Assuming you’re an independent songwriter with no record deal or publishing deal, this is what you need to do to collect all your music royalties….

Step 1- Join a Performance Rights Organization

Step 2- Register with an admin publishing company or mechanical royalty collections society

Step 3- Sign up with a digital music distributor

Step 4- Register with SoundExchange or a Neighbouring Rights Organization

Step 5- Check for unclaimed royalties in the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund

Step 6- Download and print your Music Royalties Cheat Sheet (reference CP014)

We’re going to cover each step in detail but first, let’s make sure we understand what you’re selling when you’re selling music.

— You’re selling two types of products —



Sound Recordings

When a song is played on the radio or an album is sold, there are revenues attached to the song itself (the composition) and the recording of that song (the sound recording).

Now that’s clear, let’s have a look at how those two types of music copyright affect our music royalties…..

— Each product can be used in two different ways —

Performed in public


Copied for private use

2 products x 2 types of usage


4 royalty streams

⇓ ⇓ ⇓

Music royalties breakdown

Understanding the Music Royalties Breakdown Matrix

If your products are played in public, you’re entitled to performance royalties. Refer to boxes 1 and 4 above.

If your products are copied for private use, you’re entitled to mechanical royalties. Refer boxes 2 and 3 above.

If you want to make money from your SOUND RECORDINGS, focus on the YELLOW boxes above.

If you want to make money from your COMPOSITIONS, focus on the BLUE boxes above.

Make sense?

Ok, maybe not yet….

Let’s take it step by step.