Every artist’s dream is to be able to quit the day job and focus on their music full time. But in order to do that, they need to begin making money from music. This can seem like an impossible feat, considering the industry is crying out that the value of music is dying. This is thanks to piracy and micro royalty payments from digital platforms.
But there are still some ways you can begin making money from music and every little helps. We are aiming to cover how to strategise in your career and understand what opportunities are available to you. This first part is about intellectual property.
Understanding Intellectual Property
The main thing to understand about intellectual property (or IP) is copyright. When a song is written and/or recorded, there is automatically a copyright attached to that piece of work. You can make money from this copyright.
There are three different types of copyright within a song. The individual(s) involved in creating each of these are entitled to a share of ownership of that copyright.
- The lyrics.
- The composition (i.e the melody).
- The master recording.
To make things simple we will group the copyright for the lyrics and the copyright for the melody / instrumentation together. This is normally called the song rights or publishing rights and the recording copyright is called the master rights.
Making Money from Intellectual Property
If you own the song rights:
Earn money from your compositions by having your song placed in sync opportunities, such as films, television shows and advertisements. The Music Sync Tank are doing an excellent series for us, delving into what exactly sync is and how to get these kinds of deals.
Another way would be to get another performing artist to record your song. Every time this new recording is performed live, played in public, broadcast on radio, used in a film, television show etc. you earn a performance royalty from these usages.
The best way to keep track of this is to be signed up to the Performing Rights Society (PRS). You register any song you have written with them and they give you and your songs unique codes. They can then track the usage of your song and pay you what you are owed. Their website tells you what they do, but essentially if you’re writing songs there’s no excuse not to use them!
If you own the master rights:
If you’ve recorded a song you can be earning money from this. You will earn money each time the composition within your master recording is synced to visual media. Whoever wants to use the song will need permission from the owner of the song rights and the master rights. Both will be entitled to a fee for this usage. This fee depends on the negotiated contract.
How Else Can We Start Making Money From Music?
You earn a royalty from MCPS each time this master recording is reproduced on CD, download etc. This is called a mechanical royalty. This is also handled by PRS but is solely about the usage of the recording of the song. Basically, if you have recorded a song written by someone else, you will earn an MCPS royalty whenever the recording is played in public. The songwriter will also earn a PRS royalty. You can learn more about MCPS here.
Also, if you distribute into physical stores or on streaming / download sites then every time that is bought / streamed you will get a cut of the money earned from this. You will receive the money from whoever distributes for you e.g. our sponsors Horus Music. You can distribute with them for free and they in turn will pay you your cut. No need for you to chase up the money yourself. There are other distribution options that are available depending on what you’re looking for.
If you have written your own songs and retained your master recording rights then you’re lucky. This means you can earn money for both copyrights! If a song is played on the radio you will earn the performance royalty. If you distribute your music you will get a royalty from PRS / MCPS and your direct payment from your distributor.
As with anything like this it is easier said than done. If you get your music out there but don’t tell anyone about it then there is less chance that it will be bought or listened to. Sync companies won’t know about it to use in their media either. You have to make some noise about what you’re doing to reap the benefits.