Category Archives: YouTube Composition Royalties

July Songwriter News

By Stefanie Flamm

The music industry may seem like it’s settling into its predictable lull, but songwriters and publishers worldwide are fighting harder than ever for a fair marketplace:

  • The US Department of Justice rules in favor of licensing regulations that many songwriters and publishers see as “a clusterf—k of epic proportions.
  • YouTube announces $2 billion in gross earnings for rights owners using their Content ID system.
  • After a $750m buyout from the Michael Jackson Estate, Sony now owns the rights to 50% of Sony/ATV and its catalogue of over 2 million songs.

The Department of Justice passed new legislation that could mean smaller royalty payouts for songwriters across the United States.


When it comes to the world of publishing, the biggest news of the month, by far, has been the US Department of Justice’s recent ruling in favor “100 percent licensing,” meaning that for songs with multiple songwriters, a licensee only requires a license from one of the contributors (instead of each of them). The music industry as a whole is shocked and upset by this verdict, especially in the wake of petitions fighting for a total overhaul of the already-outdated legislation currently in place. Songwriters and publishers alike fear that this could mean lower royalty payout, more complicated work for PROs, and an increase in royalty disputes across the industry.

“Instead of making the necessary modifications, we have been saddled with a disruptive proposal that ignores songwriters’ concerns for our future livelihoods in a streaming world, serves absolutely no public interest and creates confusion and instability for all of us who depend on the efficiencies of collective licensing,” said ASCAP’s President Paul Williams released a statement on July 11th.

The DoJ’s decision was carefully thought-out based on the trajectory of the music industry in the digital age, stemming specifically from the idea that 100 percent licensing would make it easier for parties like Pandora to license music. However, even the US Copyright Office has put in a negative word about the verdict and urges the DoJ to rethink 100 percent licensing.

In a 33-page reaction to the new regulations, the US Copyright Office “believes that an interpretation of the consent decrees that would require these PROs to engage in 100-percent licensing presents a host of legal and policy concerns. Such an approach would seemingly vitiate important principles of copyright law, interfere with creative collaborations among songwriters, negate private contracts, and impermissibly expand the reach of the consent decrees.”

While music licensees see the DoJ decision as a smart move in the fact of the current prevalence of music streaming, they’re going to receive a lot of pushback from songwriters and publishers alike. It doesn’t look like BMI, ACSAP, or the US Copyright Office are looking to back down any time soon, so hopefully for the sake of publishers everywhere, the DoJ can go back to the drawing board and retool a system that benefits both the songwriters and the digital streaming services that are licensing music.

YouTube proudly announces $2 billion in gross earnings for rights owners through their Content ID technology, but the music industry needs more convincing.


YouTube announced in a July 14th blog post that they have collected over $2 billion in streaming revenue for rights owners using their rights management system Content ID, double what YouTube reported back in 2014.

For those unfamiliar with Content ID, the system uses audio files submitted to them by a partner (like TuneCore YouTube Sound Recording Revenue Service), and then detects those audio files on third-party videos uploaded to YouTube to monetize on behalf of the rights owner. In layman’s terms, if someone uses your song on a cat video that goes viral, you get paid for any money that the video makes as the rights owner of the music. It has been a lucrative service for many artists in the industry, with YouTube being one of the most popular methods with which to stream music.

“We take protecting creativity online seriously, and we’re doing more to help battle copyright-infringing activity than ever before,” Senior Policy Counsel for Google, Katie Oyama, said in the statement.

However, many songwriters and publishers on the other side of that $2 billion have a different perspective on YouTube’s news. Both labels and publishers alike have argued that Content ID fails to recognize as much as 40% of their music on third-party videos in YouTube. Additionally, while YouTube claims that 98% of the time rights owners prefer to monetize videos rather than take them down, representatives of the music industry believe that Content ID encourages YouTube piracy.

“Their pitch goes something like this: ‘Hey, advertising is good for you. Why not use Content ID to cash in on all the piracy by getting a share of revenue we can generate from ad placement?’ Well, they don’t call it piracy – but make no mistake, in the end, their whole scheme still depends on a culture of piracy,” said Maria Schneider in an op-ed for Music Technology Policy.

It’s hard to discern who’s really in the right with the Content ID debate, since rights owners are making a marginal streaming payout from each video play and, like any automated system, there will be hiccups based on similar sounding recordings, use of samples, etc. What’s clear is that YouTube is trying to make lemonade out of lemons for musicians who would otherwise be making nothing from these pirated videos. While it’s not an ideal situation for rights owners, one can hope it’s at least a step in the right direction as we learn to deal with the repercussions of the digital age in the music industry.

