Collect Music Royalties – Part 1 – Interview with Paul Fischer

Todd McCartyMusic9 Comments

collect music royalties paul fischer todd mccarty interview song royalties

How to Collect All Of the Royalties You Are Owed.

If you are an independent musician trying to collect music royalties, you need to collect music royalties from digital services like Spotify and Apple, but also Performance Rights Organizations (PROs), Neighbouring Rights, publishing royalties, and even YouTube.

In this multi-part series, we are taking reader questions about music royalties, explaining the different types of royalties, collection societies, and services. For example, performance royalties, mechanical royalties, neighboring rights, and how much does a songwriter earn in royalties?

Listen to this interview to learn how to collect all of the royalties you are owed. We pay special attention to collecting royalties for self released artists that are unsigned to a label or publisher.

Audio Interview (click to listen)

About Paul Fischer

Paul Fischer is a royalty manager for a major business management firm, and was previously at Rhino / Warner Music Group. He ensures artists and rights owners are properly accounted to and not leaving any money on the table.

But before he was in the financial part of the business he left a giant footprint on the indie rock scene. He got his start at seminal indie label Crank Records, for those that don’t know about Crank, they released some of the most important post hardcore, indie rock and “emo” records in the 90’s, from artists like Cursive, Mineral, Nevo Divina, Boys Life, and vinyl records with songs from Jimmy Eat World and Bright Eyes.

Paul started a label around the same time with a friend and they called it Better Looking Records. He carried on finding amazing artists – mostly from California like The Album Leaf, The Jealous Sound, and Tristeza.

That’s around the time I met Paul and we did some work together. The Jealous Sound was preparing to tour with Foo Fighters. And shortly after that we worked on a split with Cursive and the Japanese band Eastern Youth. It was a wild time, and I recall there was a Christmas 7” from Jimmy Eat World too. 

About Todd McCarty

Todd McCarty (that’s me – I run this blog). I was at Sony Music USA as Senior Vice President of Sales, and the long time General Manager for rock indie label Fearless Records. My passion is educating and developing independent artists, and I’ve helped create “heat on the street” for artist like Portugal. The Man, I Prevail, Plain White T’s, Motionless In White, Mayday Parade, Breathe Carolina, and many more.

Aside from the artists I’ve worked with, many might recognize the “Punk Goes Pop” compilations released on Fearless Records. You can love me or hate me for those, but they’ve streamed in the billions, and sold tens of millions of tracks. Those cover songs have also come with plenty of music rights challenges which was a great way to learn about royalties.

Consequently I‘ve also been in your shoes. I was a working musician, tour manager, released my own albums as an unsigned artist, and booked and promoted national tours.

Transcript from Interview

If audio is not your preference you can read the full transcript from the interview below. There are several links, infographics, and resources in the transcript below.

Todd: Did I get your bio right, Paul? Anything to add?

Paul: Yeah, you got it. Thanks Todd! I remember sitting in my apartment packing seven inch records of the Jimmy Eat World Christmas vinyl that we released and sending them out all by myself. It was definitely a crazy time doing an indie label. But yeah, I love royalties. I love figuring out royalties and trying to navigate it, and make sure bands are set up to get all of the royalties they can.

Todd: Originally, you and I discussed a one time podcast style discussion on collecting royalties. But after I got the questions back from the readers, you made the suggestion, we should probably break this up into a couple segments. So this will be the first of what I hope will be many. 

And we both agreed that the goal for this first one would be to answer your most common questions about music royalties. And that most common question was…

Is There One Service That Will Collect All Of My Music Royalties?

Todd: So how do artists ensure they are collecting all of the royalties they’re due? And really, this has two questions in it. To collect all of your royalties, you have to know about the various types. So we’re going to help you learn about those. And there’s also going to be a few you probably didn’t know about.

So let’s get into this. And by the end, we’ll have a good overview of the royalty types and how you can collect them.

Paul: Right, so you had sent me a question from someone saying, like “I’m registered with several different collection services, but I feel like I’m missing money”. And they went on to say “It’s difficult to register for all these services, one streamlined process would be amazing. Does that exist?”

So that that’s from John Clark, and, yes, I agree with him. It would be amazing if there was just one place to go to get all the royalties and not have to navigate all the different places.

What we’re going to try to do right now is just give a macro view of where should artists go and what sources of royalties should they be collecting for?

So the first and, when people do research they see that there’s usually two or three different types. 

