Sometimes a song bursts forth on its own, fully formed and ready to be shared with the world. These are the moments creators live for — the ones that make all those false starts and long nights feel like they were actually worth it.
Unfortunately, the process of actually getting paid can feel like a grind too. In the following post, we break down why things are that way and what Songtrust is doing to speed things up for you.
But first: a quick refresher on how a handful of key revenue streams work.
Three Major Income Sources For Creators1. Mechanical royalties are paid whenever a song is sold in a physical form (vinyl, CDs, tapes) or digital file, or streamed via an on-demand service like Apple Music or Spotify. The rate for these plays is set by The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), a newly formed Mechanical Rights Organization (MRO) that promises a much fairer rate than what was paid in the past.
Learn more about mechanical royalties:
- What are Mechanical Royalties?
- Mechanical vs Performance Royalties
- Mechanical Royalties From Sales
- Modern Publishing Fact: Mechanical Royalties
- Streaming Royalties Explained
Learn more about performance royalties:
3. Micro-sync royalties are earned whenever your song is used in conjunction with a video on major digital platforms like YouTube. They’re typically paid through monetized ads, the rules of which vary depending on the service.
Learn more about micro-sync royalties:
One River, Many Streams
Now that we’ve discussed the common ways creators get paid, it’s time to address why it takes so long to report and distribute earnings. As it turns out, that question hinges more on historical precedents than anything else.
For one, sales reports typically lag three months behind actual sales. Even when a song is streamed instantaneously, it can take months for that play to make its way to the appropriate collection agency.
And while songwriting may be a global endeavor these days — with hit songs making their way across international markets in the blink of an eye — the simple act of collecting royalties is still largely stuck in the last century. In many foreign territories, complicated and confusing requirements govern how those funds are distributed. As a result, many are left uncollected, and the rest can take months (or even years) to find their rightful owners.
It can take up to six months to register your song globally, then as long as a year before you see your first royalty checks. If you have retroactive royalties, you might as well tack on another six months per society.
With over 245 countries and territories to track, you can see how all that collecting adds up.
What Songtrust is Doing to Help
While we can’t control many aspects of the music industry, the way songwriters are compensated for their work has shown noticeable signs of progress and improvement in recent years.
The most impactful one was 2018’s Music Modernization Act (MMA) and related copyright reforms put in place throughout North America and Europe. Aside from launching the aforementioned MLC, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) approved a steep late fee for streaming services that unduly lag in their payments to publishers and artists.
While we can’t take credit for the MMA, we strongly supported and lobbied for the bill alongside industry leaders like the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), Songwriters of North America (SONA), National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), A2IM, BMI, and ASCAP.
As for what we can control, the Songtrust team takes great pride in delivering the fastest, most transparent administration system in the industry.
What’s so great about it? For one thing, we typically inspect and administer clients’ songs on a week-to-week basis. Many traditional publishers send them on a monthly, or even quarterly, schedule.
We also pride ourselves on submitting precise data, and spend a great deal of time making sure your songs are properly inputted and tagged for the specific collection society. And because we license those songs directly, we pay creators directly.
While many publishers send those payments twice a year, we do it quarterly to help keep hard-earned royalties flowing into your bank account. And because we’re part of a far-reaching and robust global network, we can get foreign-generated royalties to you with a much faster turnaround than most U.S. administrators.
If you’re curious about how Songtrust could help you make the most of your work, please reach out to our team at any time.
Take control of your publishing. Maximize Songtrust for your songs and business.
We created this guide to answer a simple question: How do songwriters support themselves?
The answer is not as simple as we’d like, but our goal is to make it as clear, transparent and understandable as we possibly can.
Songtrust is more than just a rights management platform and publishing administrator - we’re a team of experts in the music community who strive to educate, support, and provide thought leadership to creators, representatives, and businesses across the music industry.
Our hope is that you’ll finish this guide with an better understanding of the business behind songwriting and have actionable resources to help you be successful.