Everything You Need to Know About Music Royalties

  • What are Mechanical Royalties?

    Mechanical royalties are payments to the writer of a song whenever that song is reproduced in some form. This includes physical sales, digital downloads, and on-demand streaming. Mechanical royalties are different from performance royalties, which are paid to songwriters and copyright owners for the public performance of their music.

    In the United States, mechanical royalties are paid at a statutory rate of 9.1 cents per song, or 1.75 cents per minute for songs over 5 minutes long. This rate is set by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) and is adjusted periodically.

    Mechanical royalties are typically paid by record labels, music publishers, and streaming services. When a record label records a songwriter's song, they are required to pay a mechanical royalty to the songwriter's music publisher. The music publisher then distributes the royalty to the songwriter.

    Streaming services also pay mechanical royalties to songwriters and copyright owners. However, the way that streaming services calculate and pay mechanical royalties is more complex than for physical sales and digital downloads. Streaming services pay mechanical royalties based on a variety of factors, including the number of times a song is streamed, the length of the song, and the subscription tier of the listener.

    Here are some examples of how mechanical royalties can be generated:

    • When someone buys a CD, digital download, or vinyl album containing your song.
    • When someone streams your song on a streaming service like Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music.
    • When someone downloads your song as a ringtone or uses it in a greeting card.
    • When someone covers your song and releases their recording of it.
    • When someone samples your song in their own song.

    If you are a songwriter, it is important to understand mechanical royalties and how to collect them. You can collect mechanical royalties by registering your songs with a performing rights organization (PRO) such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. PROs will track the use of your songs and collect royalties on your behalf.

    You can also collect mechanical royalties directly from record labels, music publishers, and streaming services. However, this can be a complex and time-consuming process, so it is often recommended to work with a PRO.