Jacqueline Rosokoff is a member of the TuneCore Artist Support Team. Jacqueline also a member of Doctor Uke & Daughters.
Your music may be bringing in money you’re unaware of. If your songs are streamed on satellite, internet, or cable radio stations, it is required by law that you receive royalties. Don’t worry if this is the first you’re hearing of this law⎯ money previously earned is still safe and waiting to be collected. Read on to find out how to get it.
If your recordings have been played on “non-terrestrial based radio,” which refers to satellite radio stations (like Sirius- XM), internet radio (like Pandora), or via your cable provider, U.S. federal law requires that you receive streaming royalties. If it’s your song, or your voice, or your instrumental on the recording, it’s your money.
SoundExchange, a non-profit organization, administered by a board of artists and label representatives, was appointed by the Library of Congress to collect and distribute these royalties to artists like you. It is free to register with SoundExchange to collect your past or future royalties. There are no strings or catches. We promise.
The federal law, introduced in 1998, requires that the payments from streaming be split in three ways: 50% is paid to the copyright holder, the individual or group who owns the rights to the recording. 45% goes to the featured artist, or individual or band who recorded the track. The remaining 5% goes into a fund supporting backup singers and session musicians. So following these guidelines, an artist who wrote the song and recorded it would receive 95% of the money collected from the qualifying radio play.
To monitor and collect this money, the music streaming companies provide detailed electronic play logs which are matched to individual recordings allowing SoundExchange to pay out exactly what is earned. As soon as you sign up online, you can collect royalties you’ve earned dating back to the beginning of collections in 1996. We did a database match of TuneCore Artists with SoundExchange and discovered that TuneCore artists have around $2 million in unclaimed royalties.
Just to clarify, plays from sites like YouTube or MySpace do not fall under the umbrella of this law, because on these sites listeners can select the specific tracks they wish to stream. The law also excludes radio play on the AM/FM “terrestrial” stations. Terrestrial radio stations broadcast music out over airwaves, not over the internet, cable, or a satellite.
In order to collect your money you need to sign up for free with SoundExchange. Once you’re registered, they will pay out any money that your music has earned. In 2009, SoundExchange paid $149.5 million in streaming royalties, and since its inception in 2003, the organization has paid out over $361 million. SoundExchange is not in the category of traditional Performance Rights Organizations (sometimes called “PRO”), like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, as these organizations protect the rights of the songwriter and publisher. As specified by the law, SoundExchange collects royalties for the performer and the copyright holder of the recording.
Again, TuneCore artists have received around $2 million from non-terrestrial based airplay. To get registered with SoundExchange to discover if they have your money, go to soundexchange.com, register online or print and mail the forms, and you will be set up to receive all of the royalties you’re owed. Make sure you collect the money that you as an artist are entitled to.