Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Digital Music Royalties Waiting to Be Paid - Part 1

These days, there are so many various ways that musicians (recording artists), songwriters, record labels and music publishers can get paid (or not get paid - as the case may be) when recorded music is played on traditional AM/FM radio, satellite radio, Internet streaming, cable TV, etc., it can make your head spin. For example, for many years three organizations (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC) have collected royalties paid by traditional AM/FM radio stations for playing music and then distributed those royalties to the songwriters who wrote the songs and the music publishers who own the copyrights in them. But due to a long-standing tradition and legal exemption, the singers and musicians who perform on the records played on AM/FM radio stations - as well as the record labels who own the recordings - DON'T get paid any share of the royalties collected by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC from the radio stations. And to make it even more confusing, when those same songs are streamed over the Internet by the companies that own the AM/FM radio stations, everyone - including the recordings artists and record labels - DO get paid. Go figure.

Needless to say, it's a confusing situation for most recording artists, songwriter, music publishers and record labels. But as a starting point, we highly recommend that songwriters and music publishers affiliate themselves with either ASCAP, BMI or SESAC so that they can paid what they are due when the songs they write and publish get played on traditional AM/FM radio and in other public performances. We also recommend, of course, that songwriters and publishers REGISTER THEIR COPYRIGHTS with the U.S. Copyright Office.

We are also recommending that recording artists and record labels get familiar with a non-profit organization called Sound Exchange (click here) so that they can get paid when their songs are played on satellite radio such as SIRIUS/XM, Internet streaming radio stations, etc. We will have a more detailed report about Sound Exchange in an upcoming blog entry. In the meantime, please call or write if you have any questions about these kinds of issues.

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