So the first level is the Master Royalty, so that’s the Sound Recording. And I think that if you’re a self-released indie artist, then most of your master royalties are being covered if you have digital distribution. So if you’re using a digital distributor like Tunecore, Distrokid, SongTradr, The Orchard, or any of those types of services, you’re digitally distributing your sound recordings. They’re getting your music out there and generating revenue. So sales on Spotify, iTunes, Apple, etc. So that’s kind of the first step. Your masters are being distributed, you’re getting, you know, sales and streams.

Then, after you’ve done that step, the next step I think you should be looking at would be the publishing side. So if you’re a songwriter (in the United States) and you wrote all those songs (or contributed), then you want to register as a songwriter with a PRO (Performance Rights Organization) like ASCAP, or BMI, or SESAC. If you’re outside of the US, then register with one of the PRO’s in your country. Sign up as a songwriter. Also in the case of ASCAP, they want you to sign up as a publisher too.

Or in the case of BMI (if you choose them instead), you can sign up as a publisher or you can have your publishing shares go through your writer shares. And we can get deeper into that later. But basically you want to get signed up with a PRO. Again, in the US the choices are ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. Or there is PRS in the UK. It depends what territory you’re in. 

Here is a List of PRO’s around the World. (Source: Wikipedia) Choose one in your home country.

So, you’ve written a song, you’ve released it, you’re going to get performance royalties from your PRO, and master royalties from your digital distributor.

Do PRO’s Collect All of My Publishing Royalties?

Paul: One of the things we see self released artists do, is they’ve signed up with ASCAP and then they call it a day. That’s as far as their royalty collection goes. They say, okay, good. I have my songwriter account set up, and my publishing account set up. But usually one of these two things are missing. 

I’ve seen people sign up in ASCAP and then not register all their songs. And obviously ASCAP doesn’t know what catalog they should be collecting. So you need to register all your songs with your PRO. And then don’t stop there. 

Sometimes an artist feels like they’re getting all their publishing royalties because they’re on ASCAP or BMI.  They’re only paying you on performances. So if it’s played on terrestrial radio, or TV, or you got a sync on TV –  they’re paying you performances of the songs, the compositions. But you could be missing out on streaming mechanicals, or foreign mechanical royalties from outside of your country. 

But you could be missing out on streaming mechanicals, or foreign mechanical royalties from outside of your country. 

So it’s great you got signed up with a PRO, but you should probably get signed up with a Publishing Administrator to make sure you’re collecting the whole world of publishing. You know, all the different revenue streams and publishing (mechanical streaming royalties, YouTube micro-sync, international performance royalties) that your PRO misses. Furthermore, your PRO only collects your writer shares, not publisher shares. 

How Many Royalty Collection Services Do I Really Need?

Todd: So, sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to comment that it’s not an easy thing to do either – if you’ve never done it before. Getting your digital distribution set up is one thing, and it’s a lot of work. You’ve got to register all of your metadata. And then you’ve got to do it again, for your PRO. And after you do all of that, it seems like so much effort you’ve put in. I’m done. Now I can relax. But unfortunately, you need to set up your publishing with a Publishing Administrator, and do that work again.

So that makes at least three collection services that you need. But since self releasing artists have no label or publishing company collecting for them, they need even more.

That’s a good thing, because it means there are lots of ways to monetize your music. And we’ll discuss those other ones too.

Some of these Publishing Administrators will make the process easy for you. Some you really have to just provide them with what Paul was saying – all of your song data and metadata. But, yeah, you really do have to do this additional step of getting a Publishing Administrator. 

Infographic: The 6 Types of Music Royalties

When you are totally independent and self releasing your music, you have to do the work that typically labels and publishers would do to ensure you are collecting all of your royalties. This infographic (above) tells you how to collect them, and where they originate.

Infographic: Music Rights vs. Music Royalties

Collect Music Royalties how do royalties work

Image by Royalty Exchange

Thanks to the smart folks at Royalty Exchange for allowing us to share this infographic with you. I like this because if you read the headings and sub-headings from left to right, royalties suddenly make total sense.

Try saying it while viewing left to right.

“A Song, creates a, Copyright / which is granted certain, Rights /
that allow, Rightsholders / to collect Royalties”.

