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:
We’re going to cover each step in detail but first, we need to make sure we understand the two components of music copyright.
Because understanding music copyright is key to understanding music royalties and getting paid.
music copyright = music royalties = money in the bank
The Two Components of Music Copyright
There are two big types of copyright for music: the sound recording and the composition.
Now that’s clear, let’s have a look at how those two types of music copyright affect our music royalties…..
Music Royalties Breakdown Matrix
Ok, maybe not yet. So we’ll go into a little bit more detail now to explain what this matrix is all about and which organizations you need to join to make sure you get paid.
IMPORTANT – Music royalties can be a little overwhelming. If, at any point, you feel a little lost, print out your free Cheat Sheet (reference CP014) and take the time to go through it at your own pace.
Now, let’s do this!
Step 1- Join a Performance Rights Organization
Performance royalties due to the songwriter and music publisher.
Every time a composition is played in public: live, on the radio, on TV.
Each PRO has different requirements and sign up methods. They’ll usually make everything clear on their website.
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.
PROs usually pay you quarterly, using the payment information you provided when you joined.
Note that non-digital performance tracking and royalty collection takes time so don’t expect to receive any performance royalties in the first year after a release.
Even then, performance royalties can take time to build up.
Pro tip: If you want to do some of the tracking yourself, there are services like Tunesat that can help you identify when your music is being played on TV.
Step 2- Register with an admin publishing company or a mechanical royalty collections company
Mechanical royalties due to the songwriter and music publisher.
Every time a composition is streamed on demand, downloaded, purchased.
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:
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 a quick online search doesn’t do the trick, 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:
Mechanical royalty collection societies work like PROs, they’ll pay you quarterly using the payment information you provided when you signed up.
Music publishing administration companies each have their own way of working but you can usually expect to be paid monthly or quarterly, provided you’ve reached a certain threshold.
For example, Songtrust will pay you quarterly provided you’ve reached the $5 minimum payout.
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- Signup With A Digital Music Distributor
Mechanical royalties due to the recording artist and the owner of the recording.
Every time a sound recording is streamed on demand, downloaded, purchased.
Directly through the music distributor’s website.
Examples of music distributors:
The process looks a little something like this:
- on a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon, someone streams your song on Spotify or downloads a track on iTunes (RIP)
- 2-3 months later, that stream/download is reported to your digital music distributor
- your digital music distributor promptly adds that stream/download to your reports in your user interface
- you head over to your user interface and ask for a payout
- your digital music distributor sends you money
Pro tip: you can opt in or out of YouTube Music, Facebook, Instagram directly through your digital music distributor.
Step 4- Register with SoundExchange or a Neighbouring Rights Organization
Performance royalties due to the recording artist and owner of the recording.
Every time a sound recording is played in public: live, on the radio, on TV.
Remember PROs only collect composition performance royalties, i.e. the songwriting and publishing portion of performance royalties.
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, will be able to tell you which organization collects performance royalties for artists and labels in your country.
Examples of Neighbouring Rights Organizations:
Standard is you get paid quarterly directly to the bank account you provided when you signed up.
SoundExchange can pay you monthly if you’re making more than $100/month in royalties.
Note that collecting performance royalties takes time soooo….. expect a few months of big fat zeros to get started ?