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Understanding Music Royalties: Mechanical vs. Performance


As a recording artist, navigating the world of music royalties is crucial for ensuring fair compensation for your creative work. Two primary types of royalties that artists often encounter are mechanical royalties and performance royalties. In this blog post, we'll delve into the differences between these royalties, highlight the entities responsible for their payout, explain how to register with each entity, and provide examples of instances where royalties would be owed for each type.


Mechanical Royalties:

Mechanical royalties are earned from the reproduction and distribution of your music, such as when your songs are sold on physical media (CDs, vinyl) or digitally downloaded/streamed. The entity responsible for paying mechanical royalties varies by country, but in the United States, the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) administers mechanical royalties for streaming and digital downloads. Here are the steps to register with the MLC:


1. Register with the MLC: Visit the Mechanical Licensing Collective's website and sign up as a songwriter or music publisher to ensure you receive mechanical royalties for your music.


2. Song Registrations: Register your songs with the MLC by providing accurate metadata and ownership information to ensure proper attribution and royalty distribution.


Examples of instances where mechanical royalties would be owed:


1. When your music is streamed on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music.


2. When your songs are downloaded from digital music stores like iTunes or Google Play.


3. When physical copies of your music (CDs, vinyl) are sold in stores or online.


4. When your music is included in compilation albums or covers by other artists.


Performance Royalties:

Performance royalties are earned when your music is performed or played in public, such as on radio, TV, live concerts, or streaming services. The entity responsible for paying performance royalties in the United States is Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Here's how to register with these PROs:


1. ASCAP: American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) represents songwriters, composers, and music publishers. Register as a member on their website to collect performance royalties.


2. BMI: Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) is another PRO that represents songwriters and composers. Sign up as a BMI affiliate to receive performance royalties.


3. SESAC: SESAC is a PRO that represents a diverse range of music creators. Apply for membership with SESAC to access performance royalty payments.


Examples of instances where performance royalties would be owed:


1. When your music is played on terrestrial radio stations.


2. When your songs are performed live in concerts or public venues.


3. When your music is used in TV shows, films, commercials, or online videos.


4. When your songs are streamed on platforms like Pandora or SiriusXM.


Understanding the origins and distinctions between mechanical and performance royalties is essential for maximizing your earnings as a recording artist. By registering with the relevant entities and ensuring proper documentation of your music, you can receive fair compensation for your creative endeavors and continue to thrive in the music industry.

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