Put Your Song Catalog on a Metadata Excel Spreadsheet

Paul: Yeah, and I think it’s a good thing to have your catalogue set up in an Excel spreadsheet. You know, this is the recording, the ISRC, UPC, and it has the songwriters and producer on it. And just have a nice comprehensive catalog of your work. That way you are ready, and you can always reference it if you need to. And when you’re signing up on a service, you have it right there in front of you in an Excel spreadsheet. 

FREE DOWNLOAD: We’ve got you covered on that Metadata Spreadsheet. Click here to redeem. If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, request by email and we’ll send it.

Something New Coming January 2021 – Collect US Streaming Mechanicals from the MLC

Paul: There is a new thing called the MLC, The Mechanical Licensing Collective that’s starting up here in the US and that’s going to be a source for US based artists (or songwriters) to collect streaming mechanical royalties from the streaming services (DSPs).

Note: If you are using a Publishing Administrator like SongTrust, Audiam, Sentric, CDBabyPro, it is not necessary to register your songs with MLC.

The MLC’s Mission: Starting in January 2021, The MLC will issue and administer blanket mechanical licenses for eligible streaming and download services (digital service providers or DSPs) in the United States. The MLC will then collect the royalties due under those licenses from the DSPs and pay songwriters, composers, lyricists, and music publishers. The MLC is committed to performing this important responsibility effectively and transparently. 

US self-released artists can get updates and start your registration here

Paul: And one of the things that the MLC are reaching out and trying to promote right now is get your catalog together. You know, make sure you have a spreadsheet of everything that you own and the splits ready to go. And I think that’s a great concept. Every artist should already have that ready to go.

So that’s the publishing side. Just the simple thing of getting signed up with a Publishing Administrator would be worthwhile for independent artists, because then you’re gonna get streaming mechanicals. So you know, if you have a million streams on Spotify, then there’s publishing mechanical royalties that are there that you can be collecting. And these publishing administrators, like Audium and SongTrust, they’ll go out and you can allow them to collect the publishing side of YouTube, also. So there’s different kinds of publishing revenue that you should be getting beyond your PRO.

Todd: Yeah, I’ll leave some links to SongTrust and Audium

Neighboring Rights Royalties Are Collected Using CMO’s

Paul: The third piece, and this may be a missing piece for some artists, is to get signed up with a CMO (Collective Management Organization). SoundExchange is the US based CMO and each artist (performer) signs up to the one in the country where they are from.

So, we talked about the master you put through distribution. You got the publishing set up and collected performance royalties from your PRO, and hopefully you signed up with a Publishing Administrator so you can collect your streaming mechanical royalties, and other types of publishing royalties. And then now SoundExchange (The US based CMO) is where you’re going to collect digital performance royalties generated from the master. And so as a performer in the band, you’re going to get digital performance royalties. So these are from non-interactive streams. So it would be like Sirius XM (satellite radio), or terrestrial terrestrial radio that is also broadcasting on the web and also internet radio streams.

Tip: If you are not a US based performer, you shouldn’t register with SoundExchange. Register with the CMO in your country. Here is a list of CMO’s by country.

Yeah, so SoundExchange has a portal that is easy to use. So you go on, you get signed up as a performer. And then you go in and claim your songs. They have a “search and claim” function. So take the time to claim your tracks that come up in there.

Self-Releasing Artists Make Sure To Collect Both The Performer and Rights Owner on Neighboring Rights

Paul: You’re going to claim these digital non-interactive streams as a Performer. And then, to go a step further, there is another mistake we see self-released artists make. They go on to SoundExchange and they’ve signed up as a performer – but there’s two sides on SoundExchange (and all CMO’s). There is the Performer side and the Rights Owner side. 

If you self release your music, then you are the Rights Owner, and you can get that part of it, which is typically the “record label share”. Normally a record label would own the master recordings and they would collect the Rights Owner share. But if you self-released it, then you should collect the Rights Owner side. For signed artists, it depends on your deal, but typically the record label would collect the Rights Owner side. 

And distributors will sometimes collect the Rights Owner side for you. You should refer to your distribution agreement. 

Todd: I would recommend you always pay yourself first. Do it yourself – because it’s just one more form with the CMO or SoundExchange that you file. And if you already are registering as a performer, you might as well do the Rights Owner side too and avoid your distributor charging their distribution fee on that income.

And just to clarify a couple things. 

What are Neighboring Rights Royalties?

Todd: This third area that we’re talking about after the master side, and the publishing side, is the Neighboring Rights royalty – which is actually part of the master side. (master performance royalties) And this type of performance royalty is collected by CMO’s. CMO’s collect from TV/radio broadcasters, clubs, restaurants, and many other sources.

