4 Types of Royalties Involved in Music Publishing


There are several ways to make money with your music, but it’s never as simple as receiving a weekly paycheck. Revenue generated from music comes from royalties, which is when a company or individual pays you to use your copyrighted works (your music). In other words, whenever someone plays your music, you get a cut.

There are four different types of royalties involved in music publishing:

  1. Mechanical royalties

  2. Performance royalties

  3. Synch royalties

  4. Print music royalties

If you really want to make money in the music industry, it’s important to understand the differences between the types of royalties and how they work. Here’s your guide to the four types of royalties in music publishing.

1. Mechanical Royalties

Mechanical royalties are paid out whenever a copy of a song is made. Think back to the days of records and cassettes. Whenever music was reproduced, it required a “mechanical” process to reproduce it.

Of course, times have changed, and nothing is mechanical anymore. Most modern mechanical royalties come from streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music, but only when a listener plays your song on-demand or downloads it. When your song plays over a streaming radio service, it’s a different type of royalty (which we’ll get to).

Mechanical royalty rates are set by the U.S. Copyright Act. Most of the time, rates land around $0.06 per 100 on-demand streams. So, if someone listens to your song 100 times on Spotify, you’ll get $0.06. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you get into the thousands or millions of streams, that money can really add up. If your listeners play your song 1.6 million times, you’ll earn $1,000 in mechanical royalties.

In the United States, mechanical royalties are collected and distributed by the Harry Fox Agency and the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC). Companies like Songtrust and Cdbaby also collects Mechanical royalties.

2. Performance Royalties

In some instances, replaying your copyrighted songs aren’t considered reproductions; they’re performances. This is typically when your songs are played in public places, such as:

  • On the radio

  • In a bar or restaurant

  • Radio service like Spotify or Pandora (not for on-demand streaming or downloads)

To start earning performance royalties, you’ll need to register your song with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) like BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, SOCAN (Canada), or PRS (UK). They’ll then split the royalty between songwriter royalties and publishing royalties. You’ll get the songwriter royalties, while your publishing company (if you work with one) will get the publishing royalties.

3. Synch Royalties

Music always makes videos, movies, and games better. But like any other reproduction of copyrighted work, it’s costs money! When someone “synchs” your music to a visual media like a movie, TV show, YouTube video, video game, commercial, etc., you’ll get paid synch royalties.

Synch royalties are typically one-time fees. If a company wants to use your song in a commercial, they’ll pay the royalties once for the life of the commercial. Once the song is synched, it’s authorized for use in that particular visual media forever.

These are just a few of the companies that collect synch royalties for artists:

4. Print Music Royalties

Whenever you wander through a music store, you’ll likely see entire walls of print music and tabs to teach musicians how to play popular songs. Since they aren’t reproductions or productions of the song, they need a special type of royalty.

Print music royalties are just like they sound: They’re royalties that come from the sale of sheet music. These royalties are typically split between the songwriters and the publishers. Naturally, this type of royalty applies only to songwriters who release their songs as sheet music. If you focus mainly on mechanical and performance royalties, it’s not uncommon for musicians to not get any print music royalties.

Obviously, most music is digital these days. If you want to learn how to play a certain song, most people just Google it! Print music royalties are typically very small compared to other music revenue streams, but they still exist—especially for composers and musicians who create full-ensemble or concert music.

Get Paid for Your Music

Getting paid for your music might not be as simple or straightforward as getting a paycheck from an employer, but there are several avenues of revenue you can bring in. When you release a new song, make sure you get the most for your work by understanding which of the four types of royalties apply to you. Between mechanical royalties, performance royalties, synch royalties, and print music royalties, it’s entirely possible to make a decent living as a musician.

If you’re unsure about which types of royalties you’re entitled to, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney. It can be complicated to determine what applies to your situation and which steps to take. You worked hard to create your music, and you deserve to get paid! Get the royalties you’ve earned.


If you have any tips that weren’t mentioned here, we’d love to hear about them! Tell us what has worked for you in the comments below.


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