Sources of income for music makers


Mechanical royalties

These are paid by record companies and film and TV producers in order to acquire the right  to reproduce a piece of music onto records or tapes.   In most countries, there is one set rate of mechanical royalties rather than the royalties being negotiated each and every time a different song is exploited. The way, however, mechanical royalties are calculated differs from country to country.

Recording Artist Royalties

 When songwriters are also recording artists, they are also entitled to artist royalties which usually range from 10% to 25% of the suggested retail price for top-line albums, with deductions being made for packaging costs.

 Synchronization fees

  Synchronization fees are  paid by record companies and film and TV producers  in order to acquire the right to reproduce a song  onto a soundtrack of a film or tv show.  The terms of the license depend upon such factors as the importance of the song, the duration and type of use, the geographic scope etc.

Public performance royalties

Songwriters are entitled to royalties when their songs are sung or played, (either live or recorded), on radio and television or in  public places . Such royalties go to the composer  through his performing rights organization, which grants licenses to perform the music to thousands of music users, such as broadcasting stations, hotels, clubs, colleges, concert halls, wired music services, restaurants, stores,  airlines,etc.These organizations negotiate license-fee agreements with the users of music  which give the user the right to perform the music and lyrics of any member of these organizations. The fees collected are then distributed to the writers and publishers whose works are performed in these various areas.

Grand rights licensing

 A "grand" right  is the right of the copyright owner to perform or license others to perform his song in a dramatic manner, such as acting out the lyrics of the song, accompanying the performance with costumes, scenery or plot, or performing the song in conjunction with all or part of a scripted show (in the case of a piece of music originally written for a musical show).  All of those activities require a separate license from the one required for the small performing rights. 

 Performance royalties from motion picture theaters

 In most countries , motion picture theaters are required to pay performance royalties for music used in theatrically distributed films. These fees are collected by the local performing-rights society in each country  and then distributed to the writers and publishers whose  music is contained in the films.Theater license fees vary by country and are usually either a percentage of the theater's box office receipts or a fee based on the number of seats or the number of screenings per week.

Home-video royalties

 The sale of videos represents a significant source of revenue for the music publisher and songwriter. Home-video licensing is normally handled in one of three ways: (1)  per-video royalty , the royalty paid is based on a set rate  for each video sold.  (2)  one-time buy-out fee for all video rights, regardless of how many videos might be sold . (3)  roll-over advance, the producer or video distributor pays a certain advance for a specified number of videos, with additional predetermined sums paid as certain sales plateaus are achieved .


Another  source of income for the songwriter and music publisher is the use of songs in radio and TV commercials for consumer products. The fees paid by advertising agencies and their clients for commercials  depend on whether

(a) the commercial is for radio or TV,

(b) there are options for other countries,

(c) the original lyrics are being changed or new lyrics added, 

(d) the licensing is all-advertising exclusive or product-category-only exclusive

Cover recordings

  When a writer's song is  recorded by somebody else this is called a cover recording. Usually  the writer's royalty from the exploitation of "cover recordings" ranges between 50% and 65%.

  Audio home recording act  

There is a  section in the Copyright Law of most countries  that provides for royalties to be paid to songwriters, music publishers, recording companies and recording artists for the importation or manufacture of digital audio recording equipment and blank digital tape and compact discs. The act imposes a royalty on the sale of such devices which is collected by collecting societies on behalf of their member songwriters, composers, and  publishers.



Other Copyright Resources on the Web

U.S. Copyright Law

Canadian Copyright Law

European Commission Project

Berne Convention (International Copyright Treaty)

Universal Copyright Convention (International Copyright Treaty)

World Intellectual Property Organization 



Other Music Resources

Composers timeline and works.....Music Theory - Musicology.....Music History.....

Music essays.....Music competitions.....Music Festivals.....Music Awards.....

Lyrics.....Instruments.....Recording .....Music search.....Artists' websites.....

Soundtrack music.....Samples.....Guitar MIDI.....Classical music MIDI.....Sheet Music

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