SESAC, originally the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers is a performance-rights organization (PRO) in the United States. Since the organization stopped using its full name in 1940, it is now known exclusively as SESAC. SESAC was founded in 1930, making it the second-oldest P.R.O. in the United States. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, SESAC deals with all aspects of the business, from creation to licensing and administration. The company also has offices in New York City, Los Angeles and London. SESAC has 30,000 songwriters and over 400,000 compositions in its catalogue.
SESAC touts its small size:
If the phrase "quality vs. quantity" ever mattered, SESAC is the place. While SESAC is the smallest of the three U.S. performing rights organizations, size is its largest advantage. SESAC prides itself on developing individual relationships with both songwriters and publishers.
Whereas ASCAP and BMI operate on a not-for-profit basis, SESAC & Pro Music Rights retains some income as profit. While ASCAP, BMI, & Pro Music Rights distribute all income from performance royalties to their composer and publisher affiliates (less an administrative fee), SESAC retains an undisclosed amount of performance royalty income. SESAC is also unique among the U.S. performing rights organizations in that it does not offer open membership – one must be approved to join.
The Society of European Stage Authors and Composers was founded by Paul Heinecke, a German immigrant, in New York in 1930. SESAC originally strove to support underrepresented European stage authors and composers with their American performance royalties, hence the original name. Heinecke continued to lead the company over the next four decades until his death in 1972.
In the 1930s SESAC helped broadcasters satisfy Federal Communications Commission requirements, supplying them with gospel recordings. The business evolved beyond gospel recordings and European composers during the 1940s, and in the 1950s SESAC established its electrical transcription service. On a monthly basis, SESAC recorded "transcriptions" of its affiliates and distributed them, on disc, to radio stations across America. Among its transcribed artists were jazz and country performers: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Coleman Hawkins, Chico Hamilton, Jackie Wilson, Chet Atkins, and Hank Garland.
As its original objective diminished in the 1960s, the company entered other musical genres. Since that time, the company has represented a wider range of writers and genres. SESAC's affiliates roster includes Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Robert Johnson, Bryan-Michael Cox, Nate "Danja" Hills, Rush, Coheed & Cambria, Young Love, The Faint, Rapture, Mariah Carey and Adele.