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 —

Compositions

and

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

and

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.

STEP 1 – Collect performance royalties related to your compositions.

Music royalties breakdown - step 1

When can you collect performance royalties on your compositions?

You can collect performance royalties on your compositions when one of your compositions is played in public.

For example, during a live performance, on the radio, on TV or in movie theaters outside the U.S.

What do you need to do to collect performance royalties on your compositions?

Join a Performance Rights Organization and/or an admin publishing company.

For example, ASCAP or BMI in the US, SOCAN in Canada, PRS in the UK, SACEM in France, etc.

Pro tip: if you choose to work with an admin publishing company (see step 2), you can actually skip this part and let THEM handle this registration process.

STEP 2 – Collect mechanical royalties related to your compositions.

Music Royalties Breakdown - step 2

When can you collect mechanical royalties on your compositions?

You can collect mechanical royalties on your compositions every time a composition is copied for private use.

For example, every time it’s streamed on demand on Spotify or Apple Play, or purchased and downloaded on Amazon or iTunes, or pressed on a physical CD or DVD.

What do you need to do to collect mechanical royalties on your compositions?

If you’re outside the US, you’ll need to find out if there’s a local mechanical royalty collection society in your country.

Examples of mechanical royalty collection companies include MCPS in the UK, SOCAN in Canada and SACEM in France.

You’ll notice that the French and Canadians only have to register to one organization to collect both performance and mechanical royalties for songwriters and publishers.

Pro tip: if you’re not sure if there’s a mechanical royalty collection society in your country, ask your PRO. They should know!

If you’re in the US, you’ll want to use an admin publishing company.

Examples of music publishing administration companies:

Pro tip: if you have a publishing company, you may want to apply to The Harry Fox Agency instead. Just make sure you meet their requirements before you spend $100 on the application.

SIDE NOTE – for indie artists who want to license their music

If you work or want to work with production music libraries, consider this carefully.

When they place your music, some libraries take a portion of the synchronization fee but no publishing share.

For those libraries, there would be no conflict with an admin publishing company because they don’t care that a publishing admin takes 15-20% of your publishing.

HOWEVER, a lot of music libraries take a portion of the sync fee AND 100% of the publisher’s share when they place your music in a project.

You can’t work with THOSE music libraries AND an admin publishing company at the same time because you don’t have 115-120% of publishing to give away.

STEP 3 – Collect mechanical royalties related to your sound recordings.

Music Royalties Breakdown - Step 3

When can you collect mechanical royalties on your sound recordings?

You can collect mechanical royalties on your sound recordings every time a sound recording is copied for private use.

For example, every time it’s streamed on demand on Spotify or Apple Play, or purchased and downloaded on Amazon or iTunes, or pressed on a physical CD or DVD.

What do you need to do to collect mechanical royalties on your compositions?

Signup with a digital music distributor. It will make your sound recordings available on multiple online stores and collect mechanical royalties and sales for you.

Examples of music distributors include CD Baby, Amuse and Distrokid.

Pro tip: you can opt in or out of YouTube Music, Facebook, Instagram directly through your digital music distributor.

STEP 4 – Collect performance royalties related to your sound recordings.

Music Royalties Breakdown - Step 4

When can you collect performance royalties on your sound recordings?

You can collect performance royalties on your sound recordings when one of your sound recordings is played in public.

For example, during a live show, on the radio, on TV or in movie theaters outside the U.S.

What do you need to do to collect performance royalties on your sound recordings?

If you’re based in the U.S., head over to the SoundExchange website and register as an artist and copyright owner.

If you’re outside the U.S., research “neighbouring rights” in your country.

A quick online search should do the trick.

If not, your local PRO – who collects performance royalties for songwriters and publishers – should be able to tell you which organization collects performance royalties for artists and labels in your country.

Examples of Neighbouring Rights Organizations include:

  • PPL in the UK
  • RE:Sound in Canada
  • SPPF or SCPP for labels in France and Adami or Spedidam for artists
  • IRR in Australia

STEP 5 – Collect performance royalties for non-featured performances on the digital performances of sound recordings.

When can you collect performance royalties for non-featured performances on the digital performance of sound recordings?

Every time a sound recording on which you have performed as a background singer or musician is played in public.

For example, when it is featured in a live show, on the radio or on television.

What do you need to do to collect performance royalties for non-featured performances on the digital performances of sound recordings?

Check the AFM & SAG-AFTRA IPRD Fund online and look for your name in the database.

It’s as simple as that. It’s free, you don’t have to sign up to anything and it will only take a couple of minutes.

Wait…. Isn’t SoundExchange Taking Care Of That?

Nope, SoundExchange pays out royalties to featured artists and copyright owners.

If you’ve performed on other people’s sound recordings, you may be a non-featured artist.

As such, you’d be entitled to a 5% share of performance royalties when a sound recording you’ve performed on is played.

It’ll only take a minute and it’s free to check so…. yeah, go for it!

Pro tip: outside the US, music royalties owed to back up musicians and singers are usually handled by the Neighbouring Rights Organizations mentioned in step 4.

Step 6 – Signup to the Creative & Productive Library!

Download your Music Royalties Cheat Sheet, reference CP014

Other Useful Stuff You Might Not Know About Music Royalties

Fun Fact #1

If you’re a BMI songwriter, BMI will automatically 100% of publishing performance royalties if there is no publishing information attached to your song.

Yep, you read that right. BMI say so right here.

That’s a Shame Fact #1

In the US, SoundExchange only collects performance royalties for artists and labels on DIGITAL performances.

Recording artists and labels don’t get paid performance royalties when music is played on terrestrial (AM/FM) radio.

That’s a Shame Fact #2

When a song is used in a movie and the movie is played in theaters in the US, songwriters and publishers don’t get any performance royalties.

BUT…. if that same movie is played in theaters outside the US or on TV, then the songwriter and publisher receive performance royalties.

Fun Fact #2

If you perform live, you can tell your PRO about it and upload your setlists.

Make it easy for your PRO to track and pay you those performance royalties on your live performances!

Now What?

Ok, that was a LOT of information!

Here’s a short recap for you.

As always, if you have a question…. I’ve got your back in the comments section!

— Collect Music Royalties Cheat Sheet —

Step 1- Join a Performance Rights Organization…

like ASCAP or BMI

….to collect the performance royalties related to your songwriting.

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

like Songtrust or MCPS

…to collect the mechanical royalties related to your songwriting.

Step 3- Sign up with a digital music distributor…

like Distrokid or CD Baby

…to collect the mechanical royalties related to your sound recordings.

Step 4- Register with SoundExchange or a Neighbouring Rights Organization…

like PPL or Re:Sound

…to collect the performance royalties related to your sound recordings.

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

…to collect royalties related to your performance as a background singer or musician on sound recordings.

Step 6- Signup for the Creative & Productive Library

…to download and print an extended Music Royalties Cheat Sheet (reference CP014) and receive more helpful music royalty information.

Ready for More?

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