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  • Writer's pictureMatt Errington

The 4 Revenue Streams of The Songwriter

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

Are you a songwriter? Are you confident you know all of the revenue streams that you should receive? What if a song you wrote is played on the radio, or live in concert, or your lyrics are used on an Instagram Story, or even printed on t-shirt - are you owed money? Yes! It's crucial you know how your songs generate income, how to collect it, and how to maximise it! Our Music Business Fundamentals course includes a module on publishing and songwriter revenues. James Cooper, Head of Sync at Sony/ATV also leads our Music Publishing course. Get the knowledge, and get paid what you and your music deserves!

Here's a brief overview of 4 ways songwriters make money:

1. Performance Royalties

Anytime the song you’ve written is performed in public, you’re owed money! This includes radio, tv and live performances. Your song played in a gym, or at the local bakery? Someone performed your song live in a pub or on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury? Royalties are owed to you.

Anyone that wants to use your music in these ways, must buy a license from a PRO (Performing Rights Organisation) such as PRS for Music. The PRO will track the uses of your music for you, and pay out the royalties owed.

Performance royalties come from: Radio and TV broadcast Restaurants, bars, hotels, gyms, supermarkets, stores, businesses etc

Live concert venues


Interactive streaming (such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube)

2. Mechanical Royalties

If your song is reproduced, you’re owed money! Streamed on an interactive streaming service, downloaded, duplicated on to CD or vinyl? Mechanical royalties are due. Physical duplication is set at 0.091 cents per song, per unit. Ringtones (who downloads them?!) is 0.24 cents and for streaming, well that’s more complicated:

The amount for streaming will depend on whether the stream happened on a free/ad-based account vs. a subscription account. The amount will be a percentage of their revenue, less the performance royalty. But whatever the amount turns out to be, there is money owed.

These royalties are paid to the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) in the UK. If your songs aren’t registered there, you’re missing out on the money!

3. Print Royalties

Did you know that if the music you’ve written is printed, either as musical notation, tablature, or even lyrics on a t-shirt, or on an Instagram Story, you’re owed money!

Print royalties comes from: Physical or online sheet music

Guitar Tablature

Lyrics on liner notes Lyrics on Spotify or Instagram etc.

4. Sync Licensing

You’ve probably heard of this one! A one-time ‘sync’ (synchronisation) fee is usually owed if your music is used with a moving image. There’s no set rate, which means fees for the use of the music can be really high! It will depend on how the song is used, how much of the song is used, how integral it is to the piece, and if it’s being done for commercial purposes.

These one-time sync fees come from: TV and film soundtracks Adverts Video games Apps Trailers


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