Who gets paid from a song

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Kevin91, Feb 18, 2010.

  1. Kevin91

    Kevin91 Guest

    I tryed reading up on who gets paid from a song, and how royalties work, and it was too confusing.

    So what I want to know is how much of the business is MANDATORY, and how much is NOGOTIATED. What i'm getting at is how much of the system can you modify without breaking any laws?

    Like if you start your own company with you and a friends music, and you want to promote the music yourself, can you be your own publisher and cut out the middle man so you can get paid more?
  2. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Nov 23, 2008
    Rainy Roads WA USA
    You start your own band, start your own record company, start your own publishing company, start your own management company, start your own promotional company.....certainly no law against that!

    So you have all your businesses ready to go...and you create the music, you record and master it, you publish and release it, you manage all the finances and you go out and start promoting it, then you have to go find somebody to buy it.....when you find someone to buy your product they give you money for it...you will then be able to pay yourself back all the money it cost you to create, record, release, manage and promote your product.....sounds simple huh!

    And it is kinda....it's no different than any other business that manufactures a "part", sells it to someone and makes a profit....except the "part" your building and going to sell is a song....the most difficult part of any business is having enough money up front to pay for the expense of producing your "part" so you can eventually sell it to somebody in the future and make that profit that will pay all your expenses....
    So you have the song but no market, no distribution and not enough buyers after you've spent a bunch money creating your product............now what?
    So at this point it's all become just a big risky crap shoot.

    Unless of course somehow you've already created distribution and sales all over the world already in place ready for your song and somehow you know ahead of time how many copies you have sold....

    Good luck with that....
  3. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    It's confusing because it can get complicated kinda fast, but I'll take a crack at it and try to break it down.

    Business first - If you're getting into songwriting as a business you should have the songs copyrighted and you and your co-writer(s) should fill out the application together and agree on who contributed what percentage in the creation of the song lyrics and/or music. (It's a lot easier now than it will be after you sell a song, you may no longer be friends with your writing buddy - sad but true.) You should also join ASCAP, BMI, or one of the other organizations that tracks sales and airplay. They all help artists get paid for their work by tracking, collecting, and distributing the royalty money. (You only need to join one of them) The ASCAP and BMI sites are also a great resource for making sure you've got your business straight.



    Selling the song(s) - You are free to record your own original songs and offer paid downloads or sell the CD's independently (professionally printed or homegrown) and keep 100% of the profit. If they are songs someone else wrote it REALLY gets complicated, but that's not what you asked, so I'll skip that.

    Royalties - As the songwriter you won't get royalties unless the song is used by someone else. That would include another artist recording it and selling CDs, downloads, airplay, sheetmusic, jukebox play, and live performance at music venues - among other things. And you may receive royalties if your song is used in a TV show, movie, commercial, etc. Or you may receive royalties if it is played on the radio. But like live performance, jukebox play, etc. radio airplay does NOT automatically mean you'll be getting a check. ASCAP, BMI, etc. can't possibly track every song played on the thousands of different stations 24-hrs. a day - so they take a random sample of station logs and assume that represents what the rest of the stations around the country played and pay royalties accordingly. The amount of the royalty depends on the number of plays and size of the audience it was played for. It can be just pennies, big bucks, or anywhere in between.

    Self-Publishing - If you wrote the song, you are free to be your own publisher and negotiate on any deal with whoever might want to buy it. The price would depend on what they're going to use it for. But it's your property to sell, lease, license, for whatever price you think the buyer is willing to pay.

    Getting a Publisher - A publishing deal is not much easier to get than a record deal. A professional publishing company should have a stable of music industry contacts that they can shop your song(s) to and earn their money by giving you access to people you might not ever meet otherwise. Usually you don't pay them unless they get results, but they'll own a piece of you for the duration of the contract. So if you're 'well-connected' in the business and have lots of people you can contact to sell your songs to, go for it. If not, it's better to try to find a publisher. There's a saying about it being "better to have 10% of something than 100% of nothing."

    Other services - we've got a new friend here on the forum that runs a service you might have heard of called TAXI, which can be beneficial to some songwriters by putting them in touch with people looking for a specific type of song (for a fee of course). You might want to look into that and make up your own mind if it's something that is of value to you. At any rate, their website is full of music business information and I'm sure they have a much better explanation of these points than I can give off the top of my head.

    TAXI Music Business Resources

    Good luck, I hope that was at least a little less confusing...
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Everyone and no one. You have to write, play, record. master and physically produce an album and have people want to purchase it before you can think of making money. DVDHAWK gave you some really good overviews of how this all happens. Many people today assume that all they have to do is produce a song, put it on the WWW and everyone will rush out to buy it. The main thing is that people have to know about the song and the artist that recorded it and that is called marketing and takes some time to get the artist(s) name out to the public and have them recognized. There are places on the WWW where you can post parts of songs and get people interested BUT today there are so many artist(s) that are producing material that you can get lost in the overall noise.

    Best to go to the local library and or do some research on the WWW about all that DVDHAWK has mentioned before you start counting your money.

    <Just a friendly suggestion - you should turn on your spell checker before sending out any press releases.> Well worded correctly spelled press releases are the norm.

    Best of Luck!
  5. Kevin91

    Kevin91 Guest


    Thanks for all the input.

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