music-for-my-videoMusicians earn income royalties in a few different ways. For instance, a musician who performs a song on a recording but didn’t write the song, receives one type of royalty; the performance royalty. The writer of the song (even if they didn’t perform it on the recording) receives other types of music royalties.

What are the types of music royalties?

1. Mechanical Royalties – paid by the person/company who releases a record/download to the writer of the song, whether the writer performed the song or not. Think of mechanicals as money earned during the reproduction of the recording; vinyl, download, cd, dvd, tape, etc. Mechanicals are a statutory rate. Harry Fox Agency offers great information about this and a rate calculator.

2. Performance Royalties – paid to the songwriter by Performance Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC) from fees these Performance Rights Organizations collect from broadcasters such as radio and television stations for the rights to broadcast copyrighted material. Even public venues such as nightclubs and coffee shops must pay for the performance rights of music played in their establishments and PROs will even distribute payments for live performances, not just broadcasts of recordings.

3. Synchronization Royalties – paid to the songwriter by a producer of a movie, TV show, or ad for the right to use the songwriter’s music in their movie, TV show, or ad. The name really says it all… this royalty is a payment or payment schedule agreed upon a case-by-case basis between the publisher and the end-user (film, tv, game). This gives that user the right to synchronize the music to another media. If the songwriter is the performing artist on the recording, then one agreement will suffice. If the recording’s performing artist isn’t the original writer, the user must obtain separate agreements from the owner of the recording and the original songwriter to synchronize the music to their media.

The amount of these music royalties can range from a few cent to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is depends on the type of royalty, the popularity of the song, how the song will be used, and every other metric imaginable.

There are lots of great resources online to learn more about royalties. A great place to start is Artists House Music. Here is a link to their articles about royalties and publishing.