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When Songwriters License Music: The Difficulties With Collecting Royalties In A Changing Music Landscape
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When Songwriters License Music: The Difficulties With Collecting Royalties In A Changing Music Landscape

Music licensing is a major way for songwriters and musicians to generate income from their music. This is an especially ideal option for those who cannot tour or desire additional income from their creative works. Publishing rights organizations are responsible for collecting royalties on the behalf of songwriters and composers. However glitches in the methods used by PROs (Publishing Rights Organizations) can frustrate composers and songwriters licensing music.

Composers and songwriters become members of publishing rights organizations to collect royalties from their music. PRO members depend on them to monitor uses of the copyright protected works on televisions shows, in films and in public venues, then acquire the financial compensation due to them. US publishing rights organizations SESAC, BMI and ASCAP have relied on the same system for years when determining what royalties composers and songwriters licensing music will receive. After copyright holders have submitted their works Publishing rights organizations rely on cue sheets to know when and how registered music is utilized on television and in films.

It is primarily the production companies' job to fill out cue sheets but PROS like BMI recommend that composers and songwriters licensing music prepare their own cue sheets or requests a copy from the production company. Mistakenly filled out cue sheets can cause a copyright holder to miss out on their royalties. A major criticism of PROs from composers and songwriters licensing music is their method of tracking the use of registered music is not accurate as it allows for uses of their music to go unreported and relies on a formula not easily understood.

Royalty collections agencies have cropped over the past few years to supplement publishing rights organizations. The major draw for composers and songwriters licensing music is the digital method royalty collections agencies like SoundExchange, Songtrust and TuneSat use makes tracking registered works more accurate and allows them to collect money from digital transmissions including satellite and internet radio. Songtrust and TuneSat also let copyright holders collect royalties from mechanical licenses and synchronization rights.

TuneSat was co-founded by songwriter Scott Schreer after he experienced the limitations of collecting royalties using a PRO. The technology royalty collection agencies like TuneSat use creates a digital fingerprint of music and lets composers and songwriters licensing music actually see where and how the music is used. Royalty collection agencies could one day replace the traditional publishing rights organizations as the music industry continues to evolve and merge with the digital world. Subsequently, PROs may learn firsthand like record companies that not being able to adapt to the dramatically changing landscape of the music industry will have financial consequences.


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