Mechanical royalties: Everything you need to know

When it comes to making a living as an independent artist and songwriter, mechanical royalties are essential. In this piece, we break down everything from who gets them to how to collect them.

Guest post by Randi Zimmerman of the Symphonic Blog

Mechanical royalties are a vital source of income for independent artists who write their own songs. From who gets them to how to collect yours, let’s break it down. Here’s everything you need to know about mechanical royalties as an independent artist…

What Are Mechanical Royalties?

Mechanical royalties are earned per-unit when a song is sold on a “mechanically reproduced” physical medium (think vinyl, physical CDs), and nowadays, this also includes digital downloads and internet streaming.

“Mechanical” can sound like a confusing word to us in the digital age, but it stems from the fact that back in the early days of the music industry, compositions were physically or mechanically manufactured and reproduced onto physical products for public consumption.

In the most general sense, a mechanical right is the right to mechanically “fix” a musical composition onto some form of media (digital or physical) as a sound recording, and thereafter to reproduce it.

What this means is that you as the songwriter/composer get to control:

  • who records and releases the first recording of your musical composition
  • who records and releases new recordings (a.k.a. cover versions)
  • who gets to print and release printed sheet music of your songs
  • who gets to re-release any recording made of your song (i.e. on a soundtrack/compilation album).

The point is, you have a say in all of this. — You have the right to receive royalties from the reproductions of your songs. This money is yours and just waiting to be collected!


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Who Collects Them?

Mechanical royalties are collected from mechanical collection societies. Each major world territory has a mechanical collection society.

How Do You Know If You’re Earning Mechanical Royalties?

If you are distributing your music to stores and streaming platforms worldwide using a digital music distributor (like Symphonic) and you’re seeing sales and streams as a result, then you’re definitely earning mechanical royalties.

More specifically, you’re earning mechanical royalties when your song is:

  • Manufactured and sold on physical CD/vinyl products
  • Reproduced into ringtones and sold as a ringtone
  • Streamed through interactive streaming services (on Spotify, Rdio, Beats, Deezer, etc.)
  • Sold in digital retailers for digital downloads (on iTunes, Beatport, Amazon, etc.) outside of the USA.

Note: In the USA, the mechanical royalty share goes straight from iTunes to the distributor to the label. But in countries outside of the USA, your mechanical royalty is getting picked up from iTunes and thrown elsewhere.

Can Symphonic Help With This?

Yes! We absolutely can.

Symphonic Publishing Administration is designed for the worldwide collection of all music publishing royalties, specifically tailored for independent artists who write their own songs. The core of what we collect for you are your mechanical royalties and performance royalties, and we do this by registering each one of your songs for you in every individual performance AND mechanical rights organization in over 60 territories.

No matter how your song was, is, or will be used – downloads, streams, internet radio plays, performances by DJs, anything – our publishing administration structure guarantees we will be collecting the maximum amount of mechanical and performance royalties you deserve.

  • To sign up for our publishing admin services, click here.
  • Our team will review your submission and will advise you if accepted via email notification.
  • Upon being accepted, you will be redirected to a sign up page provided by our partner, Songtrust.

Don’t leave your money waiting! Collect your royalties today

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