SESAC, originally the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers,[1] 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 performance-rights organization 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, Munich and London.[2] SESAC has 30,000 songwriters and over 400,000 compositions in its catalogue.

  • 1930 (as the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers)
  • 1940 (current name)
Key people
John Josephson, Chairman and CEO
ParentThe Blackstone Group

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.[2]

Whereas ASCAP and BMI operate on a not-for-profit basis, SESAC retains some income as profit.[3] While ASCAP and BMI 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.[citation needed] Unlike ASCAP and BMI, SESAC does not offer open membership – one must be approved to join.[4]


The Society of European Stage Authors and Composers was founded by Paul Heinecke, a German immigrant, in New York in 1930.[5] SESAC originally strove to support underrepresented European stage authors and composers with their American performance royalties, hence the original name. Heinecke led the firm 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.[5][6] 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 then, 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.[7]

The company moved into new headquarters in Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan and opened an office in Nashville, Tennessee in 1964. Six years later, the company began representing songwriters in addition to its traditional business of representing publishers. With a focus on Christian songwriters, the company was an early player in the Contemporary Christian music format. That evolution led the company to move its headquarters to Nashville in 1985.

In 1993, the company was purchased by Stephen Swid, Freddie Gershon, and Ira Smith. The new owners shifted the company's focus toward more mainstream music, and later television.

In 2013, Rizvi Traverse Management acquired a majority stake in SESAC.[8]

In 2015, SESAC acquired the mechanical rights clearinghouse Harry Fox Agency.[9]

In 2017, The Blackstone Group acquired SESAC.[10]


  1. ^ Dow, Cindy (29 April 2010). "Copyright issue brings an end to music at cafe". The Standard-Times. New Bedford, Massachusetts. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  2. ^ a b About us. SESAC. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  3. ^ Music in the Marketplace Archived 2007-06-08 at the Wayback Machine. Better Business Bureau. Retrieved on 2007-07-20.
  4. ^ How to affiliate. SESAC. Retrieved on 2007-07-25.
  5. ^ a b "SESAC Focus" (PDF). SESAC. Summer 2005. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
  6. ^ Alicoate, Jack, Ed. (1950). The 1950 Radio Annual. Radio Daily Corp. P. 10.
  7. ^ "Adele Signs With SESAC For U.S. Representation". Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  8. ^ Rizvi Traverse Management Buys 75% Stake In SESAC: Report Ed Christman, Billboard, January 7, 2013
  9. ^ SESAC Buys the Harry Fox Agency Ed Christman, Billboard, July 7, 2015
  10. ^ Blackstone’s Latest Move Has the Look of a Hit Jennifer Saba, New York Times, January 5, 2017