Music Royalty Myths That Cost You Your Money (How to Collect Royalties the Right Way)

Lion Bold Records

January 16th, 2023

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Do I need to register my beats on BMI before I sell them.


BMI Registration is only for completed musical works. Beats that are intended to be sold to artists are not in their completed form and therefore should not be registered with a Performing Rights Organization. If the Beat is completely finished and will not be added to or modified, AND you will release it as-is, then you can register it as an instrumental.

If my music is distributed through a distributor like Distrokid and they collect my money through streaming sites specifically, would I still need to register my music with a Performing Rights Organizations?


Distrokid might collect revenue from your streams, but it is not a Mechanical or Performance Royalty. Streaming services such as Spotify only pay distributors a royalty based of the use of the Sound Recording—not the song itself. This means that if you are thinking your work is done by collecting only what Distrokid pays you, you are leaving your Mechanical Royalties and Performance Royalties on the table. Performance Royalties are paid out by Performing Rights Organizations like BMI. Mechanical Royalties are paid out through third-party agencies such as Harry Fox Organization.

I have my songs on CD Baby. Is that considered my publisher?


CD Baby, Distrokid, TuneCore, etc. are all music distribution services and are not music publishers. A music publisher takes legal ownership of your music through a Publishing Deal—music distribution services on the other hand only take a fee for making your music available for streaming and purchase online.

Some music distributors have music publishing services that can be purchased in addition to music distribution. These a la carte are catered to independent artists so they can gain some of the benefits and opportunities that music publishers provide.

Can I register a song that is not recorded and released yet?


Performing Rights Organizations such as BMI collect and pay out Performance Royalties which could be generated with or without a recorded song. For example, playing a song in a live performance setting will still generate a performance royalty. The fact that you don’t have the song recorded during registration does not affect the song’s ability to generate royalties because BMI doesn’t use any recorded audio to track down your royalties. Instead, BMI pays out royalties based on the reported usage of your song which is reported by venues, radio-stations, television productions, and other performers.

Is it possible to register an entire album? Would you register the songs individually or register the album as a one body of work?


In BMI, you start by registering your fist song and then at the end of registration, you have the option to “Register Additional Songs” or “Finish.” If you are registering an entire album, click “Register Additional Songs” until the entire album is registered and then click “Finish.”

I registered my songs, but I don’t see any royalties. Do I have to do something to collect my money?


So, of course, it IS possible that your music sucks and you are broke, but let’s assume your music is awesome and you made one million dollars of performance royalties on BMI:

It can take around 6 months (or more) to get paid. For example, royalty statements for the money you made in December will appear in your account in June of next year.

To easily collect your money from BMI, I recommend Direct Deposit. Complete you BMI profile and provide your checking account information so that BMI can drop that cash in your bank.

What if you happen to make a mistake on a Work that’s already been Registered. Can you make corrections to them?


You cannot edit registrations that have already been submitted. You must contact BMI at:

I’m on CD baby is that consider a publishing deal?


This question comes up a lot. There is a lot of confusion because CD Baby has something called CD Baby Pro. People think this is a publishing deal, but it is something different called Publishing Administration. CD Baby Pro’s Publishing Admin Services is actually in partner with Songtrust—a publishing administration service. They collect your publishing royalties in exchange for a cut as a service fee. Songtrust is a great service because they hunt down royalties for you, but If your song never becomes popular, then you won’t earn very much through Songtrust.

So aren’t we suppose to upload the song when registering for BMI?


No you don’t upload anything to BMI because BMI does not use the sound recording when determining royalty attributions.

Does BMI give me any copyright protection?


Registering your music on BMI or any Performing Rights Organization does not give you any legal protection of copyright infringement. In order to gain copyright protection for you music, you need to register your works with the US Copyright Office.

Is it required to copyright my song before registering with BMI?


It’s not required to register copyright before registering with a Performing Rights Organization like BMI. It’s definitely a good idea though.

If I already have songs being distributed by Distrokid and the royalties are already being split among the producer and artist through Distrokid would I still need to register my songs on BMI?


The answer is a definite yes. The reason is because there are three royalties at work and you should collect all of them if you want to make the most money as an artist. BMI is a Performing Rights Organization so it’s easy to remember that they collect your “Performance Royalties.” DistroKid is a music distributor that gets your music in stores like iTunes and on streaming platforms such as Spotify. Since your music will be sold/streamed via DistroKid’s distribution, the royalties you earn from CD Baby for use of the Sound Recording only. To get that third type of royalty (Mechanical Royalties), you need to enlist the services of a mechanical licensing agent such as Harry Fox Organization, Songtrust, or Music Reports.

Do a distribution company count as a publishing deal?


No it’s not. A lot of confusion comes from this because distributors often offer publishing admin SERVICES. For example CD Baby has something called CD Baby Pro. People think this is a publishing deal, but it is something different called Publishing Administration. CD Baby Pro’s Publishing Admin Services is actually in partner with Songtrust. Songtrust is also a publishing administration service. They collect your publishing royalties in exchange for a cut as a service fee. Songtrust is awesome because they hunt down royalties for you, but If the song never becomes popular, then it doesn’t matter. Focus on building your audience before worrying about any “deals.”

I’m a royalty free music producer who has an account on a few stock music platforms. When I upload my music to these stock music websites, do they become the publisher?


You would have to check the contract that you (most likely) skimmed while signing up. Haha but don’t worry. The general rule of thumb is that if the library is exclusive, then they ARE taking some amount of publishing. If the library is non-exclusive, they are most likely not. But you need to dive into the agreements and find out for sure. I have music in exclusive libraries and in my contract, it clearly states that they take publishing.


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