Q: If I perform on a song but I’m not the writer, do I still earn royalties?
A: Yes, but they are Performer royalties and are paid separately via neighbouring rights organisations i.e. PPL, GVL, SoundExchange (Digital royalties for the US). Please note that traditional neighbouring rights from radio and television usage are not recognised and collected in the US, only digital revenue.
Q: What are Master Rights?
A: The Master Right is the ownership of a finished recording before it becomes available commercially. The Master Right allows the owner to license (reproduce and sell) the recording to other record or production companies, often in other territories. Usually, whoever pays for the original recording of a track (i.e. the record company or producer) owns the 'Master Right'. However, it can also be dependent on the agreement between artist and producer. Just because you are a writer or composer on a song, does not mean you will have a share in the Master Rights. Talk to your label or producer to find out more.
Q: What types of licence are associated with Master Rights?
A: There are four types:
Public Performance Licence – a licence granting others the right to perform the recording in public.
Reproduction Right – the exclusive right to reproduce the recording in any format.
Mechanical Licence – a licence granted to a record company to reproduce and distribute the song (publishing) for an agreed fee.
Synchronisation Licence – a licence granted to a production company to synchronise the recording and song (publishing) (‘sync’) with images on film or any other visual programme.
Q: What is required and how do I collect overseas recording royalties?
A: In the case of master recording royalties, an artist should be informed of revenues earned by their label (who will be in control of any licensing requests from abroad) – they will then account these to the artist. In terms of neighbouring rights, you have the option to collect for the world via a neighbouring rights organisation like PPL or if you have enough airplay outside your domestic territory, you may choose to appoint an agency via us,who will be able to represent you in every territory to improve your neighbouring rights royalty collections.
Q: If I don’t have a label and release my albums independently, why hasn’t my distributor paid me anything?
A: Unfortunately, we can't help you much with your distributor, because of the way royalties are structured. Each track is made up of two basic royalties, the recording and the composition. Your distributor deals with the recording side, whilst we manage the publishing side. The distributor should pay you for recording usage on your agreed accounting terms, following their commission. However, they may not pay you until your account reaches a certain threshold. Typically, with many distributors you can log in to their site and check your balance. Failing that, you should contact your distributor to give you the full details regarding sales and streams.
Q: How can I collect master royalties from YouTube?
A: If you are the master owner, you can earn revenue from your music on YouTube via monetisation. Monetisation is achieved by an agency placing Google Ads at the start or alongside your content. The agency then bills Google for this ad placement and you receive a royalty minus their commission. If you are the master owner and have no distribution arrangement collecting this revenue, please get in touch and we can help you further.
Based on information provided by Synch Summit.
Q: Is your type of music suitable for synch?
A: Spend the time to review the marketplace by watching television ads and films. There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, songs with a universal appeal are more likely to be synched, whether it is about feeling free, love or making a change. If your material focuses on drugs, guns and sex, whilst these will still have some relevance for film placement, you may fall foul of censorship for advertisement with these themes. Spend the time to think about what songs from your repertoire are lyrically suited to synch and also where you can see your tracks being placed in the current market.
Q: Is your recording by the right artist?
A: Is your track the best it can be with the right appeal and voice? Could an acoustic version or a dance remix bend someone’s ear in a synch department? Can you widen your appeal by creating bespoke versions of your strongest material? These are all questions to consider when selecting your best repertoire to pitch for synch.
Q: What are the time frames in responding to synch briefs?
A: Respond to briefs and emails in a timely manner and have an easy way for people to contact you. This sounds crazy to even mention, but we cannot tell you how many people don't respond in a timely manner or even answer briefs and emails. When you get a synch email, answer as soon as possible. Be brief, be accurate and be to the point, but most of all be responsive.
Q: Do I need to be specific in my pitches?
