While streaming has become the way most people listen to music, it’s a broad term that can apply to anything from listening to an online radio station to watching a YouTube video.
Streaming is typically defined as non-interactive or interactive depending on whether the listener is able to choose what songs play next or not. (The ability to “interact” with the streaming service.)
The royalties generated by a stream are broken up into two different types: sound (or master) recording royalties and publishing (or composition) royalties. Sound recording royalties are paid out through record labels, distribution companies, and SoundExchange (a global collection society for non-interactive streams). Publishing royalties can be harder to access, depending on the country where the stream occurred and whether you’re registered at specific collection societies.
To review how composition royalties are earned and collected, check out our post on The Two Halves of a Song. In the following article, we’ll dive into the two main streaming types and how to start collecting the publishing royalties on all of your music streams.
Definition: Listeners select the songs that are played
Also Known As: On-demand streaming
Examples: Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer
Publishing Royalties Generated: Performance royalties and mechanical royalties
How to collect: To collect performance royalties, you will need to join the PRO or CMO in your home territory. PROs include ASCAP and BMI in the US, and PRS in the UK. CMOs include GEMA (Germany), SACEM (France), and SUISA (Switzerland).
To collect mechanical royalties, you will need to become a publisher affiliate with different Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs). If you live in the U.S., these are the Harry Fox Agency (HFA), Music Reports (MRI), and the newly formed The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC). If you’re based outside of the U.S., you’ll have to check with your domestic Collective Management Organization (CMO) to determine if that society is already collecting your mechanical royalties or if they have a separate organization to do so.
To collect mechanicals outside of your home country, you’ll need to register as a publisher affiliate with every MRO or CMO your song is streaming in. This long and tedious process can be streamlined by signing up with Songtrust.
Definition: Listeners play music without the ability to choose the next song
Also Known As: Internet radio
Examples: Pandora, Slacker, TuneIn
Publishing Royalties Generated: Performance royalties only (similar to broadcast radio)
How to Collect: Collection societies are responsible for tracking performance royalties generated from non-interactive streams. When your song generates performance royalties outside of the U.S., these are collected from the CMO/PRO of the country the song was streamed in. Oftentimes, these can be collected through reciprocal agreements with your PRO’s foreign counterparts.
However, these agreements aren’t guaranteed to get all of your international performance royalties. By signing up with a service like Songtrust, you can become directly connected with these entities and ensure you’re receiving everything you've earned on your music.
If you want to see what performance and mechanical streaming royalties your songs may have earned, check out our Royalty Estimator tool.