ASCAP collects licensing fees from users of music created by ASCAP members, then distributes them back to its members as royalties. In effect, the arrangement is the product of a compromise: when a song is played, the user does not have to pay the copyright holder directly, nor does the music creator have to bill a radio station for use of a song.
In 2012, ASCAP collected over US$941 million in licensing fees and distributed $828.7 million in royalties to its members, with an 11.6 percent operating expense ratio. As of July 2018, ASCAP membership included over 670,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers, with over 11 million registered works.
Unlike collecting societies outside the United States, ASCAP contract is non-exclusive, and although it is not so simple for a foreign person to join ASCAP, it is possible. ASCAP has an office in the United Kingdom. As the artist agreement is non-exclusive, authors can license using a creative commons license. The ASCAP bill of rights states, "we have the right to choose when and where our creative works may be used for free". If an author is going to use a creative commons license with another's works, this is the only author's rights organisation that has a non-exclusive contract that a foreign person can join. If an author uses a Creative Commons license and is not a member of a performing rights organisation, and the works would generate royalties, these royalties are collected and given to publishers and artists that are members of these organisations.