Get Paid: Alternative Royalties For Indie Artists


By Brian Tarquin

WE ALL WANNA GET PAID, RIGHT? Well, thanks to new technologies, todays artists can benefit from royalty streams that did not exist a short while ago. These royaltiesfrom satellite radio and cable TV music channels, for exampleare fantastic alternative ways that artists and rights holders can see income from the new digital marketplaces. In order to efficiently collect and distribute both digital and broadcast performance royalties to featured artists, musicians and copyright holders, companies like SoundExchange, Sena and Live Television/Videotape Supplemental Markets Fund have appeared. Many artists, however, are still not aware that money could be sitting in an account, waiting to be claimed. In the following article, Ill show, through my own experiences, how to take action to get the money that is rightfully yours. 


One of the most prominent organizations specializing in collecting digital revenue royalties is the Washington, DC-based SoundExchange, which is a non-profit performance rights organization. What does SoundExchange actually do for you? As the organization’s Marie Farrar Knowles explains, “SoundExchange represents the entire recorded music industry, including recording artists and record companies large and small. The licenses we administer enable digital music services to focus on what they do best, while ensuring that recording artists and record labels are compensated for their work.”

Okay, so what is the organization's collection process? In other words, from whom does SoundExchange collect those royalties that are due to you?

SoundExchange collects statutory royalties from satellite radio (such as SiriusXM), Internet radio, cable TV music channels and other outlets that stream music recordings. The organization came to prominence when a special group of copyright judges, called the Copyright Royalty Board, were appointed by the US Library of Congress to determine rates and terms for the digital performance of sound recordings. They basically named SoundExchange the sole company in the US to collect and distribute digital performance royalties on behalf of master right owners, such as record companies and recording artists.

SoundExchange also represents all independent artists who control their own masters. The current rates will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2017.

“Today,” Knowles explains, “there are 2,000-plus digital radio services that leverage the license we administer to access any commercially available work. While this list is too long to share in this article, a few examples are services like iHeart Radio, Spotify Radio (mobile service), Pandora and SiriusXM.”

How considerable are the royalties? SoundExchange announced on its news page that in 2012 its total distribution to artists was $462 million, which was a historical moment for the organization. These royalties continue to increase for everyone; I’ve seen my own SoundExchange royalties grow dramatically over the years.

This royalty money, however, will not come to you automatically. In order to get the most accurate royalties, you need to provide SoundExchange with what is known as a “metadata sheet.” Though it is time consuming on your part, it is extremely rewarding in the long run. Providing this key information has become a standard in the digital world. Either you or someone you hire will have to list all of your releases, as well as a comprehensive breakdown of each song’s writers, publishers, track description and album title, etc. (It's a simple Excel document.)

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