Thoughts - Short Journals on Music Royalties and Licensing

Originally posted on my Facebook: Link

August 31, 2022 - Deciphering the ASCAP report - Recitals (the 'serious' composer)

I thought it might help to explain what happens on a writer's statement and what everything means. If you want the nitty/gritty/detailed - the current publications that help are:

(If the links are dead, shoot me a message so I can fix it. Also, if the link is dead do a search query of the title with file extension - ie, the second document can be searched as "drd.pdf")

So, here is a line from my writer's statement:

Line # = count of all lines within report

Title = Official Title of Composition

Work ID = Number assigned by ASCAP for my composition

CA% = How much copyright I own of the piece (100% if I'm not using someone else's music)

Share % = Total as a writer (50% max - Publisher gets the other 50%)

Point award = B - Serious Music (A - Entertainment Music). The second number is assigned by length and forces (see the drd.pdf)... for this example, my piece is 15 minutes and is performed with Live electronics, multiple speakers, and fixed media - which receives the classification of Bb9 (B is for serious, b is for chamber music of 3 - 9 instruments, and 9 is the classifier for 15 minutes in the chamber music category). (FYI if it was for fixed media - sterophonic = Ba6; was for small orchestra = Bc18; was for full orchestra = Bd36).

Date = Performance Date as noted on program

# of plays = How many times performed on the date

Performing Artist/Presenter = Who licensed the concert (the licensee has to submit the program and a quarterly report). Please note - as a writer, if you don't submit the program through their performance notification system you might not get royalties. If your licensee (the person organizing the concert or venue) does not report the concert - you will ABSOLUTELY not receive royalties - unlicensed concerts generate zero royalties.

C/S = 'C'ensus means all concerts count. 'S'urvey means they might randomly pick (through lottery) what days are used to qualify for education concerts (I had one year with about 20 concerts at Universities, and not one piece fell on a day of their lottery).

Credits = Based on an overall mathematical formula (derived from all composers in all genres and fields), writers are assigned a number for the year. In this year, the number is 2.95315. Because this is a Bb9 piece, the credit value is 2.9315 multiplied by 9 = 26.57835.

Royalty amount = Credits multiplied by the 'Credit Value' at the top of the page - 26.57835 multiplied by $8.20, totaling $217.94247

  • To maximize and ensure royalty - both the licensee (organizer of the concert) and writer must submit their notifications/reports

  • Be sure to register your work accurately (and double-check your reports - they occasionally can do it wrong). The same composition, on this report and year, would have been a very different royalty amount if they had classified it as:

    • Entertainment = 3 x 2.95315 x $8.20 = $72.64749

    • Solo or Duet = 6 x 2.95315 x $8.20 = $145.29498

    • Small Orchestra or Ensemble = 18 x 2.95315 x $8.20 = $435.88494

    • Full Orchestra = 36 x 2.95315 x $8.20 = $871.76988

  • Education concerts (Universities and Colleges) pay out as low as 5% - 10% of a fully licensed concert by a professional organization

July 16, 2022 - Internet vs Radio

Mindful/logic on royalties.

I sometimes engage in this conversation on broadcast royalties, especially when I hear people talk about the low rates for internet royalties.

Rounding up - and roughly (following ASCAP on one of my reports - and there are several variables that can change this) -

1) 1 listen on Spotify = royalty of $0.0003

2) 1 terrestrial broadcast = royalty of $10.02561

Why the discrepancy? Following the math - 1 listen is an exact metric, but the performing rights organization can only roughly measure the exact number of listeners on a radio broadcast. So 33,418 might be a good estimate as to the average listening base for the radio station ("2" divided by "1"). In other words, it would take 33,000ish spins on Spotify to represent the audience reached on 1 terrestrial radio broadcast.

So, if your mortgage payment was $2,000 a month, you would need to convince 6,666,667 people to listen to your song every month on Spotify or get placed 199 times on terrestrial radio stations.

June 29, 2022 - A Look at Some Royalty Auctions

As a creative, I always encourage artists to be mindful of their royalties. All three of these were put up at auction and would earn the creator of the product the final bid for a term... so the creator gets the 'sold for' price and the new owner gets the royalty.

(1) So, to own royalties for every time someone buys Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia = sold for $50,750 for 10 years of royalties (currently paying at $6,500 - $7,500 per year).

(2) To own royalties for every time someone watches the movie Trading Spaces (Eddie Murphy/Dan Akroyd movie from the 80's) = sold for $140,300 for the life of the creator +70 years of royalties (currently making about $8,000 - $9,000 per year).

(3) To own royalties for Jay-Z’s Multi-Platinum/Grammy-winning “Empire State of Mind” = sold for $190,500 for 10 years of royalties (currently paying at $35,000 per year). <--- and that's mostly from international streaming!

Disclaimer: This is not investing advice and ALL investments come with risk; it is just a curious look at creatives and how they can leverage their rights/stakes in royalties to investors.