Hitting the Right Note: Ensuring You Receive Royalties for Your Music

Here’s how to stay on top of your game and ensure you’re not missing out on the royalties you deserve.

For musicians, the creation of music isn't just an artistic endeavor—it's a potential source of income. Royalties are the financial lifeblood of a musical career, ensuring you get paid for the use of your work. But navigating the complex world of music royalties can be as intricate as composing a symphony. Here’s how to stay on top of your game and ensure you’re not missing out on the royalties you deserve.

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Understand Different Types of Royalties

Before you can claim them, you need to know the types of royalties you’re entitled to:

  1. Mechanical Royalties: Earned when your music is reproduced, such as through CD sales, downloads, and streaming.
  2. Performance Royalties: Generated when your music is played publicly, like on the radio, in venues, or through online platforms.
  3. Synchronization Royalties: Arise when your music is used in sync with visual media, such as in movies, TV shows, commercials, or video games.
  4. Print Royalties: Accrued from the sale of sheet music or other printed musical scores.

Step 1: Copyright Your Music

As mentioned in our previous guide, copyrighting your music is the first step to ensuring you can collect royalties. It’s the legal foundation of your rights as a creator.

Step 2: Register with a PRO

Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC collect performance royalties on behalf of songwriters and publishers. Register with a PRO to ensure you get paid whenever your music is played publicly.

Step 3: Work with a Mechanical Rights Agency

To collect mechanical royalties, especially from digital music services, you’ll need to be affiliated with an agency such as the Harry Fox Agency in the U.S. or Music Reports, which manage mechanical licensing and royalties.

Step 4: Sign Up for SoundExchange

For digital performances, such as internet radio, satellite radio, and cable TV music channels, you need to register with SoundExchange. It’s the sole organization designated to collect and distribute digital performance royalties for sound recordings in the U.S.

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Step 5: Keep Track of Synchronization Licenses

When your music is used in audiovisual works, ensure that synchronization licenses are properly secured. These agreements should specify royalty rates and terms.

Step 6: Collect International Royalties

If your music crosses borders, sign up with an organization that collects royalties internationally or ensure your domestic PRO has reciprocal agreements with foreign entities.

Step 7: Review Statements and Data Regularly

Royalty statements can be complex, but reviewing them is crucial. Check your statements for errors, underpayment, or unclaimed royalties.

Step 8: Utilize Royalty Collection Services

For independent artists, services like CD Baby Pro and TuneCore offer publishing administration that helps collect royalties worldwide.

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Step 9: Educate Yourself and Stay Updated

The music industry is constantly changing, especially with new digital platforms. Stay informed about how these changes might affect your royalties.

Step 10: Consider Music Publishing Deals

A music publisher can be valuable in managing your rights and royalties, especially if you’re generating significant interest. They can help in collecting royalties and pitching your music for synchronization opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Securing your music royalties requires vigilance, knowledge, and sometimes a bit of help from specialized agencies. Take the time to understand where your royalties come from, register with the relevant organizations, and keep a close eye on your earnings. Your music is your legacy—and with the right steps, it can also be a sustainable source of income.

The ecosystem of music royalties is multifaceted, but it's navigable with the right knowledge and partnerships. By taking control of your royalties, you're not just protecting your work; you're also reinforcing the value of music as a profession and an art form.

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