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Music Publishing Royalties Explained

What is a Mechanical Royalty?If you’re a songwriter, there are a number of different kinds of publishing royalties you can earn from the usage of your original music.

One of the big sources of publishing revenue is performance royalties, generated when your music is played on the radio, television, or in a live venue.

Another important source of income for songwriters is the mechanical royalty, generated by the reproduction of your music in mechanical or virtual form, whenever CDs are manufactured, downloads are purchased, or your songs are streamed on-demand.

Mechanical royalties and independent songwriters

Wikipedia says:

The term “mechanical” and “mechanical license” has its origins in the “piano rolls” on which music was recorded in the early part of the 20th Century. Although its concept is now primarily oriented to royalty income from sale of compact discs (CDs), its scope is wider and covers any copyrighted audio composition that is rendered mechanically; that is, without human performers.

In a nutshell: every time a song you’ve written is manufactured to be sold in a CD, downloaded on a digital music retail site, or streamed through services like Spotify and Apple Music, you are owed a mechanical royalty.

Now for the longer explanation of mechanical royalties…

As a songwriter/publisher, you are owed a royalty every time your composition is reproduced (on vinyl, tape, CD, MP3, etc). In the United States, this royalty is generally equal to 9.1 cents per reproduced “copy” of that song, depending on the length of the song, regardless of whether those albums or singles are sold.

The mechanical royalty rate for interactive, on-demand streams through services like Spotify and Apple Music is far lower than 9.1¢. But mechanical royalties for global streaming can really add up — especially because they’re generated with every LISTEN, unlike the one-time mechanical royalty generated by a download purchase or CD manufacture. In many cases, for every $100 your sound recording has generated on Spotify, there could be another $15 owed to you in (uncollected) mechanical royalties. That’s YOUR money just sitting there, and Performing Rights Organizations such as ASCAP and BMI do NOT collect mechanical royalties, which is one of the big reasons a publishing rights administrator like CD Baby Pro can be so helpful for independent artists.

[Check out “4 ways to earn money from your music on Spotify.”]

But let’s get back to mechanical royalties for CD sales and downloads for a second…

If someone covers one of your songs and they manufacture 1000 CDs — they owe you $91, regardless of whether those CDs ever get purchased by customers. If they sell 100 MP3s of your song, they owe you $9.10.

You are also owed a mechanical royalty for the sales of your music on YOUR OWN albums. But here’s where things get a little virtual; if you’re acting as your own label and putting out music that you’ve written, you’ll effectively be paying that royalty to yourself from album proceeds.

At least that’s how it works in the US, where download retailers like iTunes and Amazon pass on that mechanical royalty to you as part of the net payment for the sale of the MP3. But in many countriesoutside the US, mechanical royalties are set aside BY the retailer, to be paid to collection societies who then distribute those royalties to publishers and writers. A similar system is set up for the payment of mechanical royalties generated by global streaming.

BUT again, performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI do NOT collect mechanical royalties. Their job is to collect performance royalties, NOT mechanicals. So…

How do you collect “foreign mechanicals” generated outside the US?

In order to collect international mechanical royalties (as well as mechanicals for both global and domestic streams) on your own, you’d need to register your music with many royalty collection societies around the world.

As our friend Justin Kalifowitz of SongTrust is fond of saying, you CAN do it yourself if you really want to — but you’ll probably have to stop making music for a while. Affiliating yourself and registering your songs directly with all the international collection societies would not only take hundreds of hours of paperwork and filling out online forms, but you’d need to be proficient in dozens of languages — or hire a translator. And who wants to do that when you’ve got gigs to play?

That’s where CD Baby Pro comes in. We do all that work for you — registering songs directly with societies around the world — and then we’ll make sure you get paid ALL the publishing royalties you’re owed.

How To Change Your SoundCloud Playlist To An Album

You can now create ALBUMS on SoundCloud

SoundCloud is a global online audio distribution platform based in Berlin, Germany, that enables its users to upload, record, promote, and share their originally-created sounds. It was founded by Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss who are also the chief executive officers

SoundCloud is now one of the world’s leading social sound platforms and when SoundCloud started, it was built around artists sharing music one track at a time. Then they added playlists (and if you wanted to share an “album” you’d have to build it as a playlist). Now, finally, they’ve added an ALBUM option.

SoundCloud has a lot of things going for it, as it’s the premier service for emerging artists to upload their work and connect with potential listeners without all the drama of record labels. You can even listen to SoundCloud music on your desktop if you’re a power user.

If you’ve already created a playlist to represent your album, it’s pretty simple to switch it to the album designation:

  1. log into your SoundCloud account.
  2. click to edit the playlist.
  3. select the playlist type as “album.”
  4. Provide a release date, if not listed already.
  5. Click to save your changes and you’re all set.

How to set a playlist as an album in Soundcloud

What is SoundCloud?

SoundCloud is the world’s leading social sound platform where anyone can listen to or create sounds and share them everywhere.

Be a creator. Easily record and upload sounds to SoundCloud and share them privately or publicly to friends, blogs, sites and all your social networks. Comprehensive stats make evaluating your performance a piece of cake. Engage directly with your fans with comments and promote your work.

Be a listener. Find new music to love. Follow creators on SoundCloud that you are interested in and watch your Stream grow with new audio everyday. Save your favorite tracks and playlists in your Likes and get surprised when our Related tracks recommendations help you discover even more.

Be a Curator. Gather your own following. Listen, save, and follow up-and-coming creators, build hit playlists and share your passion with your followers.

6 Ways To Make More Money From Your Music On YouTube


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1. Sign up your entire back catalog for CD Baby’s YouTube Monetization program

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