In this post, we break down mechanical royalties in brief. You just released your first single through a distributor like 1710Media. When your fans listen to that song on streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, those streams generate both performance and mechanical royalties.
Music publishing is the exploitation of a song’s composition copyright. The composition of a song is the lyrics and melody as written by one or more songwriters. Music publishing only relates to composition.
It is the business of promotion and monetization of musical compositions: music publishers ensure that songwriters receive royalties for their compositions, and also work to generate opportunities for those compositions to be performed and reproduced.
Breaking Down Mechanical Royalties
Often referred to simply as “mechanicals”, mechanical royalties are payments made to a songwriter, composer, music publisher, or other copyright owners for the reproduction of their musical composition as embodied in a recording of a song (these are two different sets of copyright).
Originally, mechanical royalties referred only to physical reproduction and distribution (because there were no other kinds) but in today’s industry, the term also includes digital reproduction and broadcasting (radio).
Generally, a mechanical royalty is triggered when somebody makes a reproduction of a musical composition: copying a song onto a vinyl, CD, or cassette tape of your music; when your music is downloaded on a platform such as iTunes; when your music is streamed on a platform such as Spotify or Apple Music, or even when your music is featured in a ringtone, film soundtrack, karaoke recording or even an interactive greeting card with audio of your music.
Public Performance vs Mechanical Royalties
It is important to understand the distinction between performance royalties and mechanical royalties, especially because, with regard to streaming, both are involved.
While public performance royalties are tied to the exclusive right to perform the musical work publicly, mechanical royalties are designed as compensation to songwriters for the reproduction of their compositions.
Whenever a Spotify user chooses a song to stream, they trigger both types of royalties. Firstly, since the listener doesn’t actually own the track (and, neither does Spotify), the stream qualifies as a public performance. Then, to play the track, the streaming service has to reproduce the underlying composition, and a mechanical royalty is due.
The listener’s choice of how they listen to music is a significant distinction when it comes to mechanical royalties. For example, non-interactive streaming services like Pandora don’t have to pay mechanical royalties, since (technically) they broadcast a composition, rather than reproducing it. But, for interactive streaming services – services that allow you to choose what you’re hearing – both mechanical and performance royalties are triggered.
Performing Rights Organisations and Mechanical Royalties
There are different organizations, known as performing rights organizations (PROs), that issue mechanical licenses for publishers. Essentially, these organizations act like publishers’ agents for mechanicals. They issue mechanical licenses for the publisher, police them, and account to the publisher.
In the United States, the Harry Fox Agency is the organization representing mechanical rights. However, there are two PRO for mechanical licenses in Canada, being the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, or CMRRA, and – until recently – the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers & Publishers in Canada (SODRAC). Please note that, in 2018, SOCAN acquired SODRAC, adding mechanical rights administration into their collection and distribution services.
In Nigeria, the Musical Copyrights Society of Nigeria (MCSN) is the CMO responsible for collecting both Mechanical and Performance royalties.
How much royalty can I get from music publishing?
The amount of money you can earn from publishing depends on a few things. There’s no definitive, guaranteed number for everyone. Like sales and streaming revenue, the publishing royalties you earn are contingent on how much work you’re doing to promote your music and get it heard.
The rate at which songwriters and their publishers are paid mechanical royalties by streaming services is generally set by the government or determined by negotiations between publishers, collection societies, and streaming services. These rates will vary based on what type of customer is using the services (e.g., whether they’re on a paid or “freemium” plan) and what country the stream occurs in.
YouTube is another crucial pay source when it comes to mechanical royalties. Because YouTube content is often audiovisual, they earn what is called “micro-sync” royalties. Like with streaming, if your music is used in a video, it is technically a “reproduction” of your work as well as a public performance, earning you both types of royalties any time a monetized video plays your song on the platform. This is in addition to any micro-sync royalties a publisher or publishing administrator will collect for you.
Other often overlooked ways you can earn mechanical royalties include ringtones/ringbacks, when your song is recorded as a cover by another performing artist, film soundtracks, karaoke recordings, and interactive greeting cards.
How do I collect all of my mechanical royalties?
The caveat for independent artists who write and perform their own songs is that, while you control both of your copyrights, it’s extremely difficult to collect all of the royalties earned from your composition copyright by yourself. This is because collecting every publishing royalty you’re owed requires you to register your songs with hundreds of organizations around the world and have a catalog large enough to qualify as a publisher.
You can certainly collect some of your publishing royalties on your own from domestic sources, but there’s a good chance you’re leaving royalties unclaimed from sources you don’t have the authority to collect from.
Mechanical royalties are not always easy to collect as an independent songwriter. To ensure you're collecting all these royalties, you should have a publishing administrator registering your songs at global collection societies on your behalf.
Yes! As a Music Publishing Administrator, 1710Media administers your compositions by licensing, registering, and collecting royalties on behalf of your compositions, ensuring you are not leaving any money on the table.
If you sign up with us, we’ll handle all of the aspects of collection for your publishing, including:
- We manage all aspects of Registration, Licensing, and Royalty collection processes.
- Worldwide collection: We register your music directly with royalty collection organizations in Nigeria and over 100 other countries.
- Claim royalty back payments: You can claim royalties from as far back as 2 years ago in many cases.
- Register live performances: Earn royalties from your past and present live performances.
- Get royalties when your music is used in; Hotels, Clubs, Online, TV and Radio stations, Halls, Transport Facilities, and many others.
- Keep 90% of all royalties: We charge a 10% administration fee for all royalty types.
- You pay a one-time fee (per songwriter): We charge a one-time fee per songwriter. Not annual, not per-release, It's just one time.