Thursday, May 2, 2013

The 5 Kinds Of Music Publishing Payments

Music Publishing image
Too many musicians underestimate or just plain don't understand how important music publishing is. It's always been the hidden-in-plain-sight cash cow of the music business, but also has been one of the least sexy. That said, publishing is literally the gift that keeps on giving, where you can get paid (and paid well) while you sleep. It's also the one part of the business that still continues to do well even though it's taken a hit like most other areas in music.

DIY Musician posted a short article on publishing recently that I'd like to paraphrase a bit regarding the 5 kinds of payments that music publishing can provide. If you're not hip to publishing, hopefully this will wet your appetite to learn more.

1. Mechanical Royalties: Every time your song is sold either on a vinyl record, CD or MP3, the songwriter is entitled to $.091 per copy. What that means is that if there's an album with 10 of your songs on it, you'll make $.91. This is why some writers made big money in the glory days of the business when albums where king. It's also why those same writers have far less income these days where it's a singles world, and will have even less when the world changes to streaming, although you do get a mechanical from some services like Spotify, although at a far lower rate.

2. Performance Royalties: Every time your song is played in public, you're owed a royalty payment. This includes airplay on the radio (terrestrial, satellite or Internet) and television, or in restaurants, clubs or even high school plays (although that's a lot harder to collect).

3. Synchronization License Royalties: Whenever your music is played along with moving pictures like television or movies, the creator of the movie or video has to pay the songwriter a fee. If fact, if you're the artist as well and they use your recording, they have to pay a fee on that as well. This is where most of the growth in the publishing business has come from recently, thanks to the proliferation of television channels.

4. Sample License Royalties: If someone samples a piece of one of your recorded songs, they owe you a royalty. Once again, this is a relatively new revenue source that's only happened in the last 20 years. There's been some big lawsuits regarding samples that have largely gone in favor of the songwriter.

5. Sheet Music Royalties: Any time your music is reproduced in a printed form, you're owed a royalty. This includes hard or soft copy sheet music, lead sheets, and anything else that represents your music or lyrics. When the music business was young over a hundred years ago, this was the major source of revenue for the entire industry.

As you can see, publishing pays in more ways than one. Having a piece of a big hit can pay off for the rest of your life, which is why those in the know are so protective of it. I still get paid for some songs I wrote that appeared on the 80s hit television show Bay Watch (although it's not much these days), which goes to show how powerful being a songwriter can really be.


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