Despite protestations from competition, groups in the EU give Sony the greenlight for their $750m purchase of the Michael Jackson Estate’s 50% stake in Sony/ATV.


Since Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, his partial ownership of Sony/ATV and its massive catalogue of songs have been up in the air. Sony made moves to resolve this back in March of this year, agreeing to purchase Jackson’s 50% stake in the company for $750 million, giving Sony full ownership of the Sony/ATV catalogue. However, earlier this month, Sony competitors Warner and IMPALA unsuccessfully challenged the acquisition in Europe, slowing down the purchase but ultimately not grinding it to a halt.

Universal and IMPALA both came to the EU’s antitrust organizations in regards to the purchase, claiming that Sony’s acquisition of the over two million songs would create a market-distorting level of power in favor of Sony. The massive catalogue, which includes works from Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and the Beatles, alongside Sony’s administration of the EMI music publishing catalogue, gives the company a 28% global market share.

Upon the approval of the acquisition, the European Commission released a statement saying, “the transaction would have no negative impact on competition in any of the markets for recorded music and music publishing in the European Economic Area.” Representatives from IMPALA have called the verdict “clearly wrong,” but it looks like Sony still gets to walk away the winner of this fight.

SOUND BYTES

We Find Your YouTube Composition Royalties. You Get the Money.

[Editors Note: This article is written by the TuneCore Music Publishing office.]

As the world of digital content grows, the agreements between the societies and digital service providers around the globe also adapt. Sometimes faster than a drumbeat.

That’s why artists, who want to collect all their potential songwriting royalties from YouTube, need someone on their team who can stay on top of all the changes and get them the most money possible. That someone is the team at TuneCore Music Publishing Administration.

We know you have questions, and we’ve got some basic answers that can help you understand how you can make more money from your compositions on YouTube.

When my compositions are in YouTube videos do they generate money?

Yes. Your compositions generate money on YouTube when your music is used in other people’s videos and on your own YouTube videos.

What types of royalties do my compositions generate on a YouTube video?

There are two types of royalties:
1.) A mechanical royalty (a.k.a synchronization royalty in some territories). Every time a song you’ve written is manufactured to be sold in a CD, downloaded on a digital music store, or streamed through services like Spotify and Rdio, you are owed a mechanical royalty. In the case of YouTube this can also be considered a synchronization royalty because the music is synchronized to a moving picture (video).

2.) A performance royalty. A performance royalty is owed to songwriters and/or publishers of a song whenever that composition is “broadcast” or performed “in public.”

An additional royalty for the sound recording is also generated, and this is a separate revenue stream from the composition royalty. (For more information on collecting sound recording revenue, click here.)

What happens to the royalties my compositions generate on YouTube?

In the U.S.:
If other people use your compositions on their videos on YouTube, YouTube will pay this money to the copyright owner (you) but only if you are represented by a publishing administrator.

  1. An administrator must register your compositions with YouTube in order for you to receive this money.
  2. One exception to this is for videos on your own YouTube channel. If you claim the compositions on your own channel, then you would receive the mechanical (synchronization) royalty directly from YouTube. Note that the performance uses for your self-owned videos would still go to the local collection agency (or Performing Rights Organization in the US like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC).
  3. In general, if your compositions are not claimed, you do not receive the money.
  4. YouTube does not pay retroactively, so you must claim your compositions as soon as possible.

Outside of the US:
ALL of these royalties are automatically paid to the various collection societies around the world, just like any other streaming service (i.e. Spotify). In most cases, without a publishing administrator you will not be able to receive this money.

  1. This happens for both the mechanical (sometimes defined as synchronization) and performance royalties.
  2. These societies pay this money to the copyright holders of the compositions.
  3. You must be registered by an administrator in their territory to receive your money.
  4. There are reciprocal agreements in place for the performance royalty between ASCAP, BMI & SESAC etc.. However, this does not include the mechanical (synchronization) royalty.

Can I collect these royalties without a publishing administrator?

Without a publishing administrator, you would only see the resulting performance money generated by 3rd party videos IF your compositions are identified by the societies. You have a better chance of receiving this money in full by having a publishing administrator like TuneCore register your compositions with YouTube and the collection societies worldwide (including BMI, ASCAP & SESAC etc.).

How does TuneCore find my composition royalties on YouTube so I can get paid?

The simplest way to explain this is in the chain that is created when a video includes a song and that song is identified.

  1. TuneCore registers the composition directly with YouTube.
  2. The composition is matched to any sound recordings previously identified on YouTube containing that composition. This process happens after a sound recording ID request has been made by an entity like the service TuneCore uses to collect sound recording revenue, or by a record label.
  3. TuneCore collects the composition royalties from YouTube.
  4. TuneCore puts the money directly in an artist’s TuneCore account via their quarterly publishing statement.

