Indie Music Royalty

Indie Music Royalty.

With countries that enforce Neighbouring Rights Laws refusing to pay out funds to a party who does not contribute to the pile, the performers and labels from the United States are missing out on large part of revenue that can be earned as public performance royalty. These royalties are large and new cost for the broadcasting industry in the US, because of which the industry has heavily lobbied against it. This is the reason for the USA’s reluctance in participating in neighbouring rights regulation.

An indie artist’s entitlement to public performance royalty payments as a performer or master owner are dependent upon a country’s legislation, however, the broad general rule is that you are entitled if the country where you recorded the song enforces neighbouring rights. You are also entitled when the country of residence of the master owner enforces neighbouring rights. In the US performers and master owners are paid royalty only for digital transmissions and not for public performances. You can read the details of this rule in my blog Maximizing Royalties for Indie Artists.

Usage of music along with visual output, as in video games, trailers, commercials, movies, TV shows etc. is called Synchronization. The licences required by a user to use a track for a ‘synch’ are a ‘synchronization license’ and a ‘master use license’. Mostly publishers chase these opportunities and score a synch deal for the writers and catalogues they represent.

Where your music is matched up with visuals, try to create opportunities to score synch deals. As I have mentioned before, if you have a designated publisher, you have much better chances to score synch deals because publishers mostly chase synch deal opportunities for the writers and catalogues they represent. However, you can also pursue these opportunities yourself. It is noteworthy that clients that bring in the biggest synch business are video production studios, advertising agencies, big corporations, video game studios etc. Certain publishers focus solely on scoring synch deals from such clients. Some work on an exclusive basis for single tracks, or on a non-exclusive basis for total catalogues. In any case, as soon as a synch is scored, both typically claim exclusivity on a track.

If your publisher does not actively pursue synchs, you’re missing out, because a typical publishing agreement is exclusive and covers all the work of a composer. If you are already signed with a publisher who doesn’t pursue synchs, you can propose to let other publishers score synchs for you and have them divide the spoils. When you put this proposal forward, it will become a tricky situation for your existing publisher, as all publishers want all the benefits form your music, instead of having to sharing them. In case you are not signed with a publisher yet, you should upload your catalogue to a number of synch publishers that are non-exclusive. Most publishers have online libraries showcasing the repertoire they currently represent. Their clients can browse their libraries to find the specific track they need. They also have creative agents who actively match tracks in their catalogue to the client’s requirement, and sometimes even offer ‘custom music’ opportunities. Most of these publishers have created multiple opportunities for indie artists’ relatively small catalogue in a short span of time and are a blast to work with.

I cannot emphasise enough on the benefits of getting a publisher for your music. Here is one more reason- partnering up with a publisher that specialize in custom sync deals will inevitably bring you fresh deals because of the publisher’s contacts in the industry. Proactively register your repertoire with the PRS and make sure that the publisher has done the same too. While it is the publisher’s responsibility to keep track of dates of pay-outs, you should also have a list of broadcasts in which your music has been made public. This is going to help when you want to check whether all of these have been accounted for. If not, inform your publisher and PRS.

More on this later. Please leave your comments and I will add them in my future blogs.

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