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What are CMOs?

7 min read

Learn what role CMOs play in the music industry ecosystem.

Collective Management Organizations collect and pay renumeration to rights holders.

What are CMOs? 

Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) are organizations that act collectively on behalf of the they represent. They can represent various and rights holders in many creative sectors, such as music, audiovisual, book and journal publishing, and the visual arts. CMOs are usually non-profit organizations governed by the rules agreed to by their members, any applicable , and other laws and regulations.

CMOs the rights of rights holders, the use of their members' creative works, and collect any income owed to rights holders. CMOs can also have between them to represent rights holders represented by other CMOs in their countries.

In the music industry, CMOs administer the rights of rights holders for the use of their and . There are CMOs that represent and and those that represent , , or both. Some CMOs represent all music industry rights holders, or even rights holders from other creative industries.

Depending on the type of rights they represent, CMOs can also be known as an Authors' Society, Society, Collective, Collecting Society, Performing Rights Organizations (PROs), or Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs).

CMOs are territory-specific, and countries may have one or a number of CMOs for to choose from. While most songwriters and performers become members of their local CMO, some join and assign some of their rights to a foreign CMO.

  • You can find the list of member CMOs here and member CMOs here, representing songwriters, other authors, and publishers.

  • You can find the list of member CMOs representing artists and other performers here.

  • You can find the list of affiliate CMOs representing labels here.

Note that there are more CMOs administering rights in musical works and sound recordings that are not members of CISAC, SCAPR, or IFPI. You can find out about them by contacting the local .

For more information, read WIPO’s Good Practice Toolkit for Collective Management Organizations.

What does a CMO do?

The primary function of all CMOs in the music industry is to license the use of musical works or sound recordings and to collect and distribute for the use of those on behalf of the members they represent, but there's more to it than that.


Licensing is the process of granting permission for the use of copyrighted material. A CMO will negotiate licensing agreements on behalf of their members with people, companies, and organizations that want to use their musical works or sound recordings, such as broadcasters, streaming services, and live venues. The CMO will outline the terms of the license, including the territory, duration and the license fees that must be paid. CMOs often offer a for all the musical works in the CMO's in exchange for a fee.

CMOs can licence:

● Musical works to sound recording producers and concert organizers

● Musical works or sound recordings to TV and radio broadcasters, public venues such as bars, hotels, shops, clubs, and DSPs for both linear and .

CMOs may also collect and pay out royalties for uses of musical works and sound recordings that do not involve licensing, such as the compensation for in countries where this exists.

Visit our topics on Music Creators' Rights, Rights Transfer and Licensing, and Scope of Protection to learn more.

Collecting and Distributing Royalties

When a is played on stage, on the radio, performed in public, distributed online or as a , or used in a film or TV show, the CMO tracks and collects the royalties owed to the songwriters, composers, performers, music publishers or record labels who have the rights in the musical work or sound recording the CMO represents. The CMO then distributes these royalties to the rights holders based on the .

We explain more about royalties in our Getting Credited and Paid topic.

Legal Representation

In special cases, a CMO may also provide legal advice and representation to its members in claims of or disputes.

Social benefits, cultural funds, and advocacy

Most CMOs also provide additional services for their members, including , and advocacy.

For more information, read WIPO’s Good Practice Toolkit for Collective Management Organizations.

Why should music creators join a CMO? 

This will vary from creator to creator based on the creative role they play, the ownership they have of musical works, performances and sound recordings and where they are being used. CMOs exist in situations where it would be impossible or impractical for rights holders to do this by themselves. Key benefits of joining a CMO include:

  • Only if you join a CMO will you receive royalties for uses of your musical works, performances, or sound recordings that are managed collectively by other CMOs around the world.

  • Once you become a member of a CMO you and your musical works or sound recordings will be uniquely identified. The use of your musical works or sound recordings will be tracked, and you will be compensated, so you will earn royalties for those uses.

  • Your CMO will collect and pay you royalties for uses in its country, as well as for uses abroad, through representation agreements with other CMOs in their countries or through .

What are the different types of CMOs? 

In the music industry, you will find various types of CMOs, including or . The main difference between them is the type of rights they administer, license, and collect royalties for.

Some of the different kinds of CMOs include:

  • Societies: representing songwriters and music publishers for various rights

  • MROs (Mechanical Rights Organizations): managing songwriters' and music publishers' reproduction and distribution rights

  • PROs (Performing Rights Organizations): representing and managing performing rights for songwriters and music publishers,

  • MLCs (Music Licensing Companies): representing the right of record producers and music performers (The US-based Mechanical Licensing Collective is an MRO, not an MLC)

  • PMOs (Performers' Collective Management Organizations): representing performers and their performing rights

  • RROs (Reproduction Rights Organizations): they manage reproduction rights and represent mostly book and journal authors and publishers, but also authors and publishers of sheet music.

  • Copyright bureaus: in some countries (mainly Francophone Africa), the local also acts as the country's unique CMO representing all rights holders, including songwriters, music publishers, performers, and .

Most music CMOs are also members or affiliates of an international umbrella organization, which sets professional rules and standards, facilitates cross-border collaboration among the CMOs, and advocates on their behalf:

  • CISAC and BIEM: for CMOs representing songwriters and music publishers

  • SCAPR: for CMOs representing performers

  • IFPI: for CMOs representing record producers

  • IFRRO: for CMOs representing sheet music authors and publishers

The difference between CMOs IMEs/RMEs, and SPVs  

New alternatives to traditional CMOs have emerged, known as , and .

While CMOs are usually not-for-profit and can be owned or controlled by their members, Independent Management Entities (IMEs) or Rights Management Entities (RMEs) are private organizations, usually for-profit and controlled by shareholders instead of rights holders. Typically, they focus on specific aspects of and may work with others to collectively manage larger portfolios of rights.

Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) are entities usually set up in partnership between a CMO and a music publisher. They are typically established to administer and license the music publisher's musical works to .

Explore our topics on Music Creators’ Rights, Rights Transfer and Licensing, and Scope of Protection for more information.

The difference between CMOs and music publishers 

Music publishers can be members of or work very closely with CMOs; both have a role in administering rights and , but music publishers, in addition to managing and protecting rights, play a more active role in the growth and success of their songwriters’ careers. As a creator, you may benefit from working with both a CMO and a music publisher.

Visit our page on Music Publishers to learn more.

Illustration credit: Martin Fabricius Rasmussen