In the US, SoundExchange is the CMO and collects from non-interactive streaming radio services like SiriusXM, Pandora, iHeart, Live365, etc. Also terrestrial radio stations that stream online.

CMO’s (Collective Management Organizations) go by various names in each country. Register with the one in your country to collect your Neighboring Rights (master performance royalties).

Here is a list of global CMO’s by country. 

For example, in France, self releasing artists have to register with one CMO as the performer, and with another CMO as the rights owner. In the UK, there’s just one – it’s called PPL. And PPL collects on behalf of both the Performer and the Rights Owner.

But if you’re in Ireland, you’ve got to register the Performer side with RAAP, and you’ve got to register as the Rights Owner with PPI. So some territories are like that, where you have to register separately for the Performer and the Rights Owner.

And in the US, SoundExchange is your one and only source to collect master performance royalties. 

There is a great new organization based in the UK that is working to build global awareness and advocacy about Neighbouring Rights called IAFAR (Independent Alliance For Artist Rights). Shout out to them for assisting us with our Neighbouring Rights questions.

IAFAR have a good FAQ on Neighbouring Rights here:

Sound Exchange Royalties Mistake

Todd: The most common mistake we see is that self releasing artists, (independent artists without a label), will only sign up as a Performer. Just remember that’s only 45% of the revenue. There’s an additional 50% for the Rights Owner. And if you’re self released, you need to collect that. It’s just another form you have to fill out. 

Also to clarify the 45%, there’s another 5% that SoundExchange holds for studio backup musicians, session players, and non-featured artists. 

Paul: Yeah, and as a self-released artist, when you go sign up with SoundExchange, as part of the signup process they’re going to ask you, do you want SoundExchange to collect internationally for you? I think it’s not a bad idea. They do a pretty good job collecting internationally if you don’t already have a deal with another service to collect Neighbouring Rights outside of your home country.

Also, there are agencies that actually go out and collect different territories for you. But if you don’t have a deal with one of them, and you are self-releasing your music, I think it’s great to go ahead and give SoundExchange the international mandate to go out to any territory and collect foreign Neighboring Rights royalties on your behalf.

And again, these are Neighboring Rights, and they collect performance royalties on the master side. And don’t forget it is divided into the Performer side and the Rights Owner side. These are Master rights, and not to be confused with the performance royalties on the publishing side, which is collected by your PRO – ASCAP, BMI, PRS, etc.

Todd: That’s right. And the other thing is, like to do what Paul was saying and to assign SoundExchange your international collection rights. Again, it’s just one more form to fill out. And they can’t just take all of these rights, you have to give them to them individually. And it’s set up that way for transparency. But for unsigned independent artists, we do recommend that you probably use SoundExchange (or your CMO) for all of those various services that they offer. 

Neighboring Rights Collection and Administration Agencies

Paul: And there’s a few companies out there that are doing Neighboring Rights administration – Kobalt, Premier Music, Wixen, and Downtown started one too. They may be a publishing company, but they’ll also have a division that does Neighbouring Rights collection for master owners. And they’re really good at it. Especially if you have big catalog or are a record label. They’ll go into every territory and make sure that you’re registered in that territory and collecting those royalties. And it can sometimes be pretty difficult to make sure they’re collecting everything you are due. 

So those services are good. They’ll take a percentage and go out and do it, but they’re usually looking for a certain amount of activity in foreign territories in order to make it make sense for them to take on an artist or label. But if they are willing, I definitely think that they are, you know, worth it – if you’re at that level. But if you’re not at that level, then I just love the fact that you can go ahead and have SoundExchange collect in foreign territories for you. 

You know, obviously we’re talking mostly about the US service SoundExchange. And I do believe that PPL (UK) will collect international foreign territories for their UK clients. I think most of the CMO’s will collect internationally for you.

Todd: Yeah, I think for the longest while SoundExchange didn’t do it. And it just wasn’t normal for people in the US. But check with your CMO organization and ask if they are collecting all of your foreign neighbouring rights royalties.

