CRASH COURSE Day 1: How To Collect Live Performance Royalties
Thanks for checking out my 5-day crash course on music publishing.
I'm Joe Conyers III, the VP General Manager of Songtrust. My goal for this course is to provide you with new techniques and approaches for music publishing and collecting royalties, while keeping them as actionable and succinct as possible.
And today, we start with a look at how to collect live performance royalties.
For songwriters and bands performing their own material, there’s an opportunity to earn additional royalties from live performances. All three US Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) can pay royalties from live performances at bars, clubs, restaurants and other music venues.
In order to collect these royalties, each PRO requires writers to alert them of live performances. Below is the best way for writers affiliated with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC to maximise their live performance royalties.
You can receive royalties when your music is performed live at venues of all sizes throughout the US. You need to provide the basic details of the performance and which of your songs were performed and you’ll receive an OnStage payment with your normal ASCAP distribution.
OnStage is available 24/7 via your Member Access account for convenience and flexibility. Coming in November: OnStage will be available via ASCAP Mobile.
More info: ASCAP OnStage
To sign up for BMI Live, songwriters should log into the BMI Live section of bmi.comand register their set lists, with the date and venue where they performed. They will then be eligible for quarterly royalty payments for the public performance of their original songs and compositions.
For Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users, BMI Live can be accessed from the BMI Mobile app, while Android users will find BMI Live on the BMI Mobile website. BMI Live’s mobile platforms offer all the same services that are available online via laptop and desktop computers.
More info: BMI Live
Register your sets via your publishing account on SESAC Affiliate Services. Once you’ve logged in, complete live performance forms for any live gigs.
You’re able to create a set list (e.g. Fall Tour 2011) and copy / paste it into each venue. You’ll need each venue’s address, date of show, venue capacity, if there was a music charge and the list of songs to submit.
More info: SESAC Live Performance Royalties
This email course will provide you with actionable tips on how you can publish music and collect royalties. More on that later...
Tomorrow, we'll be delving into how Spotify streams turn into royalties.
If you have any questions in the meantime, please hit the reply button and drop me a line. I will respond personally to every email.
And if you're ahead of the curve and want to get started, feel free to learn more about Songtrust here.
CRASH COURSE Day 2: How Spotify Streams Turn Into Royalties
Today we're going to dive into how Spotify streams turn into royalties.
Since its launch in the US, Spotify has left listeners elated, with unprecedented open-access to tracks from independent and major labels. But if you’re an artist or songwriter, you may be wondering how those Spotify streams turn into royalty payments and ultimately end up in your back pocket.
There are music publishing royalties generated from each stream on Spotify. Capturing each of these will help maximize your earnings.
The public performance or broadcast of a musical work generates a performance royalty for the songwriter and publisher. These royalties are collected by performing rights organizations (PROs) - ASCAP, BMI, SESAC. Your songs must be properly registered with a PRO to be paid this royalty. For those new to the music biz and yet to register with a PRO, Songtrust can streamline the process and maximize your relationship with each.
Performance royalties are based on each songwriter’s ownership share of the song. For example, if you play in a guitar-and-drums garage rock duo, and both members contributed equally to the song, the ownership shares would be 50% and 50%. However, the ratio can vary depending on an agreement between songwriters to weight the shares in favor of a primary writer.
The performance royalty is also split and distributed equally between the songwriter(s) and the publisher(s), with each being allocated 50% of the performance royalty pie. Depending on what type of deal you have with your publisher (administration, co-publishing, income particiapation) you may actually only see a portion of those performance royalties. Songwriters that handle their publishing rights throughSongtrust will see 100% of the publisher’s share of performance royalties distributed back out to the writer(s).
These royalties are generated when your songs are reproduced, retransmitted or rebroadcasted. This occurs when outside parties license your songs for physical albums, digital downloads and interactive streams. In the case of Spotify, the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) provides customized administrative services and issues mechanical licenses on behalf of its 45,000+ represented music publishers.
