U.S. Radio Royalties

U.S. Radio Feature Performances

BMI considers a radio feature performance of a popular song to be one that lasts 60 seconds or more and is the sole sound broadcast at the time of the performance.

BMI makes separate payment for three categories of radio feature performances, based upon a sampling of stations licensed by BMI.


Commercial Radio

BMI uses performance monitoring data, continuously collected on a large percentage of all licensed commercial radio stations, to determine payable performances. This census information is factored to create a statistically reliable and highly accurate representation of feature performances on all commercial music format radio stations throughout the country.

Royalties for performances of works in the BMI repertoire that occur on United States commercial radio stations will be paid according to the following rules:

Royalty payments will be based upon the license fees that BMI collected from each individual station that performed a work. As a result, royalty payment rates will vary from quarter to quarter depending upon the amount of the license fees collected from stations that aired each work during that quarter. In addition, the rates may fluctuate from quarter to quarter depending upon the total dollar amount available for each quarter’s commercial radio distribution.

In furtherance of BMI’s tradition of serving writers and publishers of all types of music, BMI’s long-standing goal — to support all affiliates with distribution methodologies that fairly value their creative efforts — has not changed. Accordingly, supplemental criteria may be used to establish an increased valuation for certain works performed on U.S. commercial radio stations. A small additional allocation from the amount available for distribution each quarter, which will include funds received by BMI from General Licensing and other income sources, may be used for this purpose. Such allocations will appear in the Hit Song Bonus column of the BMI royalty statement.

Under the BMI radio payment system, each feature work, including those written for films and the theater, can become eligible for up to three distinct royalty payment components each quarter. They are called the CURRENT ACTIVITY PAYMENT, the HIT SONG BONUS and the STANDARDS BONUS.

No payment is currently made for the following types of performances on non-census reporting stations:

  • Cue, bridge or background music
  • Partial performances of popular songs
  • Station IDs or public service announcements
  • Promotional announcements

However, BMI may voluntarily introduce payments for these categories at any time, at rates to be determined by BMI.

The Current Activity Payment

All works in the BMI repertoire that are performed on radio will be eligible for a Current Activity Payment. BMI calculates a unique royalty rate for each work, which is based upon the license fees collected from stations that performed that work in combination with the number of times each work aired on those stations. For example, if one of your works was performed on 200 radio stations during a quarter, its unique rate is calculated based upon the license fees collected by BMI from those 200 stations. If another work in your catalogue was performed on 2,000 stations in the same quarter, that work’s rate will be different because it will be based upon the license fees collected from those 2,000 stations. All works that were reported to BMI as having been performed on radio during a quarter, regardless of how many times each of the works was performed, are eligible for the Current Activity Payment. The substantial majority of the amount available for distribution each quarter will be used to make Current Activity Payments.

The Hit Song Bonus

Due to their overall current popularity, works that are classified as Hit Songs are eligible for additional royalties. Any work that is performed more than 95,000 times during a quarter is eligible for a Hit Song Bonus. BMI will allocate a portion of the amount available for distribution each quarter for commercial radio performances to the Hit Song Bonus, and each eligible work will receive a pro-rata portion of the Hit Song Bonus allocation according to the actual number of its current quarter’s performances. As a result, works with higher current quarter performance counts earn larger Hit Song Bonus royalties than those works with lower current quarter performance counts.

The Standards Bonus

Due to their sustained long-term presence on radio station playlists throughout the country, works that have been performed on United States commercial radio stations at least 2.5 million times since being released and have a minimal number of current quarter performances are classified as Standards and, as such, become eligible for the Standards Bonus. Works in this category share the Standards Bonus royalties in pro-rata fashion according to the actual number of cumulative historical commercial radio performances for each work in combination with its performances in the current quarter. Works with the higher combination of cumulative historical and current quarter commercial radio performance counts earn larger Standards Bonus royalties than those with the lower combinations of such performances.

The Annual Bonus

The Annual Bonus is comprised of three distinct bonus categories that are calculated through the assessment of a full calendar year of performances, and the associated quarterly earnings that have previously been paid. They include: 1) a digital audiovisual streaming bonus that recognizes the popularity of series and films across the major audio visual streaming services; 2) an audio bonus that recognizes the aggregated yearly impact of top-performing songs on radio and digital services; 3) a catalog bonus for songwriters whose many songs were widely performed across multiple digital streaming services but most, if not all, of the songs did not qualify for quarterly bonuses. The Annual Bonus is planned to be included in our yearly November distribution.

Short-Duration Detections

Effective July 1st 2020, BMI makes royalty payments for short duration detections (SDD) using sound recording detections provided by its vendor, Soundmouse, in conjunction with BMI’s works database of registered compositions. Soundmouse provides information about the recordings used in short duration radio performances, and BMI’s identification process and works database determine the underlying compositions to be paid.

Short-duration detections represent performances of your songs that aired for 60 seconds or less.

It is necessary to register your compositions with BMI in order to receive any kind of royalty payment. However, to be paid SDD royalties, it is also necessary to ensure that Soundmouse has copies of any recording embodying your composition that might be played on commercial radio. All major record labels, sound recording distributors, and production libraries have been submitting their content to Soundmouse for several years, and Soundmouse’s reference library is therefore already quite extensive. As a result, it should only be necessary to upload recordings to Soundmouse if they are not distributed commercially or otherwise made available through one of the production libraries, but you should confirm with your label, distributor, or production library if you have any questions or concerns. If you would like to create a Soundmouse account in order to upload recordings that haven’t been delivered through existing relationships, or to manage metadata associated with recordings that you previously uploaded, please visit

Royalty payments are based upon the license fees that BMI collects from the individual stations that have aired short duration performances. Other factors include the number of performances of each individual song relative to the total number of all payable performances for all songs. Thus, payments rates will fluctuate from quarter to quarter.  Short-duration detections do not increase your cumulative performance totals for full feature detections of your BMI songs and are not eligible to earn Hit Song Bonus royalties or Standard Bonus royalties.

Classical Works

There are special rules for classical works. A classical work is defined as a symphonic, chamber music, solo or other work originally written for classical concert or opera performance.  If a local commercial radio feature performance is of a classical work, each performance will be paid at the minimum rate of 32 cents per minute total for all participants.

College Radio

Payment is made for feature performances of a song on radio stations that are affiliated with colleges and universities at a minimum rate of 6 cents total for all participants.