And I also wanted to say, I hate the term “neighbouring rights”. It’s just such a strange term. It doesn’t make any sense but it should be called something better. (Afterthought: “master performance royalties”). But just so you know, the reason they called it “neighbouring rights” was that it sits next to the other performance royalty for the songwriters and publishers. If you look at a flowchart of the different royalties, it might sit next to the Composition Performance Royalty (or align with it depending on the flowchart), and so they called it neighbouring rights.

that’s probably the one we see is the most uncollected royalty of the group

And of the three, we talked about, (the master side, the writer/publishing side, this third one – neighbouring rights) – that’s probably the one we see is the most uncollected royalty of the group. 

Paul: Yeah, I agree. And specifically, in that the performer side of neighbouring rights is usually gone after by the artist, but sometimes they just don’t know about the rights holder side, because the labels typically take that. So make sure you get both of them if you’re a self-released artist. 

And then on the publishing side, just to reiterate the Publishing Administrator – that’s where we really want you guys to spend your time and make sure that you’re registered and collecting those royalties. 

SoundExchange Search and Claim Function

Paul: And going back to SoundExchange. For the US artists, they have a great thing on their portal right now, it’s fairly new. I’ve been using it for some clients and I love it. So it’s their “search and claim” function. It’s under your “My Catalog. 

And what it does – so if you’re an artist or band, you type in the band name. And under the “search and claim” function, it’s showing you all the performances, or all the tracks that they have in their system for your band name, that are not associated with your account for whatever reason. So it allows you to make sure if, for whatever reason, it’s not attached to your account, it’ll show you that. And you simply click on it and claim whatever percentage you’re supposed to be getting on that track, and then they associate it with your account. 

It’s good to use the “search and claim” on the Rights Owner side. I find that a lot of times SoundExchange is great about knowing who the artist is. Because they’ll get metadata from digital radio and the artists are clearly listed. So they make sure it goes to the artist account. But for example, the Rights Owner side won’t be very clear – like who the label is, or where the rights should be assigned to. In those cases, they just leave it sitting there. And if you’re a self-released artist, go in and search and claim the Rights Owner aside and find everything that’s not already associated with your account. And then you claim it that way. So it’s a great little function, I think. 

One of the underlying questions is, “is my catalog really registered?” “Am I really getting everything?” They give you some visibility into that, which is great.

Is There One Service That Can Collect All Of My Royalties?

Todd: Getting back to John Clark’s original question about having one streamlined service to register all of your rights, and make sure you’re collecting everything. I think we can both say that it probably doesn’t exist or we haven’t seen it. But there is an effort being made by a lot of the digital distribution companies because they’re sort of the first point of contact. 

They give you these extra check boxes. A lot of the digital distributors will have “tick this box if you want us to collect your YouTube micro sync royalties”, or “Check this box if you want to sign up for our publishing collection service.” And, you know, there’s an effort being made to sort of streamline all these. 

But I haven’t seen one yet that offers a tick box for neighbouring rights, and specifically neighbouring rights for both the performer and the rights owner. So even with that effort being made I still think there’s probably other services that you need to sign up for. 

Paul: So I have seen on the Rights Owner side of Neighbouring Rights that some digital distributors will collect for you. At least from my understanding. 

Todd: Okay, cool.

Paul: Yeah, so they’re collecting on behalf of the label – the rights owner. And you know, I’ve seen The Orchard do a pretty good job of it. And I’ve seen them do the international part too. 

But I loved your advice of, you know, you can sign up to SoundExchange directly, so might as well not have somebody take a fee if you can pretty easily just do it yourself. So the ideal situation is to sign up for SoundExchange. 

Let’s say you’re a label, or rights owner. You could sign up with SoundExchange directly, but you have your digital distributor going out and collecting internationally – if they’re good at it. I’ve definitely seen that where the distributor will go and collect international royalties for you.

Todd: But for artists through smaller digital distributors (The Orchard is attached to the major label Sony), I do advise using SoundExchange for that. It’s actually very easy. Their Customer service is great. You can get them on the phone and actually talk to people very quickly – if not instantly when you call them during business hours.

Paul: And yeah, from what I’ve seen, it’s been really a good tool. A good service to use. And right, if you’re a self released artist, and you’re already on there signing up as a performer, it’s pretty clear you are the performer and rights owner. And if you are self-releasing your music, then just sign up, you know, to make sure that both sides are coming to you.

Todd: Also Paul, from memory, it’s been a long time since I signed up for SoundExchange, but I don’t recall having to submit a master list of metadata, or am I mistaken?  

Paul: No, now you are definitely submitting the tracks and metadata to SoundExchange. 

