History: BMI and Latin Music

BMI has a rich history in Latin music

BMI is an American performing rights organization that represents more than 1 million songwriters and composers. The company collects license fees on behalf of those American creators, as well as for thousands of creators from around the world who have chosen BMI for U.S representation.

The fees for the “public performances” of its repertoire of 15 million compositions - including radio airplay, broadcast and cable television carriage, and live and recorded performances by all other music customers, including but not limited to the Internet, restaurants, retail outlets, and music-on-hold - are then distributed as royalties to the writers and copyright holders it represents.

BMI was founded in 1939 as a non-profit-making corporation to open the door to performing rights representation for songwriters and composers of all types of music, many of whom were not eligible under the membership guidelines of the older American performing rights societies. BMI offered first-time representation to songwriters of blues, jazz, r&b, gospel, folk, country, concert, Spanish-language and other types of American music. The organization also quickly made reciprocal agreements with sister performing rights organizations around the world.

BMI has represented Latin composers, publishers and compositions since its earliest days, including such classic songs from the 1940s as “Tico Tico” and “Besame Mucho” from the prestigious peermusic catalogue (APRS). According to BMI surveys, “Tico Tico” has been performed in the U.S. more than 1.6 million times and “Besame Mucho” more than 2.1 million times. “Guantanamera,” popularized in 1967 by the Queen of Salsa, the work of Celia Cruz, has more than 2.4 million U.S. performances and was most recently covered by the best selling hip-hop group The Fugees member, Wyclef Jean.

BMI currently represents hit compositions by such Latin Pop artists as Jon Secada, Gloria Estefan, and Alvaro Torres (BMI Latin Songwriter of the Year in 1994 and co-Songwriter of the Year in 1995). Gloria was honored as BMI Pop Songwriter of the Year in 1989 and received the prestigious BMI President’s Award in 1997. In 1995 a BMI Pop Award was given to the song “Amor Prohibido,” written by Pete Astudillo and A.B. Quintanilla III (Latin co-Songwriters of the Year in 1996 and 1997) and recorded by the late Tejano star Selena. It is the first time in recent memory a modern Spanish language song ranked with the top pop songs in radio performances. BMI also proudly represents such recent Latin Grammy Award winners as Paquito D’Rivera, Juan Luis Guerra, Albita, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Israel “Cachao” Lopez. Recent signings to the organization include Elvis Crespo, Luis Miguel, Ivy Queen, Mario Quintero of Tucanes de Tijuana, Chichi Peralta Y Son Familia, Ramiro Matos of Limite XXI, Alicia Villarreal of Grupo Limite and Andrea Echeverri and Hector V. Buitrago of the group Aterciopelados.

Members of foreign performing rights societies such as SACM (Mexico), SADAIC (Argentina) and SGAE (Spain) can select BMI for representation in the United States. BMI currently represents hit songs by such foreign-affiliated artist/writers as Alejandro Sanz, Eros Ramazzotti, and Jaquares, to name just a few.

Radio, Television & New Technologies

In order to insure proper payment of performing rights royalties to all its copyright holders, BMI annually “logs” all of the more than 10,000 commercial radio stations it licenses in the U.S., large and small. These logs are then transposed into BMI’s electronic database, creating an annual sample of more than 450,000 hours of radio airplay data. This annual survey results in a comprehensive report on radio music airplay that is more than 99% accurate. Stations selected by an independent accounting firm for logging in each sampling period [covering 365 days of the year in total] are carefully balanced to be representative of all stations throughout the U.S. No one at BMI knows which stations are being requested to log at any given time. BMI understands the special needs of our Spanish-speaking licensees and began in the fall of 1997 to provide a Spanish instructional page along with the standard logging kit. BMI’s Licensing group also created a toll-free help line answered in Spanish to assist Spanish radio station personnel across the country complete the logs. These logs, and their accuracy and timely receipt by BMI, are the cornerstones of royalty payments to the copyright holders.

