The music business has undergone drastic changes during the Internet era, but until recently, one thing that hadn't changed was the role of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, known to the industry as ASCAP. This performance rights organization has helped songwriters and music publishers get paid when their songs are played in radio broadcasts, on elevators and in clubs for nearly 100 years. But as broadcasting moves online, ASCAP's future may be uncertain.
Take its relationship with the major record label EMI as an example. Like many labels, EMI has a publishing arm that controls several different catalogs of songs. April Music, one of those, holds the rights to some 200,000 songs, including works written and performed by Jay-Z, Mos Def and Beyonce. Holding those rights means that when any of those 200,000 songs are played in public spaces or in front of an audience, April Music — along with the song's writer — is paid a fee by the broadcaster.
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