I chose not to be a registered member of Sacem because I did not have to. Sacem is a private syndicate (with a public service mission, but still); so legally speaking, nothing obliges anyone to be a member. This is far from a well-known fact; many young musicians believe that they must be registered, whereas it is totally OK to release records in France without being a member of Sacem. Anyway, the French law has always been very protective with copyrights (well, the French equivalent, "droits d'auteurs", which actually has a slightly different definition), so if ever my songs were "stolen", I am pretty sure I would be well protected by the law, and would not need any help by Sacem.
Many French musicians and labels also think they have to pay SDRM to release a record (SDRM means "Mechanical reproduction rights"). SDRM was actually created by... Sacem, and once again, it is not illegal to release a record without paying these rights. Which is good news, by the way, as these rights are exorbitant. You're supposed to get your money back after a few months (actually, about 80% of it), but this is still a huge amount of money to pay (depending on the total length of your album). In other words, I can't afford to be a member of Sacem, neither can We are Unique!
Basically, I am not registered because I do not believe in a financial interpretation of "droits d'auteurs". To me, copyrights and money do not have to be related. Sacem was created after an incident at a bar in March 1847 - three famous composers refused to pay for their drinks, because the owner of the bar had musicians play their compositions without giving them any retribution. The three composers won a trial, which led to the creation of the syndicate. What was at stake then is what lies at the core of the Sacem way of seeing things. All members are supposed to agree with the three composers' attitude - you play my stuff, you owe me something.
I don't agree with that. Had I been in the same situation, I would have thanked the owner of the bar for playing my songs, payed for my drinks, and left. To me, the broadcasting of my songs is not an end in itself, it is just a means. Who knows, one of the bar attendees (or, by extention, website visitor, venue spectator, radio listener, whatever) might want to know my music after what they've heard? They might even buy a CD, or a ticket for our next show. Or set up a show themselves. Broadcasting is just a segment within a much more complex set of interactions and causal connectives. It is a branch in a rhizome...
I must admit, though, I have the luxury to make such a statement because I am not trying to earn a living from music. I obviously understand and support my musician friends who are trying hard to do music as a job, so I am not against the existence of Sacem. On the other hand, there are many scandals surrounding it.
Everyone (including Sacem-registered artists) admits that the distribution system is very obscure. Registrations earn Sacem €600 million a year! Yet those who get the most are the best-selling artists... And if you are an independent young artist who has just been aired on a national radio show, you'd better call them and make sure they got your name (although Sacem has 1,400 employees who are supposed to work on this).
Sacem also has control over many so-called independent financial help systems in France (the Fair, Adami, even some festivals). They won't admit it officially, but if you are not Sacem-registered, you're out of the game, or it is much more difficult for you to be supported, at best. I know it, because this is what happened to us in the past, and will surely keep happening.
Finally, Sacem CEO Bernard Miyet has been in the grip of financial scandals. He's been using the Sacem credit card on personal vacation, for example, and the salaries of Sacem executives are outrageously high. The European Union is getting suspicious, I wouldn't be surprised if Sacem was dismantled, or at least reorganized, in the next few years.