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Copyrights/ Royalties

What Kinds of Royalties Are Involved in Music Publishing?


A Guest Post by Symphonic Distribution

What Kinds of Royalties Are Involved in Music Publishing & How Can I Know If I’m Earning Them?

So you know there are $$ royalties $$ associated with publishing.  But just what kind of royalties are there involved in publishing, and which ones does Symphonic Publishing Administration collect?   And how can you know if you’re earning those royalties as an independent artist who writes your own songs?

Let’s have a look.

The two most common music publishing royalty types, central to any independent songwriter’s income, are performance royalties and mechanical royalties.  When you sign up with Symphonic Publishing Administration, these will be the two main types of royalties we will be collecting for you.  Even though we’ll be doing the dirty administrative work for you, it’s vital to understand how they work and how you can best leverage them to maximize your royalty potential and earnings.

1.  Performance Royalties

WHO collects them?

Performance Rights Organizations (PROs).  Each major world territory has a PRO.

WHAT are they?

Performance Royalties are earned when a song is broadcasted or performed publicly in some way.

HOW do I know if I’m earning performance royalties?

You are earning performance royalties when your songs are being broadcasted and publicly performed.  You’re definitely earning performance royalties if your song is:

Played on internet radio (like Pandora)
Played on “terrestrial radio” (i.e. 93.3 FM, 100.7 FM, etc.)
Played on online streaming services like Spotify
Performed at live venues or played in clubs (whether by you as a performer on your tour, by a well-known DJ in a club in Sweden, or by a cover band in a pub in Nashville)
Played in businesses and retailers of all kinds (hotels, restaurants, retail stores, big offices, etc.) as background music
Broadcasted on TV (whether on an episode of a TV show, on a sports channel in passing, or in an advertisement for another brand)

Performance royalties are definitely a special royalty type.  Just because you’re distributing your music with a digital distributor like Symphonic doesn’t necessarily mean you’re earning performance royalties.  But you can increase your chances of earning them in many different ways. 

2.  Mechanical Royalties

WHO collects them?

Mechanical royalties are collected from mechanical collection societies.  Each major world territory has a mechanical collection society.

WHAT are they?

Mechanical royalties are earned per-unit when a song is sold on a “mechanically reproduced” physical medium (think vinyl, physical CDs), and nowadays, this includes digital downloads and internet streaming as well.  “Mechanical” can sound like a confusing word to us in the digital age.  The word “mechanical” stems from the fact that back in the early days of the music industry, compositions were physically, or mechanically, manufactured and reproduced onto physical products for public consumption.

HOW do I know if I’m earning mechanical royalties?

You’re earning mechanical royalties when your song is:

Manufactured and sold on physical CD/vinyl products
Reproduced into ringtones and sold as a ringtone
Streamed through interactive streaming services (on Spotify, Rdio, Beats, etc.)
Sold in digital retailers for digital downloads (on iTunes, Beatport, Amazon, etc.) outside of the USA.

This is the key fact here.  In the USA, the mechanical royalty share goes straight from iTunes to the distributor to the label.  But in countries outside of the USA, your mechanical royalty is getting picked up from iTunes and thrown elsewhere.

If you are distributing your music to stores and streaming platforms worldwide using a digital music distributor like Symphonic Distribution, and if you are seeing sales and streams result, then you are definitely earning mechanical royalties.

Then, less common, you can also earn from music publishing:

3.  Print Royalties

Print royalties are earned when a composition is transcribed onto sheet paper, printed in songbooks, and published for the general population to purchase and play your music at home on their personal instruments for fun.  Print royalties are really only applicable to a songwriter if he/she has a Top 40 Radio Hit – think little pre-teens taking piano lessons and buying Taylor Swift sheet music online, or purchasing a Guns N’Roses hit on sheet music to sight read through on your guitar.

4.  Ringtone Royalties

Sometimes lumped into a mechanical royalty, though it’s pretty self-explanatory.  If your song is reproduced as a ringtone and sold as a ringtone, you earn a royalty.

Symphonic Publishing Administration was designed for worldwide collection of all music publishing royalties, specifically tailored for the independent artist who writes his/her own songs.   The core of what we’ll be collecting for you are your mechanical royalties and performance royalties, and we’ll do this by registering each one of your songs in every individual performance AND mechanical rights organization in just over 60 territories.   No matter how your song was, is, or will be used – downloads, streams, internet radio plays, performances by DJs, anything – our publishing administration structure guarantees we will be collecting the maximum amount of mechanical and performance royalties you deserve.

By Kaitlyn Raterman
Managing Director of Licensing & Publishing of Symphonic Distribution

Symphonic Distribution was launched in the winter of 2006 by a Music Producer from Tampa, Florida. The company was launched with the intention of providing new and established record labels cost effective digital distribution to retailers such as iTunes, Beatport, Rhapsody, Amazon, and more with a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction. Today, the company has paid over 3.5 million in royalties and distributes music for over 6,000 independent labels and artists, worldwide, which include, Spain, India, South Africa, Brazil and Russia, and has expanded services to Mastering, Marketing, Design, Licensing and Publishing Administration. Symphonic’s team of nine passionate individuals pride themselves on quick responses and direct one-on-one conversations and advising with clients, from the basics of managing a Social Network to providing Technical and Audio Support to clients.

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