Let’s say you haven’t submitted it though. Since your artist name is producing streams accounting to them and it is just sitting there waiting to be collected. They’ll point the revenue, if it’s clearly you, and there’s not five other band names with it. They’ll point it to you. But the best way to get them to make sure that the revenue is flowing to you, is to fill out that spreadsheet. 

SoundExchange is actually a great source for ISRC info. (a song’s digital fingerprint called International Standard Recording Code). You can go onto SoundExchange and just click on their ISRC directory without even being a member, you can search for ISRC’s. It’s a public database for ISRC’s.!/search

And if you don’t see your songs or ISRC on there, that might be a good indication you need to take action.

So, ISRC are one of the things CMO’s really want from you. If you’re submitting as a Performer and Rights Owner, they want to know that they can point those ISRC’s to you anytime they get revenue for that track. Then it won’t end up in suspense or a black box because it came to them with the wrong band name or whatever it is.

There May Be Money Waiting For You

Todd: There could be money waiting for you at SoundExchange (or your CMO) if you’re a performer or rights owner.  Because what they do is – they are getting data and money coming in from anything that’s in digital distribution. And if an artist hasn’t gone and made a claim on that stuff, it sits there in suspense. 

I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is for how long you have to claim your songs. But you do have a certain amount of time to go and claim and collect that money. But the first week you sign up for SoundExchange, there’s potentially a check waiting for you. So that’s another reason to do it.

Paul:  Yeah. And you know, if you have some digital radio activity, then by all means, you should be signing up for sure, because that’s where it’s going to come from. I’ve seen some great royalties from Sirius XM (satellite radio), if you’re getting play there. They’re tracking all digital radio plays. So if you’re getting any sort of digital radio play, then hopefully you’re getting some revenue from SoundExchange (or your CMO).

List of Services Self-Releasing Artists Should Register Their Songs With

Todd: Are there any other services they might want to sign up for that we didn’t mention? 

Paul: I feel like if you are digitally distributing through one of the digital distributors, you’re signed up with a performance society (as a writer), and you also have a Publishing Administrator out there collecting all the different publishing revenue. And then you are signed up with SoundExchange or your country’s CMO – I feel like you have the big pieces covered. 

I would love any feedback from your community. Or, what about this? What about that? 

One of your reader questions was about if there are any overlaps. Like am I doing too much, or creating a dispute by signing up with conflicting collection agencies?

We could take a look at some specific instances, or a specific questions, and we could get into that a little bit. But I think generally if you’re if you have those three bases covered, then as an indie artist, I think you’re pretty much covered.

Todd: Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to do any more specific questions on this one. We’ll save that for another time. But I would like to see what questions this brings up. So if anybody has a question, please leave it in the comments below. And we’ll cover those on the next one. 

And maybe we could get into some more troubleshooting issues or specific instances on the next one. But for this first one, I just wanted to make sure everybody has a really good overview and start getting signed up for these services.

Infographic: How Will You Collect Your Music Royalties?

Paul: Right. And then, we’ve only been talking about self released indie artists. We can talk about producers too. That’s a big thing. You know, if you’re a producer and you’re not self releasing, but you produced a few songs. That’s definitely something where I’ve seen producers kind of missing out on money. 

And, I would just take my advice about SoundExchange. Make sure you’re signed up there. But maybe in another episode, we can go down that road a little bit. What specifically producers should be doing to make sure they’re collecting everything they are entitled to.

Todd: Yeah, and even in certain genres, where they’re doing a lot of remixes or featured artists we – might be able to touch on some of those issues, as well. 

Paul: So in general, make sure you’re signed up with all of those. Because, if you’re a producer and songwriter, and you’ve gotten songwriter shares for a song that you produced – or if you’re a featured artist on a track – there are certain things you should do. 

Music Metadata Template

Paul: The best advice right now is just catalogue what you’re a part of. List what tracks you think you should be paid on. Like ISRCs, UPCs, what splits you agreed on for that track. I think right now is about getting it catalogued, you know, so that you know exactly what it is and then going out there and making sure it’s registered correctly, or you know, SoundExchange claiming it, you know? 

Metadata Template – You can use Heat On The Street’s template. Fill in as much as possible. I recommend you do this while in the studio or in the writing process so you con’t have to track it down later.

We’ve got you covered on the Metadata Template. Click here to redeem. If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, email and we’ll email it to you.

MusicBiz Association Full Guide on Registering Your Music Metadata – this is helpful to understand why each line of the metadata spreadsheet is important, and how to ensure the money goes to the right places.

