SESAC was established in 1930 and built on service, tradition and innovation.
SESAC was founded in New York in 1930 by German immigrant Paul Heinecke in an effort to help European publishers with their American performance royalties. Throughout the decades, until his passing in 1972, Paul Heinecke guided SESAC with his own unique mix of old-world charm and 20th century savvy.
With an established cornerstone repertory of the finest European Classical Music, SESAC began to turn its attention to American music in the 1930s.
The company’s tradition of service began in the ‘30s when SESAC helped broadcasters satisfy FCC requirements, supplying them with quality recordings of SESAC’s substantial Gospel catalog. The stations got their much-needed music, and SESAC established enduring relationships with broadcasters across the nation.
The 1940s was a time of worldwide upheaval, but SESAC continued to grow and evolve throughout the decade, redefining itself as circumstances demanded. By decade's end, SESAC had managed not only to survive, but to considerably broaden its reach and its repertory.
The 1950s saw the explosion of the radio and pop music and the establishment of SESAC’S innovative electronic transcription series.
On a monthly basis, radio stations would receive another “transcription” of exclusive SESAC music performed by the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Coleman Hawkins, Elliot Lawrence, Joe Venuti, Chico Hamilton, Jackie Wilson, Chet Atkins, and Hank Garland, to name a few.
“It’s heartwarming to see the fruits of our combined efforts…writers, publishers, producers, users…As to the future, we shall continue to use as our buckler and our shield the eternal qualities of faith and hope, knowing full well that these, coupled with diligent and honest effort, shall inure to the benefit of all." – Paul Heinecke in 1950, on the occasion of SESAC’s 20th Anniversary.
In the 1960s SESAC took its first steps into the mainstream pop music market. SESAC continued its steady growth during the ‘60s, moving into new midtown headquarters at the Coliseum in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle and opening its first Nashville office (headed by country star Roy Drusky) in 1964.
1970 marked a historic turning point for SESAC as the company signed its first-ever songwriter agreement. Prior to that time, SESAC signed only publishers. Also in the early ‘70s, SESAC began a new focus on its Christian roster, helping to pioneer the Contemporary Christian format.
SESAC continued to grow during the 1980s, particularly in Nashville, where the company moved its headquarters in 1985.
SESAC, the smallest of the three U.S. performing rights organizations, focused on technology in the 1990s with the introduction of cutting-edge technology in performance detection. In 1993, SESAC inked a 20-year deal with Broadcast Data Systems (BDS) to gather data on music and commercial airplay by radio and television stations, and the company distinguished itself as the first U.S. performing rights organization to utilize BDS technology to track Spanish-language music. Just a few years later, the company expanded its agreement with BDS to include computerized music rights tracking for other genres. The SESAC repertory grew substantially during the decade across all genres, particularly in the areas of R&B/hip-hop, country and rock.
The purchase of SESAC by Stephen Swid, Allen & Co, Freddie Gershon, and Ira Smith in 1992 and the subsequent signing of Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond marked the beginning of a new era for the company.
In the new century, SESAC turned its attention to Film and Television music, affiliating some of Hollywood's top composers. With the establishment of a Los Angeles office in 2000, SESAC began affiliating television composers like Jonathan Wolff (Seinfeld, Will & Grace, Caroline in the City), Dennis Brown (Two And A Half Men), Danny Lux (Grey’s Anatomy, The Bachelor, Raising Hope), Jon Ehrlich (Parenthood, House, White Collar, The Guardian), and film composers like John Swihart (Napoleon Dynamite, Youth in Revolt, Employee of the Month) and Christophe Beck (Trolls, Under The Tuscan Sun, A Cinderella Story). SESAC's Latina operation was also moved from New York to Los Angeles to capitalize on the exploding Latin music scene on the west coast.
SESAC has continued to grow and today stands as the clear technological leader among the nation’s performing rights organizations, utilizing cutting-edge technologies to provide its affiliates with incomparable accuracy and consistency in performance detection over any medium, including the internet.
SESAC represents such musical icons as Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, R.E.M., George Clinton, Mariah Carey, Green Day, Zac Brown Band, Rosanne Cash, Randy Newman, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Adele as well as many others. Artists who have performed SESAC-affiliated compositions include Justin Timberlake, Keith Urban, Justin Bieber, Usher, Beyonce, Reba McEntire, U2, Coldplay, Selena Gomez and Christina Aguilera among many others.