HFA collects the mechanical royalties owed by Spotify to the publishers for the use of their music on the service, and then pays that money to each publisher. If your songs do not have a publisher, Songtrust is able to collect on behalf of songwriters without a publishing company – saving money, time and hassle. Alternatively, you can start your own publishing company and register with HFA to collect mechanical royalties.
Next up, we'll learn about how to collect international royalties.
But if you're interested in earning more royalties from more places, you don't have to wait for the rest of this course to get started; check out Songtrust's features.
CRASH COURSE Day 3: Why you MUST pay attention to global royalties even if you aren't huge overseas
Songwriters have a lot on their plate. So many services are selling, streaming and using your music, generating different types of royalties that get sent to a bunch of societies like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and HFA
. It’s a lot to keep track of before you get to the fun part – actually making some music! Outside the US, it gets even more complicated, but international markets can be a major source of revenue. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.
With annual revenue in the billions, the American music market is already overwhelming. Getting your piece of this massive pie requires proper society affiliations, song registrations, and royalty collection. But the US only accounts for about one quarter of the global music industry. That means that for every dollar made in the US, musicians are making three dollars elsewhere.
Sometimes artists generate significant royalties overseas, but have no idea what they’re owed – or that they’re owed anything at all – until someone collects it on their behalf.
If you’re registered with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC you might have seen international earnings on your royalty statement before. So, you’re probably wondering, “I already collect international royalties, right?” You might have gotten some, but there are probably more. Let’s see why.
Your local PRO has entered into reciprocal agreements with similar societies throughout the world. Basically, these agreements say, “Hey, when I collect royalties for your writers, I’ll pay you. And you’ll do the same.” These work well in theory, but in practice, not so much.
Your PRO represents your performance right and transfers it to the appropriate society in each country. So, when your song is broadcasted, streamed or performed live, that society should collect on your behalf and pay your PRO, which will then pay you. The problem is that the foreign PRO will only know where to send the money if your songs have been properly registered with them. The only way to ensure this happens is to establish a direct relationship with each society – a challenge for even the biggest of publishers. And even if your songs are somehow properly registered, if your publisher doesn’t have a direct relationship you probably won’t get paid for up to three years and your royalties will be subject to several rounds of fees along the way.
But what about mechanical royalties? These are generated from physical and digital sales, interactive streams and more. In the US, HFA usually collects mechanicals from record labels and in order to get paid, you’ll need an affiliated publisher. This works a bit differently outside the US. The burden of paying mechanical royalties generally falls on the distributor or retailer (like iTunes). So, when someone buys your CD or downloads your songs abroad, these companies must pay the relevant society. But if you aren’t affiliated in that country, you aren’t going to get paid. Instead, after a certain period of time those royalties will be redistributed to local publishers as black box royalties.
Basically out of the 30% that iTunes takes per download they send some of that(usually 5-8%) to a local society that you can't collect without a publisher.
If your music is having any success outside the US, you need a publisher with a global reach. Before signing with a publisher, make sure it can collect both performance and mechanical royalties in your biggest territories. Your publisher should have established direct relationships with collection societies or at least have a sub-publisher because relying on reciprocal relationships simply won’t cut it.
Now that you understand how to collect international royalties, tomorrow's installment will dive into 7 mistakes to avoid when registering songs.
CRASH COURSE Day 4: 7 Mistakes To Avoid When Registering Songs
As soon as you’ve finished writing a song – and determined splits with any co-writers – your next port of call should be registering the song with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO). In the United States, songwriters can affiliate and register their songs with one of ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.
There’s a few common mistakes that artists tend to make when registering songs. Ryan Brodhead (Manager of Performance Rights Administration for Songtrust) sees these all too often. Take heed of his lessons!