MusicBiz Association Global Style Guide for Metadata – Ignore the DDEX programming code. That is for digital services handling mass quantities of metadata. Artists only need to pay attention to the regular text. Use this if you have a question about punctuation, special characters, or how to label a featured artist. 

Should You Register with a PRO as a Band, Or as Individual Songwriters?

Todd: Another quick question. I know, a lot of these services are different, so you can’t answer on behalf of all the different services – But in general – does each band member need to sign up for the PRO as a writer? And do they also need to sign up as a band? Or is it just by writer? What advice would you give them on creating their accounts? 

Paul: Yeah, right. Exactly. So, let’s say you have four members of the band. And each member is getting a songwriting share for a song. Then each of them need to go and register individually as a songwriter – with a PRO. So, definitely, if you have any piece of a song, it’s not a band thing. It’s an individual right. So you should go and register as a writer.

If you’re going to ASCAP for example, and you sign up as a songwriter, I’ve seen it lots of different ways. It depends on your situation. I’ve seen bands where each individual writer also has an individual publishing company name, and it’s a DBA (doing business as) whatever their publishing company is named, and they each have their own publisher name. Or they’ve done a deal with another publisher (not their own publishing name). And each songwriter share of each song has a publishing company name attached to it. 

Or some bands create one publisher on behalf of all the songwriters, and therefore that money on the publishing side is coming into one account.  And, you know, it should be dealt with, and divided up in the way you agreed.

So I’ve seen it both ways. It’s really up to you as a band. But if you’re serious about this income stream, then everybody should register by themselves. But I mean, I’ve seen it every different way. It’s up to each artist.

Todd: I would think also, if you’re a collaborator, if you’re somebody who might do featured vocals and stuff like that, I would think you definitely would want to individually register as writers. Rather than have to, you know, cut your whole band into a feature that you did. Or unless that’s the deal you’ve made as a group. And your band is bigger than your individual name. So if they’re using the band name to draw attention to this other track, then maybe the band members do have some entitlement there too. 

But I wouldn’t say just to save money, just register one account with the band. I just feel like that might be taking the lazy approach. So I mostly recommend signing up as an individual writer.

BMI and ASCAP Register Songwriters and Publishers Differently

Paul: Yeah, exactly. And there’s different ways. I’ve seen with BMI, they charge a publishing company fee. So if you sign up as a publisher, you know, it costs money. But if you sign up as a writer, I think it’s nominal, or free. I’ve seen people sign up as a writer, and then they’ll just have their publishing share, go directly to them as a writer, and that’s fine. 

I don’t have any issue with saving money on that. But again, you know, if you’re only signed up with a PRO, and you think that you’re getting all your publishing revenue, you’re not. You should really have some sort of publishing administrator out there.

And, what are the ones that you would recommend? Like you were saying earlier – some of the digital distributors have publishing admin services that you can sign up for. It probably costs a fee?  But like SongTrust costs a fee, but at least you’re covered. 

Todd: Yes, we’ll leave links to the options for Publishing administration services. 
Sentric – They power TuneCore’s Publishing Admin option too.
CDBaby Pro – CDBaby actually use SongTrust to power their Publishing Administration program. If you use CDBaby it may save time and be convenient to have it under one roof.

Option to Have SongTrust Register You For a PRO

Todd: There was another tip I might want to put out there.

If you haven’t done any of this yet. If you haven’t registered with a PRO, and you haven’t registered with a publishing administrator, I think there is a time-save. SongTrust offers a service where they’ll actually help you (for a fee), they’ll help get you set up with a PRO. And that’s helpful because, you know, part of this discussion was about trying to save some energy and have one solution for all. 

And that’s another thing to consider. If SongTrust can do both registrations for you and get you signed up for a PRO at the same time and save some energy – that might be worth it. Right? 

Paul: Yeah, agreed. I think you’re right.

Todd: Because then you need to know how to sign up for a PRO, whereas SongTrust already knows how. They can teach you (or rather do it for you), as their customer. 

Paul: Right. That’s it. Yeah, I agree.

Follow Up Notes:  SongTrust charge $100 upfront (per writer) to cover setup and administrative costs. They also take a 15% commission on any royalties that we collect on your behalf. They ONLY collect your ‘publisher’s share’. You would receive your ‘writer’s share’ directly from your Performing Rights Organization (PRO). And they won’t be taking a charge on your ‘writer’s share’. I think that’s very fair for the amount of upfront and ongoing work this involves.