American television performances of music on the more than 1,000 full-time broadcast television outlets, approximately 7,000 cable systems and dozens of cable television program services are measured on a total census basis utilizing a combination of information provided to BMI by a major data company, the TV Data Corporation, and an internal taping and monitoring system for specialized programming. BMI currently monitors more than 6,000,000 hours of television programming annually.

BMI licenses virtually every commercial radio station, broadcast television station, cable network/system and more than 1,000 non-commercial television and radio stations in America. BMI also licenses more than 100,000 local music customers, including shopping malls, physical fitness centers, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, commercial aviation, concert venues and promoters, jukeboxes, hospitals, commercial offices and business meetings and conventions, among others. BMI also receives information on tens of thousands of hours of airplay on programmed music services such as Muzak and Audio Environments.

With the enormous use of music on the Internet coming into prominence over the past few years, BMI became the first American performing rights organization to recognize the power of this new medium and to secure a license from an Internet music customer. In 1997, BMI launched the MusicBotª, an Internet robot that searches the web for sites that publicly perform music. The information provided by MusicBotª will help fulfill BMI’s commitment to assemble comprehensive information about the market and to secure Internet licenses for the use of music. In all fields, from radio and television to retail stores and electronic media, BMI licenses more than 650,000 customers.

Distribution Of Royalties

BMI’s royalty distribution has grown dramatically over the last several years as the size and quality of its repertoire have expanded. BMI has successfully negotiated steadily increasing payments from cable television programmers and its agreement with the Radio Music License Committee, which covers virtually all American commercial radio stations, where fees were also increased from 1992 to 1996.

BMI distributes more than 83% of all licensing revenues to the creators and copyright holders it represents, making it one of the world’s most efficient copyright agencies.

BMI pays its affiliated composers and music publishers in quarterly distributions; foreign income received through reciprocal agreements currently is distributed quarterly as well. All aspects of the domestic logging process and payment system are the same for both U.S. creators and for members of foreign performing rights societies.

Royalties are paid for all categories of musical performances with a rate established in a published royalty schedule, augmented by certain bonus payments. The rates vary, for example, from 6 cents per play of a popular song on a small radio station to as much as $9 for a song broadcast on a television station as part of its prime-time network programming.

BMI began distributing royalties for live performances in 1997 based on the trade publication Pollstar’s determination of the Top 100 touring acts. The first royalty distribution based on Internet music usage will be made in the second quarter


In order to provide the best possible environment for songwriters, composers and publishers, BMI has instituted a number of programs and services to benefit the creative community. Eligible affiliates are able to apply for loans through BMI’s arrangement with Bank of America, one of the largest lending institutions in the country. In order to insure the timely receipt of royalty checks, BMI also provides direct deposit.

Launched in 1994,, BMI’s official web site, offers valuable information to all music professionals, including specific BMI programs and activities and downloadable clearance and copyright forms. Also on the web site is MusicWorld, BMI’s quarterly magazine which, in printed form, is also distributed widely throughout the music industry. The magazine features hard news and songwriter profiles.


BMI’s pop, rock, r&b, Latin, country and jazz repertoire is unparalleled. Approximately 76% of the inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are represented by BMI (including Carlos Santana and members of his band, the first Latin recording artists so honored), as are more than 82% of the Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, and more than 91% of those honored with Pioneer Awards by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

BMI annually honors the achievements of its writers and publishers with award dinners celebrating the most performed songs in the Pop, Country, Film & Television, Urban and Latin Music fields. The dinners honor the songs that have received the most performances within the eligibility year in their respective areas of music.

Delia Orjuela helms the BMI Latin department, with full-time representatives in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Puerto Rico. Based in Los Angeles, she is currently a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), as well as a member of the Latin Recording Academy (LARAS). Delia joined BMI in 1997, she continues to work diligently on behalf of the growing number of writers, composers and music publishers in Latin music.

With its growing commitment to Latin music from around the world, BMI continues to exercise its original “open door” policy in which everyone is entitled to be properly compensated for their original creative works.