1. Be sure to list any and all performers of the song.
2. Be sure to list any and all writers and/or publishers with their correct shares.
3. Be sure to list any alternate titles.
4. Be sure your writer/publisher account has current contact information.
5. Make sure samples are licensed/cleared properly.
6. Avoid naming your songs anything that’s hard to remember and not clear. E.g. Up 2 No Good Luv should be Up to No Good Love.
7. If you perform your songs live, report these using the various programs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
If you’d prefer to leave this process to the experts, a publishing administrator can help.
For independent artists, Songtrust offers a seamless dashboard to register your songs with any US PRO. Moreover, we register your songs with the Harry Fox Agency (to collect mechanical and digital royalties), Music Reports (to collect digital royalties) and international societies – making sure you never miss out on any publishing royalties.
Tomorrow, in the final installment of this course, we'll take an in-depth look at the benefits of owning your own publishing.
CRASH COURSE Day 5 (of 5): Benefits Of Owning Your Own Publishing
We often get asked about the benefits of starting a publishing company for indie songwriters – as opposed to entering into a publishing agreement.
As an independent songwriter, you have quite a few different options when signing a publishing agreement. Traditionally, a songwriter would sign over a percentage of their rights to a song – ranging from a small amount to 100% – in exchange for opportunities such as cash advances and the potential for bigger sync deals (TV and film placements).
Enticing as that sounds, it’s becoming less likely for most independent songwriters to sign the kind of big publishing deals that create such opportunities. But don’t fret! There is an option that is absolutely worth looking into further: become your own publisher!
It is quite common for musicians to become their own publisher and is something you should consider. In next week’s article, we’ll discuss a step-by-step guide of setting up your own publishing company. Until then, we’re going to focus on the major benefits to owning your publishing rights.
1. Collect more publishing royalties
By the very nature of entering into a publishing agreement, you’re giving away a percentage of your copyrights – and thus a percentage of your publishing royalties.
If you own 100% of the publishing on your songs, you’ll be able to collect all royalties owed to you from public performance, digital (internet radio and on-demand streaming), synchronization (TV, film, and video games), mechanical royalties (sales of physical recordings and downloads).
Reminder: you’ll always get the full writer’s share owed to by registering your songs with a PRO (ASCAP, BMI or SESAC) – even if you’ve signed away all your publishing rights.
2. Maintain creative control
Aside from royalty collection, publishers look to exploit your songs through synchronization licenses. This means, they will pitch your music for placement in film, TV, video games, advertising, etc. These licenses can be a great source of income and in many publishing agreements, the publisher will take a cut of all licence fees. By owning 100% of your publishing rights, you’ll get paid through all of those fees.
The other key differentiator comes from controlling how your music gets pitched and to whom. By owning your publishing rights, you gain the sole right to grant licenses for the use of your music in any capacity. Each time someone wants to use your music, a license (and subsequent fees and/ or royalties) are required to be cleared by you.
Of course, this also means that you have the right to not grant licenses either. This is especially important if you want to avoid certain kinds of association with your songs (e.g. ending up synched to an obnoxious beer commercial or a terrible TV show). Once a song becomes synonymous with something negative, it can be very difficult to convince anyone else to pick that song for their project.
3. Keep your options open
If you’re an artist and you sign a publishing deal early, you may limit what opportunities are available on the label side as, increasingly, labels are looking to also acquire publishing rights.
If you want to compose for film/TV, but you have an exclusive publishing deal, you may not be able to do song deals with individual film and television studios to compose for their projects.
All this being said, publishers can be a wonderful addition to a songwriter’s team — when it’s a good fit. Like everything in life, when considering a publishing deal, it’s all about relationships and having a clear and open line of communication between you and your publisher.
That wraps up my 5-day crash course on music publishing.
If you’re interested in earning more royalties from more places, be sure to check out Songtrust's features.
I'll be in touch in the coming weeks as we discover and develop insights into the world of music royalty collection services. And as always, please let me know if you have any questions by replying to this email.
Joe Conyers III
VP General Manager, Songtrust
ROYALTY REGISTRY: WWW.SONGTRUST.COM