A: Don’t send out music that doesn’t fit a project when you’re asked for something specific. When you get a request, respond to what is asked for – don’t send out reggae to someone looking for jazz. Your job is to help the client solve a problem by providing the right music - listen to the reference track if there is one. There will be time enough for sending out other music and your client will be more responsive if you solve the initial brief accurately first.
Q: What about technical quality of the tracks submitted?
A: Do a technical quality check. The music that you present needs to be of a professional grade. It needs to be properly produced, engineered and mastered. It needs to be available as a high-quality WAV file for usage. You can send an MP3 in your initial submission, for listening purposes, but the best format is an uncompressed WAV file at 44,100 Hz with a 16 bit sampling rate (basic CD Audio quality). Make sure that your track is available in this quality before putting any music forward. It is also recommended to have fully mixed and mastered instrumentals of your tracks available. Please ensure the tracks are correctly tagged with artist and track names.
Q: How important is metadata?
A: Get your metadata right. What’s metadata, you say? For some of you that’s a funny question to ask, but there are no bad questions. For our purposes, metadata is the information you need to provide with any track you send. This is crucial as the person getting your music will need to know what the name of the song is, who owns it and all other information like genre, BPM, artist, the musicians involved and recording rights owners. You need to make sure you get all of this right.
Q: What is the best way to submit my music for briefs?
A: Store your music correctly, present it in the right way and in the right format. For initial submissions, MP3s on Dropbox are ideal, so that clients can easily stream and download them (make the MP3 at least 192 kbps). Make sure that a metadata document is also included in the links that you send. If possible, also provide a link to check out other music of yours so they can dig deeper if they wish.
Q: What about ownership of the material that I submit?
A: Confirm that you own or can represent the ownership of the music - this is very important. If you are the recording rights holder, or have permission to represent the recordings, you need to be able to prove it. At the very least make sure that the co-owners of the recordings are easily contactable at short notice. Lastly, make sure that if there are samples in the music, that you've cleared the rights to those usages in your recording, with clearance permission granted for synchronisation.
Q: Is your material registered at the PROs?
A: You (and/or your publisher) need to ensure your copyrights are registered at PRS & PPL (or your country’s equivalent) to cover publishing and neighbouring rights collections respectively. This will not only aid with the completion of your metadata to forward with your tracks, but also makes them easy to clear under broadcast blanket deals. Many broadcasters operate under society blanket licensing, allowing them to use your music in any TV programme without consent, unless you choose to opt out with the society – very few people do. If your material is not registered correctly at the societies, many broadcasters will walk away from using the tracks, as registrations are part of their validation process for clearance.
GETTING CLEARANCE - FAQs
Q: What components do I need to clear for synch?
A: There are two components that must be cleared when using a commercial track for a production: the publishing (the song – the lyrics and the music) and the recording (the recording of the song). The song will be the property of just the publisher(s); however there may be numerous recordings of the song, so you must try to identify the label which owns the artist version you wish to clear.
Q: How can I clear publishing?
A: If the work is published by us, please get in touch. For other published works. the best way is to call PRS for Music (020 7580 5544). If you tell them the title of the song and its writers, they will be able to tell you who to ask for clearance.
If you are making content for a UK broadcaster, you must ensure that your production company is part of the PRS IPC Scheme. If you are unclear on this, call PRS For Music to confirm. Generally speaking, most works are clearable under the production blanket deal and you can use these.
By using a track under the PRS blanket licence, there is no further requirement to contact the publisher, as they will be licensing the work and collecting royalties on your behalf.
If you are working outside the UK and require a synch licence for programmes outside this territory or require clearance for any country relating to advertising, film or any other medium, you must contact the publisher in that territory directly.
Q: If I know the writers of the song, can I approach them directly?
A: No, you must always seek clearance from the copyright owner (usually the publisher).
Q: How much of a song may I use before seeking clearance?
