If You Perform Live, You’re Probably Not Getting Paid Royalties That You Deserve
For many artists, touring is one of the primary ways in which they maintain a living as a musician, making it that much more troubling to learn that many artists who do live shows aren't walking away with all the performance royalties to which they are entitled. Here Ari Herstand explains what artists must do claim this additional revenue.
By Ari Herstand and originally appeared on Ari's Take
Photo by Maya Dondonyan
I just had a meeting with Sentric Music publishing CEO, Chris Meehan.
I’m currently working on a admin publishing company comparison between Sentric, Songtrust, CD Baby Pro Publishing and Tunecore Publishing. Chris happened to be in town so we decided to have our meeting face to face in person.
We got to talking about Sentric’s services and just publishing royalties in general and he tipped me off to something pretty incredible. Since Sentric is UK based, their focus is heavily European and have a strong handle on the European publishing market.
He told me that some of the most money that artists leave on the table is from live performances.
He told me a story about how a Sentric artist went on tour as Bon Jovi’s opener. They only played 4 songs a night, but made an additional £9,000 (about $11,300) per night in performance royalties!
How can that be you ask? Well, if you perform original music, your Performing Rights Organization (PRO), pays you for every song you perform live. How do they know which songs you perform live? Well, you have to let them know!
Many PROs around the world have a setlist import feature.
In the states, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC all have it. PRS in the UK has it. SOCAN in Canada has it. Some admin publishers (like Sentric and Songtrust) will send your setlists to the PROs in the countries you perform in.
But ASCAP and BMI currently require that the artists do this directly.
In the UK, for instance, for ticketed events at larger music venues (any venue that is primarily a concert venue – not just a pub) they calculate this as a minimum of 4% of gross box office receipts split amongst all songs performed at that venue that year (regardless if it’s by the headliner or the opener).
If you play non-ticketed shows in the UK, like pubs and cafes, PRS will still pay you £10 per gig. Songtrust showed me a recent BMI statement of one of their clients who earned about $1/song performed in a small club in New York.
And how do you collect this money?
Well, from your PRO or your admin publisher. And, again, you have to import your setlists.
ASCAP and BMI, in the States, track the top 300 grossing tours and pays this out automatically. So, if you’re not one of the top 300 grossing tours in the States, you must input your setlists to your PRO directly.
Every country and PRO has different calculations, but you’re leaving money on the table if you do not input your setlists.
Most PROs (and admin publishing companies) make it simple if you play the same set every night. And Sentric actually links up with BandsInTown and SongKick so you don’t have to manually input each show date.
Which shows qualify to register? Any performance at a public venue (not house concerts). And don't worry, you're not charging the venues directly. It's not coming out of their pockets. You're not going to hurt your favorite local venue by reporting your setlists. All venues are required by law to obtain a license to have live music in their establishment. Whether you submit your setlists or not, they will still have to pay for the blanket license to the respective PROs. Your payments come from your PRO based on their internal calculations. If you don't submit your setlists, you don't get your money. The venue still has to pay the same amount for their music license.
Most PROs only hold onto this money for you for about a year. So, if you have performed a show in the past year, stop what you’re doing, login to your PRO (or admin publisher) interface and add in your setlists. You’re leaving money on the table!
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Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, the founder off the music biz advice blog Ari's Take and a Los Angeles based musician. Follow him on Instagram @ariherstand and Twitter @aristake