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Make Your Music Pay: One Song, Multiple Revenue Streams

MAKE YOUR MUSIC PAY:  ONE SONG, MULTIPLE REVENUE STREAMS


I’d always heard that songwriting was lucrative, but it wasn’t until I got into this business that I learned exactly how it brings in so much bank.

Check this out. You write a song. You get it aired with the support of an online music distribution company. You copyright that song and upload it. People download it, retweet it, add it to their Facebook page and Spotify playlists. You get some royalties from those end-user platforms your fans have used to download your song. You know you’ve got a hit—maybe not a chart climber, but a tune people like. 

Still wondering “how to promote my album”?

You hook up with a publisher. You assign him 50 percent of the copyright. He helps you register the album with the Harry Fox Agency for mechanical rights and a PRO like ASCAP to handle the licenses that ensure that you get paid performance royalties. You go into the studio and record the songs from the album.

The recorded songs gets airplay. You receive a royalty every time it plays, no matter how big or small the station is. Other people cover it at bars and restaurants, and you get a royalty every time it’s performed.

Along comes a guy producing a commercial.Your publisher invites him to a live performance. He hears your song and wants to use it in his commercial. You have now bagged synch (synchronization) royalties. You will be paid each and every time that commercial airs—no matter where it airs. Oh, and by the way, you also got a royalty on your live performance of your own song. More on that later in the post.

So let’s tally up: You now get royalties from:

  • Live performances of your song by you or any other performer (performance rights)
  • Radio (performance rights)
  • TV airplay (synch rights)
  • Other musicians who want to record your song (mechanical rights)

Now, while individual royalty amounts vary—most are fractions of a penny—and some people may say it’s not worth registering your songs, it’s pretty cool to be making a passive income on something you may have put a couple of hours or days into.

TERMS FOR NEWBIE SONGWRITERS


If you’re new to the game, you have never heard about Harry Fox. And you’ve probably heard conflicting stories about PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

I can’t tell you what to do, but I can help decipher some of what I’ve written in this post to help you on your quest for the music dollar.

Copyright. This gives you complete ownership over the song you’ve written. You get it from the Library of Congress. If anyone ever tries to perform, record or change your song in any way, you have the legal right to stop them and/or get them to pay you royalties.

  • To copyright your work, either record it or write it out and send the recording or written version to the Library of Congress. That’s it.

  • Publisher:  A person or company who helps promote your songs. They get partial (assignment) of the copyright or you “transfer” the entire copyright to them. In return, they pitch your songs to industry pros like labels and TV/film producers. You may act as your own publisher.

  • License: Right to play copyrighted music. Bars, restaurants and radio stations pay license fees for the right to play copyrighted music in their establishments.

  • PRO: Performance Rights Organizations. They monitor radio stations, bars, clubs, restaurants—even stores—to ensure they are licensed to play copyrighted music, including yours.

  • Mechanical Rights: The right to record a song. Once you’ve registered your song with Harry Fox, anyone who wants to record it must pay you a royalty.

  • Performance Rights: The right to perform a song. Once you’ve registered your song with a PRO who enforces the licenses, you will be paid every time your song is performed. Since it’s the establishment paying the license fee, that includes performances of your song by you.

  • Synch Rights: Right to use song to accompany video. This includes TV as well as film.

This is by no means a comprehensive dive into songwriting revenue.  There’s a lot more to it and everyone has an opinion.  They’re like…well you know.

What I do know is that talented people deserve to be paid. No one has the right to steal your stuff. Protect your work any way you can. And, listen, those little bits of royalties can add up.

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