A: The legal definition in the UK is that you may not use the whole of a composition or a “substantial” part of it. But “substantial” is not necessarily defined as an amount, say two bars or five seconds, but can vary depending on the composition and the territory. You should seek clearance if you’re in any doubt.
Q: While I’m waiting for clearance, can I promote my track online and for sale at gigs?
A: No, because the law forbids all exploitation until the necessary clearances have been received.
Q: How do I clear recordings?
A: The same principle with blanket agreements applies for the recording in the UK, the licence and collection of which will be covered by PPL, provided that you are making content for that territory.
Again, if you are working outside the UK and require a synch licence for programmes outside this territory or require clearance for any territory for advertising, film or any other medium, you must contact the label in that territory directly.
Q: What happens if I can’t find the copyright owner?
A: Never go ahead until you’ve received clearance from the copyright owner(s) involved in each particular track. If you do, you are likely to have action taken against you for breach of copyright. If a share of the song is not administered by a publisher, it may be difficult to licence the work unless you can contact the writer directly. In such cases where this isn’t possible, it is advised to consider the work not cleared on that basis.
Q: What happens if my sample clearance request is refused?
A: Unfortunately, you have to go along with the decision and remove the track from your production. If you don’t, you are likely to have action taken against you.
Q: What happens if I don’t want to spend money recording my track if the necessary sample clearances might not be given?
A: There is no way to avoid this, but an inexpensive demo quality recording may suffice.
Q: What if the record company has not given clearance for use of their sound recording by the time the publishing offer clearance period expires?
A: There is no link between the two clearances so there is no reason for one to delay the other. If you want to recreate the sound recording use, you still need publishing clearance. Conversely, if you decide to delete the master uses entirely, you still need to send your re-worked composition to see whether publishing clearance remains necessary.
Q: Someone has covered one of my songs that you publish. I was never contacted or asked to clear the use. Please advise what to do.
A: It is ok for people to do live covers of other people’s songs. For live performances, the standard practice is to report the song title and composer as part of live set list submissions (see Live FAQ). If they record and distribute that song as a physical product, download or stream, they will need to apply for a mechanical licence from the relevant society i.e. MCPS (UK) HARRY FOX (US). If you make an adaptation of the work, such as changing the lyrics or moral context, you need to clear the use with the publisher.
DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION – FAQs
Q: What is digital music distribution?
A: Digital music distribution is making your music available to the general public via online stores, as opposed to traditional retailers that sell physical versions of your music.
Q: How does digital music distribution work?
A: Like traditional record shops, distributors send your music to the stores worldwide, which are online of course in this scenario. Once your music is available in music stores such as i-Tunes, Spotify and Amazon, listeners can stream and download your music. In exchange, you will receive an artist royalty from the distributor.
Q: Can you give me some links and examples of some of the best digital music distributors?
A: Here are some digital distributors that you may choose to look at further:
The Orchard (they only manage labels)
AWAL (selected applicants only)
Q: Why choose digital music distribution?
A: Digital music continues to sell better than traditional formats, accounting for over half of all music sales. The benefits of digital distribution over physical are fewer up-front costs like shipping and manufacture.
Q: What about metadata for digital music distribution?
A: This is absolutely crucial in the delivery of your information to the distributor. Most will only let you complete a release when you have provided all the information that they require to not only fulfil the rights detail, but also make it searchable for music fans online.
Information that you will be asked to provide includes artist name, album or single title, the release date, record label, track titles, genre, artwork, composers, ISRCS (if registered at PPL) and artist biography.
Q: How do I obtain ISRCs and embed them into my recordings?
A: For embedding ISRCS, this can either be done by the mastering engineer if for CD, or you can add ISRC details to the properties section on the MP3.
If you need ISRCS, you can request these via PPL here.
Q: Any other tips once my release is made available?
A: With such a range of competition in the market place, you must do all you can to promote your release via social media and traditional methods like mailing list promotion and live shows around the release. Online or traditional radio play, blogs and word of mouth will all help your release.