To best understand what royalties are in music, you should understand what royalties are in general. Royalties are a sum of money that should be paid to a patentee or a creator for each time their work is sold or performed. Royalties can come from patents, copyrighted works, and even the use of natural resources.
Besides getting paid for CD sales, merchandise sales, and shows, there are other types of income that you can collect in the music world. When submitting your songs to radio stations, Youtube promoters, Spotify playlists, and licensing companies, these companies will more than likely owe you some form of monetary payment.
As long as you have protected and registered your music by signing up with the companies mentioned in the list below, you will be receiving checks in the mail!
Over the years, I've received several checks from multiple sources that allowed me to ball out at some well-known places, including Targét and Chic-Fil-A.
When a song is played or performed in a public setting, the owner of the composition and the publisher are owed performance royalties which are split 50/50. These types of performances can include terrestrial radio, music played in stores, and music on streaming sites like Pandora or YouTube.
Mechanical royalties are owed to the composer and publisher of a musical work each time a song is sold. This is important for songwriters that are not the actual artists or performers of the songs being sold, and a bonus for those who write and perform their music.
When songs are used in TV, film, radio, and the like, royalties are owed to the composer of the song and the publishing company that marketed the song successfully. The royalties are split 50/50, and sometimes include an upfront, one-time ‘Sync Fee’ for acquiring the song’s synch rights.
PROs for songwriters, or Performance Rights Organizations, are societies responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters when a song is performed for public broadcast. This means they collect money on your behalf for the music you’ve written when it’s played or performed.
This includes things like getting played on the radio, being featured in a commercial, or any live broadcasted event. PROs literally track down companies for you to make sure you get paid for your hard work and creations.
Current Songwriter PROs you can sign up with (you only need one):
ASCAP.com/join ($50 fee)
SongTrust.com/join (handles almost all types of royalties for you without the headache of $100!)
Chances are, not only did you write the song, but you performed it and possibly produced it as well. In order to get your songs placed on streaming sites like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music, you will need to sign up with a music distributor. Payments from music distributors will include mechanical and performance royalties.
There are dozens of trusted distributors out there for you to choose from, while the top 3 are listed below. I recommend using Distrokid since it's very user-friendly and the most affordable option. These sites will allow you to split the royalties among the performers, writers, producers, and any other parties involved.
Current distributors that you can sign up with (you only need one and I recommend Distrokid):
DistroKid.com (only $20 bucks for an unlimited amount of songs)
Tunecore.com (price varies)
CDBaby.com (price varies)
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There are two newer PRO organizations collecting money for the sound recording owner, while the others collect only for the songwriter. SoundExchange is free to register for and collects royalties for the party that owns the song master.
This includes payment for plays on digital streaming services like Pandora and Music Choice. Chances are, you wrote the songs and own the sound recording, yet are leaving money on the table.
Join BMI + SoundExchange, or ASCAP + SoundExchange to cover all of the royalties owed to you. Note that Distrokid currently collects royalties for the song master, so you won't need SoundExchange + Distrokid.
You can also just join Songtrust to get both of these types of royalties collected by one company for more ease. Songtrust then registers those songs with 45+ performance and mechanical collection societies worldwide in order to collect royalties generated from sales, streams, radio play, live performances, television broadcasts, etc.
Licensing and publishing companies find great music to place in TV, Film, Radio, Games, and similar exposure opportunities. There are hundreds of licensing companies online, with many new ones soon to be created.
A large percentage of these companies accept unsolicited submissions, meaning that they take the time to listen to all types of submissions from musicians and artists worldwide.
Some companies, like Audio Socket and Rumble Fish are easy to find with a quick google search, while others are smaller boutique agencies that deal with a few clients. I'm still waiting on my chance to get synchronization royalty income, but I will be sure to blog about it when it happens!
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
If you are ever in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services for your music project or brand, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her song services page. As an Amazon Associate, Yona Marie earns from qualifying purchases. Amazon and other affiliate products are recommended to genuinely help readers and keep this site up and running as well.