You’d think that writing the music would be the hard part of composition, right? I mean, getting all those notes and rhythms figured out, developing the themes and motifs, deciding how to voice a chord… But, no. For the most part, I know how to answer those questions or at least figure out the answer. It is much harder to register the work with BMI.
In case you don’t know, BMI and ASCAP (you’ve heard of the Grammy Awards, right? Then you know of ASCAP even if you don’t recognize the letters) are organizations that oversee the distribution of royalties to songwriters, composers, performers, and publishers from live performances and air play of recorded works. As a composer and as the self-publisher of my work (my company name is Every Generation Music), I decided to register my works with BMI.
Many times, the process is pretty straight-forward. However, sometimes a piece does not easily fit a category. I recently registered my piece, The Prayer of St. Francis, set for high voice and piano. It is obviously a sacred text, but I had to choose whether it was a classical piece or if it belonged to the category called “all other genres” of music. Well, that’s a conundrum. I know that MOST of the time, this piece will be performed in a church worship setting or private service like a wedding or funeral where I won’t be entitled to earn royalties anyway. But, on the off-chance that someone performs it at a concert, where would it most likely be sung? At a classical recital, or at a non-worship-service concert like some churches have in the evening? It certainly wouldn’t end up being sung in a big hockey-arena-turned-rock-venue. After imagining that the title was more likely to appear on a program made of a folded piece of paper than on a set list turned in by a band, I chose “classical.”
That wasn’t the hardest part. After filling out the section about the instrumentation the piece was written for, I came to the section about text. Is the text in public domain? Yes. When was it written? Uh…. When he was alive??? Actually, in my research I have found that St. Francis of Assisi probably did not even write the prayer at all! It may have been written by a French priest in 1912 (still public domain, phew!) I left the year blank because I got so flustered I forgot to fill it in. I hope that is overlooked. Next part: author’s name: (Last), (First). Uh…. WHOSE NAME? We don’t know for sure who wrote it. My husband suggested I just put “of Assisi” in the last-name section and “Saint Francis” in the first-name section. So I did. It’s wrong, but I hope that is overlooked, too.
Man, this filling out forms is HARD! Can I go back to drawing little dots and squiggly lines now?