How To Make Money From Songwriting Royalties

Making money from your music.

All those hours spent working out tunes on the guitar, or those long nights in front of the computer finishing your hip-hop track. You obviously enjoy making music, but you would like to see some financial reward for your effort. We all know making money is hard work, but this article looks at songwriter royalties and some of the issues you need to be aware of.

If you are a songwriter and wish to earn money from your songs then you will most likely need to sign an agreement with a publisher.

If you find a publisher who wants to publish your song, then you will need to sign a contract which transfers the ownership of the original composition to them. Don’t worry this is standard practice, but in return the publisher will pay royalties to you and handle the business side of things.

How much will they pay you?

Typically it should be around 50% but below are some things you need to be aware of regarding the contract.

Catch All

In some contracts, it might state that the songwriter receives 50% of the money from ‘mechanical, synchronization and transcription income’, or something like that.

As you can see, this is a smaller list of revenue streams than what is possible nowadays; i.e. the Internet for one, so potentially there could be a chance that the publisher receives money that it won’t have to share with the songwriter!

Now, although this is unlikely and most publishers should realise this, to protect yourself and for any future changes in music technology which can affect your income, make sure you add the words ‘catch all’ at the bottom of the list.

This will mean you will receive 50% of all income sources not referred to in the contract, in addition to all the sources clearly outlined in the agreement. This way you are earning 50% on everything the publisher makes. Much better!

Is the publishing company affiliated with your record company?

You have to watch this because the publisher might licence your songs to your record company for a reduced rate. Yes, they will make less money because of this, but the record company will more than make up for the loss, and unfortunately you won’t see your share of this money.

If you think this applies to your situation, make sure you add something in the contract to prevent this from happening.

Share of Advances

If the publisher receives any advances for its collection of songs, that’s fine. However, if an advance specifically relates to your composition, then you should get your share otherwise you will miss out on what the publisher makes from this.

Finally, you should check your publisher’s deals with any sub-publishers are ‘at source’. This basically means your publisher’s income, which you share, is the largest amount.


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