File Under: Making Money With Music, Getting Licensed and Generating Royalties, Booking and Performing Live, Understanding Your Legal Rights
The role of a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) is to collect and pay royalties when your music is played on the radio, TV, movies, or performed live. If you write music, and haven't joined a PRO yet, you're leaving money on the table. You're missing out on royalties as a source of income. We cover this in detail in the Your Rights chapter of The Indie Band Survival Guide (Remixed & Remastered: Second Edition) and walk you through every registration you should make for every song and album you release.
But if you have registered your music, and you perform your own compositions live, you can tap another source of royalty income: live performance royalties.
These royalties are collected by the PROs from most music venues (usually as a subscription fee) and divided between musicians via a survey and formula created by the PRO. Naturally, major label artists often get the largest share of these royalties given the amount of plays and performances. Independent musicians, on the other hand, often don't get picked up in surveys. But this is possibly because they haven't taken advantage of their PRO's live music royalty program.
What some musicians may not know is that they are entitled to royalties, even if they are playing their own music. They just need to report the performances.
To take advantage of this, first, join a PRO, and register each of your compositions with them. Then, make sure to keep accurate set lists for every live show that you play. If you belong to ASCAP you'll enter them into their onStage program, and if you belong to BMI you'll enter them into BMI Live. If you are a SESAC member, they accept setlists from their affiliates.
By following your PRO's rules and doing a little bit of cataloging what you've played and where, you'll start receiving checks -- just for playing your own music.
Challenge: If you haven't registered with a PRO yet, do so, and register your music. If you have, next time you play a show, keep a setlist and enter it into your PRO's setlist tracking program.
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