By John Seay, Atlanta Entertainment Lawyer: The Seay Firm LLC (@TheSeayFirmLLC)
Last week, Flagpole Magazine, the independent alt-weekly of Athens, Ga., published an article written by John Seay. The article discusses a handful of quick ways in which artists can make a few extra bucks, and is reprinted–with permission–in full below.
Alms for the Poor: How to Make Literally Dozens (!) of Dollars Off Your Music
A few tips on monetizing your music from a real, live lawyer.
Carl Lender (Wikimedia Commons)
If you’re a musician in Athens, you’re probably broke.
After all, fewer people are buying content these days, and half the time, your band is asked to play for free. Well, small consolation though it may be, The Future of Music Coalition, a nonprofit organization that specializes in education, research and advocacy on behalf of musicians, feels your pain.
Several months ago, FMC released data from its Artist Revenue Streams research project, which confirmed that artists are drawing less revenue from more sources than they were even five years ago. (You can read about the full results of the project here.) No surprise there. However, in addition to some of the more traditional revenue sources, like money from performing and selling music, the ARS project identified some other, less intuitive sources of revenue. Some of the more interesting—and mostly free—non-intuitive revenue sources are discussed below. While you probably won’t earn enough from them to quit your job at the bar, you may make a couple of bucks here and there, and over time, your revenue shares may increase.
Public Performance Royalties
If you’re a songwriter, then whenever your song is played on radio and television, or in clubs and restaurants, you’re entitled to public performance royalties. The entities that play your songs must obtain licenses to do so, and those licenses are issued by performance rights societies, e.g., ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. To collect your money, you must be a member of one of those societies. Note that those societies divide revenue equally between songwriters and publishers. So, if you’re your own publisher—meaning you haven’t signed away your publishing rights—then in order to get the publisher’s share, you must either register as a publisher in addition to a songwriter, or ask for 200 percent of your writer’s share.
Digital Performance Royalties
If you’re either a performer or the owner of the copyright in a sound recording, then whenever those sound recordings are streamed over services like Sirius XM and Pandora, you’re entitled to digital performance royalties. The only entity authorized to track such uses and pay out royalties is SoundExchange. So, if you want this money, you must register with them to get it. If you’re not sure whether registering with SoundExchange is worth it, then visit SoundExchange’s “Plays” database, where you can type in your band’s name or a song title and find out if SoundExchange has money waiting for you.
Alliance of Artists and Record Companies Royalties
OK, this is an odd one. The AARC primarily collects royalties for digital recordings of songs and then distributes that money to performers. The organization was originally formed to collect royalties generated from the sale of blank CDs. When blank CDs first came out in the ’90s, the industry saw them as vehicles for piracy. So, a law was passed that for every blank CD sold, a percentage of that money had to be placed into a fund to compensate artists whose music was likely to be pirated—i.e., yours.
YouTube Partner Program
If your band has content on YouTube, then you may have the option to monetize any traffic that’s directed to those videos. Join YouTube as a Partner and then create and link an AdSense account to your YouTube account. How much money you make depends on a variety of factors, most of which are a mystery to everyone. Note that YouTube requires you to own the worldwide rights to the video, so don’t copy someone else’s content or use anything without permission, as the site may flag your video and cease payment to your account.