Music royalties are often one of the first exciting milestone when you’re on your way to making an income as an artist. Here’s our quick guide to music royalties and how to get paid.
First, you need to make sure you have intellectual property rights for your songs and recordings. By law, a song is copyrighted as soon as it’s created, so if you wrote or were involved in writing it, the law will recognise your contribution.
For recordings, the person who paid for the recording owns the rights, that could be yourself, a producer you work with, or a label if you’re signed, these are also called master rights. It pays to be aware of this and agree who owns master rights upfront before you record your music.
One of the keys to monetising your own creativity is to maintain control of as much of your content, or IP (intellectual property), as possible, which includes retaining your master rights.
Overall, to get paid the amount you’re due, you need to get together with your co-writers, performers, producers and anyone else involved, to figure out how the royalties will be distributed between you - and make sure you keep a signed record of what you decide.
If you register with the collective organisations like PRS and PPL who hold the licensing deals, you can earn money every time your music is played on radio, TV, in a club and even in a café. PRS and PPL record every use of a registered song or performance, ensuring that artists and contributors receive their cut of the royalties. Membership is £100 and once you’ve set up an account, you can register your songs, manage your earnings, log any live performances you’ve done as well as report any unrecorded plays of your songs. And if you’re self-releasing your music, sign up to PPL as a label and an artist, as they collect royalties for both - which means you’ll get paid twice.
But remember there can be a six month leadtime before you get the money.
How are music royalties paid?
When you play live, you can submit your set list and get paid per performance. You’ll either receive a flat fee if you didn’t charge entry into the venue, or you’ll get a percentage of the total box office revenue if it was a ticketed event. When it comes to radio play, royalties are paid per minute of airplay, and on streaming services like Spotify and iTunes, you’ll be paid per play or per download of your song. If you’re one of the few artists still releasing on good old-fashioned CDs, you can make money off sales.
Royalties are paid out four times a year, in April, July, October and December and you’ll keep receiving them every time your song is used until the copyright expires. For songs with rights that last the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years (and for recordings) you have 70 years from the date of the recording until the copyright runs out.
If it all sounds too confusing or you just want to free up your time to focus on the music, companies like Sentric will manage your PRS membership in return for a cut of your royalties. Depending on your situation this could be a useful option for you. In return, Sentric promote the use of your music in TV, film and video games, which might help get your name out there and ultimately increase your royalty payments.
As a new artist, how can you start earning royalties right now?
Playing live gigs is a great way to boost your royalties. You should also promote your release as so that word gets around and more people check you out – this is when it’s super important to be able to tap into your fanbase, like collecting email addresses and sending out promotional newsletters. Then the next time you release something, you can rely on your existing fans for instant listens, and instant royalties.
Learn more about royalties and how to make money from music at our Industry Takeover seminars. Discover more HERE.