Indie artists don’t always get paid giant licensing fees when their songs are used on TV shows; but every dollar counts. If you’re lucky enough to get a song placed on Grey’s Anatomy, The Real World, One Tree Hill, 90210, a PBS documentary, a local TV news magazine, or any other program, there’s a good chance you’ll end up earning more money in the long run from performance royalties than from the initial licensing royalty.
So, what are the two obvious (but all-too-common!!!) ways of screwing up your ability to get paid performance royalties?
#1- Have no PRO-affiliation.
What’s a PRO? According to Wikipedia: “a performance rights organization provides intermediary functions, particularly royalty collection, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly…”
Who are those parties? Well– restaurants and stores that play music for customers, bars and clubs that host live performances, and TV and radio stations that transmit music to listeners and viewers.
You can register yourself as a songwriter (and publisher, if applicable) with an organization like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or SOCAN. They will collect performance royalties for you when your music is used on TV or played on the air; then they’ll take out a small admin fee and pay the rest to you.
No PRO-affiliation, no performance royalties! That money would just end up beneath the giant couch-cushion in the sky.
#2- Not listing your actual songs with the PRO.
PROs aren’t psychic, and they’re certainly not hip or technologically savvy enough to keep theirs eyes on every career move you make. When you write, record, and release a new song or album, you actually have to go back into your PRO account and tell them about this new material! Otherwise, they have no idea what songs they should be collecting performance royalties for in the first place.
Sadly, the account management systems on many of the PROs’ websites seem like they were built in 1996. They’re a bit of a pain when it comes to entering new data, but you’ve GOT to do it if you want to get paid!
And to take things one step further, if you’re registered as both a songwriter AND a publisher, be sure the most current data (song titles, writer info, etc.) is listed correctly in both places. If you have co-writers on any new tracks, be sure they enter the info into their accounts too. Maybe you just threw up a little in your mouth just thinking about updating an ASCAP account. Would it make things easier if you threw a pizza party instead? Yay– pizza, beer, and data-entry!
Whatever you gotta do, get it done– unless you like to leave fruit on the money-tree unpicked!