How much can I get paid?

Different types of ads generate different levels of money. A pop-up ad would generate differently than a banner ad or a commercial leading up to the video being streamed. It also depends on the viewer territory, the ad’s format, the device of the user and the user experience.

As the world of digital content grows and the agreements between the societies and digital service providers change, often rapidly, we are here for you.

With the TuneCore Music Publishing Administration team and its 100+ years of combined experience in your corner, your chances of collecting the optimum amount of money that your compositions generate on YouTube are very upbeat.

A Goal: Performance Royalty Accountability In 2012

By George Howard
(follow George on Twitter)

Imagine a scenario in which the moment you create a piece of music it is: digitally fingerprinted and registered (with the Library of Congress, and your PRO). Imagine then that when that music is used in a TV show, this usage is immediately detected, and the public performance fee you are owed is immediately transferred to your bank account.

Sound too good to be true? Well, the reality is that the technology for just such a scenario described above exists.  Additionally, we clearly have motivated buyers and sellers to make this happen.

However, instead of moving toward a system like the one described above — a system of transparency and accuracy — we continue to bumble through a system that really hasn’t changed in the last 100 years or so.

If we’re to have any optimism towards the business of music continuing to grow — in an era when music creators have seen their revenue from sales go from roughly $7 per sale for a full album, to fractions of pennies for a stream of the same album — we MUST push for innovation in the measuring, collecting, and paying of music usage.

I recently met, Scott Schreer, the founder of a company called TuneSat.  In talking with him, my optimism that we may indeed be tilting toward not only a healthy music business, but one where songwriters can flourish, has been greatly enhanced.

This is not an ad for TuneSat. I’ve not used the service, and while, based on my limited exposure to him, Mr. Schreer certainly is a very smart and passionate individual, I simply don’t know enough about him or his company to recommend or not recommend it.  I do, however, feel strongly that it’s worth your time to check out and make your decision.

Rather, TuneSat represents a tangible example of how technology might alter the economic fortunes for composers, artists, and publishers alike (anyone that has an interest in a royalty stream).

Music used in TV, at last count, accounts for $800 million of the $2 billion distributed to composers annually by the PROs in the US.  Additionally, music used in TV represents something akin to what radio used to represent for artists: exposure that can lead to sales/streams of their work, ticket/merch sales, etc…

No one can deny that the goal of many musicians is to have their music used on TV.  However, the vast majority of musicians are woefully under-informed about how the process works.

It’s not their fault.  As stated above, it’s an old and outmoded system; one that pretty much defines byzantine.

For instance, question one: how much do you get paid when your song is played on TV? Impossible to answer.  The variables are many: is it a theme song, what time of day was it aired, are there vocals on the track, is there anything else surrounding it (people talking, etc…), is it background instrumental music.  Beyond these, one massive distinction is whether or not the song is what’s called a “featured registration” or a “non-featured registration.”  A featured registration is essentially a song that has a band or artist associated with the track (i.e. a song that was released on a CD, available from iTunes).  A non-featured registration is a work that was written specifically for the TV show or ad.  This distinction becomes very important when you realize that a featured registration earns the writer six to ten times what a non-featured registration earns when it’s broadcast.

These and other weighing factors make a huge difference to the bottom line of the rights’ holders whose music is used on TV.

However, there’s yet another problem. Mr. Schreer informs me that as much as 80% of all music that’s on TV is misreported.  This means that music is being broadcast on TV, and the author (or copyright holder) is not getting paid the correct amount (if anything).  Typically, this misreporting occurs as a result of human error in conjunction with the byzantine classifications used by the PROs in order to calculate weightings (and thus payments).

TuneSat’s goal is to use fingerprinting in order to reduce this number.  Even a fractional reduction when you’re dealing with $800 million represents tremendous value for artists.

I hope that they pull it off.

As we can see all around us (from the financial world to the Arab Spring) institutions that eschew transparency are crumbling.  Technology is making it increasingly difficult to obfuscate the flow of information.  As we increase transparency, we reduce transaction costs, and thus increase profitability for artists.

This is truly our best hope. As the barriers of entry for broadcasters come down, and an increasing amount of music is streamed, rights holders have an opportunity to make up in volume what they are losing in margin, but only if we increase accuracy in collection, reporting, and payment.

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George Howard is the former president of Rykodisc. He currently advises numerous entertainment and non-entertainment firms and individuals. Additionally, he is the Executive Editor of Artists House Music and is an Associate Professor of Music Business/Management at Berklee.  He is most easily found on Twitter at: twitter.com/gah650