Song Royalties

USA Protection ONLY!

So you wrote some songs, that’s great! And you got a band to record one of your songs, even better. They liked your song enough to put on the bands latest album with several other songs, very cool! Very exciting things happening and you cant wait for your pay day!

One Year Later, at a music venue, a conversation with a music fan….

Music Fan: So dude, I heard you have one of your songs on the radio.

You: Yeah I heard its been played many times.

Music Fan: Have you bought a house yet from that song?

You: I havent received anything yet.

Music Fan: That doesnt make sense, why not?

You : I don’t know and I’m pissed!

Performing Rights Organizations (PRO)

The way the music industry tracks music play is through a private organization called a PRO. There are also a coupe other things you need to do to protect yourself and help get you paid and recognized. Here a couple items to help you understand a very basic process.

  • Register your original songs with the US government
  • Get isrc codes assigned to each song
  • Signup with ASCAP, SESAC or BMI (only 1 PRO) as an artist
  • Signup with ASCAP, SESAC or BMI (must use the same PRO) as a Publisher
  • Get a UPC label for your cd or for the album if you wrote the entire album, otherwise ask the band to get it done. UPC labels are not for individual songs.
  • Register with Soundscan – for charting your song

For most relatively unknown songwriters, it is not necessary to get all your original songs copyrighted with the government forms and your payment for each song. It gets way too expensive and unnecessary. Only when you have someone interested enough to record your song then it is time for protection.

Once your song is protected and recorded, you will need a code that the industry can corelate you to that specific song. That is done through digital coding on each song. Encode each song with your assigned unique isrc number. If this is a remix of a previous version then use a new isrc code for the newer release. That way both copies of the song can be tracked separately.

When you register your Song, as an artist for your PRO, they will be able to track play on that song.

If you don’t have a publisher account setup then 1/2 of your royalties will be unclaimed.

Can you buy a house from a song your wrote? Maybe. Doubtful! In order to get major airplay you need a major label. And that major label must be willing to push that band. And the band has to be amazing, the song has to be amazing and amazingly popular. And you have to get a bunch of airplay worldwide. And you will probably be using a publisher to make that happen so you will lose at least 25% to 50% + of your royalty money.

Bottom Line: Write music for the love of music. And if you get paid, that’s great! Just make sure you put in the proper process listed above to help you understand what kind of airplay you are currently getting.

One issue to note: If you don’t have albums or a track record, it may be difficult to get into a PRO. Do some research and let me know how it goes for you! I hear that SESAC is the most user friendly for new artists and songwriters.

Rock On…

Mike Parr


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