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A Comprehensive Guide to Royalties for Independent Recording Artists

For independent recording artists, understanding royalties is crucial for earning a fair income from their music. In this guide, we'll delve into what royalties are, the different types available, and how to register with various organizations to ensure you receive the royalties you deserve.

What Are Royalties?

Royalties are payments made to creators for the use of their intellectual property. In the music industry, royalties are typically earned when a song is played, performed, sold, or licensed.

Types of Royalties:

1. Mechanical Royalties: Paid to songwriters and publishers when their music is reproduced or distributed, such as through physical sales, digital downloads, or streaming.

2. Performance Royalties: Earned when a song is performed or broadcast publicly, including on radio, TV, live performances, and streaming services.

3. Sync Licensing Royalties: Paid when music is synchronized with visual media, such as in films, TV shows, commercials, or video games.

Governing Organizations:

1. ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers): One of the leading performing rights organizations (PROs) in the United States, representing over 800,000 members. ASCAP collects and distributes performance royalties.

2. BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.): Another major PRO in the US, representing over 1.2 million songwriters, composers, and music publishers. BMI also collects and distributes performance royalties.

3. SESAC: A smaller PRO representing songwriters and publishers, offering personalized service and focusing on quality over quantity.

Pros and Cons of ASCAP and BMI:



- Established reputation and longevity in the industry.

- Extensive network and international reach.

- Comprehensive data tracking and reporting.


- Higher initial fees and annual membership dues.

- Less personalized support for independent artists.



- Lower initial fees and membership dues.

- Strong focus on supporting independent and emerging artists.

- User-friendly online portal for registration and royalty tracking.


- Smaller international presence compared to ASCAP.

- Limited networking opportunities for some genres.

Registration Process:


- Visit the ASCAP website and create an account.

- Complete the online application, providing details about your music.

- Submit your works for registration.

- Pay the one-time $50 fee for writers or $50 fee for publishers.

- Wait for approval and start receiving royalties.

2. BMI:

- Sign up on the BMI website and complete the application.

- Provide information about your music and yourself.

- Register your works using the online portal.

- Pay the one-time $150 fee for writers or $250 for publishers.

- Await approval and begin earning royalties.

Additional Registration Steps:

1. Harry Fox Agency: Register with HFA to administer your mechanical royalties for physical and digital sales.

2. SoundExchange: Register as an artist and rights owner to collect digital performance royalties from streaming services.

Navigating the world of royalties can be complex, but understanding the different types and how to register with relevant organizations is essential for independent recording artists to protect their rights and earn a fair income from their music. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure you're properly compensated for your creative work.

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