing solution for your business.


What Are Performing Rights Organizations?

Performing rights organizations ensure the composers, songwriters and publishers of the music you enjoy and use in your business are compensated for their work. Each music rights organization operates by granting licenses that allow the use of a vast array of musical works within your business premises, ensuring legal compliance and supporting the creators.

The function of music copyright companies extends beyond simply collecting fees. They track where, how often and which music is played publicly. This monitoring allows for accurate distribution of royalties, ensuring that those who put their creativity into the world are acknowledged and rewarded when their music is used.

For business owners, PROs offer a way to access a diverse music repertoire without the need to negotiate individual licenses for each song or composition.


For businesses in the United States looking to incorporate music into their spaces, understanding the primary performing rights organizations is essential. The main PROs – GMR, BMI, ASCAP and SESAC – each offer different catalogs of music and licensing options suited to various business needs. This section will provide an overview of these organizations, shedding light on their histories, distinctive features and how they serve businesses and creators. By familiarizing yourself with ASCAP vs. BMI vs. SESAC vs. GMR, you can make a more informed decision about which PRO will best suit the musical needs of your business and ensure that you comply with copyright laws while supporting the artists whose music helps your business thrive.



What It Is: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has played a pivotal role in the music industry since its inception in 1914. Founded by a group of composers, ASCAP was the first U.S. music rights organization to protect creators and ensure they receive proper compensation for the public performance of their works. Over a century later, ASCAP continues to advocate for songwriters, composers and publishers with a robust catalog that spans genres and generations.

Music Licenses Offered: ASCAP offers an array of licensing options that cater to various business models. These licenses are essential for businesses that use music to enhance their environments, such as retail stores, live venues and restaurants. Each license is designed to fit the specific music usage of a business, whether it’s background music, live performances or anything in between.

Business Benefits: Choosing ASCAP as your music rights organization can offer significant benefits. With a vast repertoire of over 18 million works, businesses have access to an unparalleled selection of music.

Licensing Fees: ASCAP’s transparent distribution system reassures companies that their fees go to the music creators. Furthermore, ASCAP’s licensing fees are often seen as competitive and fair, which can be especially important for businesses mindful of costs without compromising on the quality of their musical offerings.


What It Is: Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) emerged as a pivotal force in music rights management when it was established in 1939. This was a time when the landscape of music was evolving, and BMI’s founding offered a welcome alternative that broadened representation to include not only classical but also jazz, blues and eventually rock and roll, as well as other genres that were underrepresented at the time. Its open-door policy for songwriters and publishers, regardless of race or genre, paved the way for a more inclusive approach to music licensing.

Music Licenses Offered: This music rights organization provides a comprehensive suite of licenses for businesses of all sizes. These licenses are crafted to cover various uses, from broadcast and digital to live and background music in public spaces. The intent is to facilitate legal access to a catalog that boasts over 22.4 million musical works.

Business Benefits: Businesses benefit from BMI’s services in several ways. BMI offers tailored solutions that match the unique needs of different business operations, ensuring that whether a small boutique or a large corporation, the music licensing process is straightforward and efficient.

Licensing Fees: BMI’s competitive fee structure is designed to be manageable for businesses while also sustaining the creative community. Its extensive catalog allows companies to curate playlists that resonate with their brand and enhance their customers’ experience.


What It Is: The Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) was founded in 1930 with a unique mission: to serve European composers not adequately represented in the United States. Since then, SESAC has expanded its reach and is now a distinctive, invite-only music rights organization representing songwriters and publishers across a range of musical genres. Its selective approach has positioned SESAC as a boutique agency in the field of music rights, offering personalized services catering to its affiliates and licensees.

Music Licenses Offered: SESAC offers a suite of licenses for businesses encompassing public performance rights across various formats, including television, radio and live performances. These licenses are vital for any company seeking to enhance its atmosphere with music, be it a local bar, a live concert venue or a retail store.

Business Benefits: SESAC prides itself on using cutting-edge technology to monitor music usage accurately, ensuring fair and prompt compensation to its affiliated songwriters and publishers. For businesses, this translates to a reliable and transparent partnership that supports compliance with copyright laws while fostering the creative economy.

