We encounter it time and time again: a songwriter doesn’t understand why their work isn’t fully registered in their account. While we’ve streamlined the registration process for Songtrust clients, parts of it still trip songwriters up, and prevent them from receiving the proper royalties.
A Performing Rights Organization (PRO) or CMO (Collective Management Organization) relies on song registration information to determine who they need to pay and exactly how much. Any mistakes or omissions put you at risk of having your hard-earned royalties withheld by collection societies, allocated to the wrong parties, or redistributed to top-earning creators as black-box income.
This is why we recommend sending your registrations directly to Songtrust: because we can deal with your PRO directly and keep everything as organized, accurate, and efficient as possible.
Here are seven details worth getting right no matter who is handling your song registrations.
1. Including the IPI number and contact info for the songwriter and publisher
An IPI (Interested Party Information) is a nine-digit number assigned to songwriters and publishers by their collection society in order to identify them as rightsholders. Every writer and/or publisher in the world who is affiliated with a collection society is assigned one, and no single IPI number is the same. (Think of it as the musical equivalent of a social security or passport number.)
Your IPI number — and those of your co-writers — is vital in identifying you as the owner of a song, regardless of where your music is played in the world. If you don’t provide your IPI, or if you provide an incorrect one, collection societies won’t be able to identify you as the copyright owner and pay out your royalties.
Make sure you know what your IPI number is (here’s how to find it) so that you have it readily available when it’s time to register your song. Similarly, if you have your own publishing entity set up at your society, you must also use its name and IPI number in addition to your own when registering your works.
Likewise, providing the correct publisher or songwriter contact information will ensure that your collection society can easily find you and properly allocate your royalties.
2. Including all your co-writers and/or their shares in the song registration
Incorrect song ownership information is one of the most common reasons copyright owners have their royalties withheld. If the information is inconsistent with prior registrations or inaccurate (e.g., your shares are over-claimed or add up to more than 100%), collection societies will hold onto the money until they are able to figure out who is entitled to what.
To make sure this doesn't happen, the first thing you should do once you’ve finished writing a song is agree on ownership shares for each writer. Once finalized, get it in writing and make sure the splits add up to 100%.
One of the best and easiest ways for all parties to know what percentage of a song they own is by completing a split sheet. That way, once it comes time to register the song, you know exactly who to include in the registration as well as what shares to allocate to them.
Including who else worked on a song and their ownership shares helps publishers and societies match the information when your co-writers register the same song. Should they not match, the registration will conflict and all payments will stop until the parties resolve the issue.
Think of this as a safety net; it verifies all of that song’s registration information before any royalties are paid out so you don’t have to worry about a co-writer going rogue and earning more than they should.
Quick note: If you’re with BMI in the U.S., this number will add up to 200% during song registration because BMI defines the writer’s share and publisher’s share as their own individual units. Basically, they view the writer’s share as a full 100% and the publisher’s share as a full 100% rather than both shares equaling 100%.
In other words, if a song has a 150% share for one writer and a 50% share for another writer over at BMI, that track will break down to a respective 75% and 25% ratio at Songtrust and other global pay sources.
3. Clearing samples with recording and publishing owners
Anytime you use someone else's intellectual property — whether it’s a sample, re-recording of someone else's melody (i.e., an interpolation), or a combination of multiple preexisting works to create a new song (i.e., a derivative work) — you are legally required to obtain permission from the owners of the composition.
Why? Because the copyright holders are entitled to a claim of the new work even if they are not part of the creative process. In addition, if you are sampling any part of a recorded song rather than covering it, you need additional permission from owners of the sound recording.
If you don’t obtain permission before registering the song, you risk being sued for copyright infringement, which often results in having to pay damages/settlement fees, turning over any and all earnings that your song generated, and occasionally having to give up 100% of your copyright to the other parties.
Make sure you always get permission in writing prior to registering any song that uses someone else's intellectual property to avoid having these things happen to you. And don’t worry about registering a cover song with Songtrust or your PRO; since you don’t control the underlying composition, you don’t actually have the right to register it.
4. Updating your contact information and current publisher
If something changes, such as your mailing address, phone number, or email address, it’s important that you update your collection society right away. The same goes for if you recently switched publishers. Forgetting to remove old publishers can cause your society to continue paying them long after they’ve lost the right to collect on royalties generated for your work.
5. Updating your song registration with new recordings or alternative titles
Not providing alternative titles or new recording details — such as live versions and covers — makes it difficult for your collection society to match any incoming payments to the song you registered with them. For instance, if your song is named “Up 2 No Good Luv,” you should also submit “Up to No Good Love” as an alternative title.
6. Listing the song’s performers, ISRC, and other sound recording metadata
Not providing metadata related to the sound recording of your song, such as the song’s ISRC and a list of all the performers, can cause issues with tracking and collecting your royalties worldwide.
7. Submitting setlists from live performances of your song
Songwriters can earn performance royalties when their songs are performed live in public. Submitting setlists to your collection society is key to getting those royalties. Generally, you should submit your setlists within six months of your performance and list the venue name, date, and all the songs performed.
The Key = Staying Organized
This may seem like a lot of information to track and update every time something changes with your song, but the first step to maximizing your royalties is understanding how important a full and complete registration is for your catalog.
We want you to focus on creating, so we’ve put together a handy checklist to help you stay on top of your song registrations.