SoundCheck: Where Do Songwriter Royalties Go?

  • Michael Leahy

    There’s an answer missing: they are collected by authors rights societies who then forward them to the writers they administer.

    • Anonymous


      I thought the same thing, then I researched it.

      It turns out this is not the case.

      There are two rights digital music services outside the US need in order to use your songs in their stores:
      Now let me present three scenarios

      Scenario One :You are not a member of any collection agency anywhere in the world
      In this case, the digital store must come to you directly and get the two license and make royalty payments to you directly
      Scenario Two: You are a member of one of the US based performing rights organizations ASCAP/BMI/SESAC
      In this case, ASCAP/BMI/SESAC only represent Public Performances for you, they do not represent the right of Reproduction (the second right digital stores need to sell your music)
      In this case, the digital store must come to you (or the entity that represents the right of Reproduction) and get the license and make payments directly.
      If it does not, it is violating copyright law and not paying you all your royalties.
      Scenario Three: You are a member of a non-US based collection agency

      Non US collection agencies vary country to country. For example, in Japan, JASRAC can represent both Public Performance and Reproduction (mechanical royalties) whereas in Canada, SOCAN represents Public Performances and CMRRA represents the right of Reproduction (mechanical royalties).

      You can join one or both.

      If you join both in your own country, you will only get all your owed royalties from sales in your own county.

      Also, in all cases, the right of Reproduction, unlike the right of Public Performance is not passed on from collection agency to collection agency – therefore we are back at the digital store not having the license it needs (Reproduction) to sell your music.

      Assuming the right is passed along, if sales occur outside of your country you will only get your Public Performance royalties NOT your mechanical royalties

      For example, if you live in Germany and choose to hire the German collection agency GEMA to work for you and your music downloads in Japan or the UK, GEMA gets you back the royalty from Public Performance, it does not get you the royalty back owed for “Reproduction” (mechanical royalties).

      These mechanical royalties will sit in Japan and the UK – the collection agency takes about 15% of your money and then, after some period of time passes, they give it to Warner, EMI, Sony and Universal and others based on their market share. The only way to get it is to have someone on your behalf affiliate with the collection agency on to get it.

      For example, if you want to join the collection agency called JASRAC in Japan to get your mechanical royalties, you have to fit their rules which state:

      You must have a business in Japan

      You cannot be a member of any other collection agency

      Therefore, assuming you even knew this money existed for you, you cannot get it on your own.

  • Brian

    Before I knew the rules (yesterday), I just setup my first record release as a label, and I negotiated directly with my Australian distributor regarding digital sales, he pays me directly and I pay the mechanicals. Am I now in illegal territory?