Licensing Fees: One of the unique features of SESAC is its ability to offer singular licenses that cover multiple aspects of music performance rights, a convenience that streamlines the process for businesses. Keep in mind that SEASAC is a for profit PRO.


What It Is: Global Music Rights (GMR) is a relatively new music rights organization founded in 2013 by Irving Azoff. GMR was established to provide a more selective and service-oriented approach to managing performance rights. It represents a carefully curated roster of songwriters and composers, distinguishing itself from other PROs with its boutique service model emphasizing a closer relationship with its clients.

Music Licenses Offered: GMR offers specialized licensing services tailored to the needs of businesses that feature live or broadcast music. Their approach is designed to ensure that companies have the legal permissions necessary to play the works of their affiliated artists, thereby fostering a compliant and mutually beneficial relationship between music users and creators.

Business Benefits: The impact of GMR’s approach on businesses is multifaceted.It simplifies the licensing process by offering customized services, which can be particularly advantageous for companies that prioritize specific music selections or have unique usage requirements.

Licensing Fees: GMR’s commitment to securing competitive royalties for its artists means that their licensing agreements reflect the value they place on the music, which can influence the cost considerations for businesses.

Cut Through the Licensing Clutter With SiriusXM Music for Business

Understanding GMR, BMI, ASCAP and SESAC is only half the battle. Knowing which performing rights organization licenses which music can be confusing. Sometimes, one PRO licenses a piece on behalf of the performer, while another music rights organization licenses on behalf of the composer, requiring a business to deal with both PROs. SiriusXM Music for Business simplifies the process by providing music that’s already properly licensed. With SiriusXM as your streaming music partner, you can forget about licensing headaches and concentrate on running your business. Have specific questions? Check out our knowledgeable music licensing chatbot for the answers you need.

Licenses Offered by the Performing Rights Organizations

Navigating the landscape of music licenses is critical for businesses seeking to use music legally and ethically. Several types of music licenses cater to different uses: public performance licenses allow companies to play music in a public setting, synchronization licenses are needed to pair music with visual media and mechanical licenses are required to reproduce a songwriter’s work.

Music Rights Organization

Determining which license your business needs depends on how the music will be utilized. If the intent is to play music in a restaurant or store, a public performance license is necessary. Synchronization licenses come into play for those looking to add music to a video or advertisement. Meanwhile, mechanical licenses are essential when producing physical or digital copies of a song.

When comparing the licenses from GMR, BMI ASCAP and SESAC, it’s essential to consider their specific catalogs and the types of usage they cover. SESAC is known for its tailored service and selective catalog, while GMR focuses on a high-value, boutique roster. ASCAP boasts a history of comprehensive representation across genres, and BMI is revered for its extensive catalog and inclusive representation of songwriters and composers.

Each PRO offers unique advantages, and the choice for a business will depend on factors such as the desired music, the nature of the usage and the business’s budget. By carefully assessing the offerings and matching them with their needs, companies can select the most appropriate and beneficial music license.

Frequently Asked Questions About Performing Rights Organizations

As a leading streaming music provider, SiriusXM Music for Business is ideally situated to answer your questions about performing rights organizations. Read on for the information you want.

How Do I Choose Music for My Business?

You should choose music for your business that matches the atmosphere you want to create, which could change based on time of day or location in your establishment.

Do I Have to Pay Both BMI and ASCAP?

If each PRO has licensed the music you want to play, you would have to pay both BMI and ASCAP.

What Is the Purpose of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC?

The purpose of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC is to ensure music creators are properly compensated for the public performance of their works.

Turn to SiriusXM Music for Business for Fully Licensed Music

Skip the comparisons of performing rights organizations and the concerns about whether you’re legally playing the music you want for your business. A subscription to SiriusXM Music for Business comes with fully licensed music, taking the responsibility off your shoulders. Review our background music buyers guide to see how SiriusXM stacks up against the competition, and be sure to contact us to learn everything we can do for your business.

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