Todd: Well, do you want to leave it at that for today, Paul, and we come back to some of these later?

Paul: Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s so much more to talk about. Yeah, we could go on for hours and hours. But I think that’s just kind of an overview of things, and some of the nitty gritty of what you should be doing. And I think some of the feedback or comments and questions (below) will help kind of direct that discussion. 

Todd: Cool. Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and jumping on the phone with me. Good to catch up with an old friend. And looking forward to doing this with you in the future. 

Paul: Yeah, definitely. I hope that helps some people out there for sure. I definitely don’t like seeing money left on the table for artists. That’s for sure. But yeah, this is super fun. So let’s keep it going.

Todd: Cool. Thanks again, Paul. All right. Talk to you soon.

Leave Your Questions Below and We Will Answer Them on Round 2

Whew! That was a long one. Leave a comment/question and we’ll try to cover it on the next session.

Todd McCarty

9 Comments on “Collect Music Royalties – Part 1 – Interview with Paul Fischer”

  1. Brilliant interview, great charts. A wealth of information.
    Thank you for that and for the metadata template (and for the IAFAR mention).
    Re: Neighbouring Rights – In the ROW we know that unless and until the rights holder registers the recording, the performer can never collect, and can only collect from that day forward. Have you ever heard of performers receiving their NR from SoundExchange even though the rights holder hasn’t registered the recording? We run education seminars in the US and UK and want to ensure we are spot on.

    1. Thank you Stacey, and glad you enjoyed the post. Also thank you and IAFAR for being a great resource on Neighbouring Rights.
      I’ll ask Paul about your question about collecting NR from SXE even after not registering the recording.

      What I do know is that SXE make a great effort to get the performer paid on “uncollected royalties” even if they haven’t “registered” yet.
      The fact that they have a process for “unclaimed royalties” implies that they are holding those (by law) with the intention to find the Artists and master owners to pay the money out to.
      Sound Exchange categorize Performers, Artists, and Sound Recording Owners for the purpose of helping them collect “unclaimed” royalties. More in this article.

      And here is a quote from the FAQ on the issue of unclaimed royalties expiring.
      “SoundExchange is authorized by regulation to release older, unclaimed royalties to offset our costs. We have rarely exercised this authority, but we need your help to spread the word and get recording artists and record labels to register with us.”

      I’ve read that the timeframe for expiration is 3 years, but it’s unconfirmed. And interestingly they avoid giving this information publicly.


  2. Much thx for putting this together. I’m sure many listeners/readers will learn a great deal. FYI for your Canadian followers, I believe in Canada SOCAN is now a 1-stop shop for all royalty collections (since buying Audiam and Sodrac)

  3. This is an awesome post! I learned so much. and yet I’m still confused 😉
    It’s such a complicated area. I’m jealous of Canadians for yet a new reason

    As an English artist living in Italy but registered in the Netherlands for all my tax and music income but making money from the US, I don’t make things any easier.

    So every song I release I need to register with SENA (as a performer and copyright owner), BUMA STEMRA as a songwriter (Both NL) and SongTrust? Are there any others I need to do?

    1. Haha, I feel you Jack.
      I’ve been learning a lot more about everything since publishing the blog and following up on things.
      Yes, you need to register every song. And it’s best to do it before or upon release, because some countries won’t let you collect in arrears.

      What I recommend is reaching out to SongTrust. They’ll try to be your one stop shop, and what they can’t do directly they’ll advise you on. Each country is different and they know the best way to proceed depending on what country you are in.
      Make sure you explain what you have done so far with SENA & BUMA STEMRA if anything. If you’ve only signed up with them and “associated”, but not registered your tracks, then that is key info for SongTrust. They work with SENA and other associations. They can help you ensure your song catalog is registered globally in one clean registration step. If you’ve already registered some of your songs with SENA, but not others, tell them that too.
      I have a 20% off coupon for SongTrust’s $100 signup fee. You can sign up here and use the code BandBuilder


  4. Thank you Todd! I didn’t know that you couldn’t collect in arrears. I thought it was held for you to collect. Jeeez.
    One more thing… how does it work with crediting musicians on tracks. I am working with several multi-instrumentalists and playing keyboards to impersonate all the instruments . I think an equal share is fairest between the three of us. But do I do that when uploading to my Distributor?

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