How Many Music Royalties Are There?

Music artists don’t create music as a hobby – it is their profession, and they deserve fair compensation for their hard work. Unfortunately, however, calculating royalties is often complicated.

Process involves several parties who contribute their expertise in various capacities – some have partial ownership while others collect and administer royalty payments while taking a percentage for themselves along the way.


Sound Recording Copyright and Songwriting Copyright royalties exist within music. A composer and their music publisher own the latter (which encompasses harmony, melody and lyrics of a song), while recording artists/labels own both master copies for sound recordings.

Every time someone streams your song, someone pays music royalty fees to its various owners and creators – typically less than one cent per stream but potentially adding up to millions if your song becomes massively popular; Dua Lipa and “Levitating’s” 2021 hit alone brought in $4 Million worth of streaming royalties alone!

Mechanical royalties are distributed when your song is streamed via digital platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, similar to when music was consumed via physical media such as records or cassette tapes.

Mechanical royalties are divided among three parties; half go to the composer and music publisher while the remaining 50% is paid out to the holder of recording rights, often the record label that owns their master.

Public performance royalties are paid when your song is performed publicly – this could include radio playback, live performances, restaurant/bar performances or online streaming services – with approximately 25% going back to both songwriter and publisher for each public performance royalty earned.

Licensing royalties are paid when your song is licensed for use in various situations such as television shows, movies, commercials and videogames. Both songwriters and their music publishers typically receive approximately a quarter of these royalties as licensing royalties.

As is evident by now, music royalties come about through various means. If you are a musician, it is crucial that you fully comprehend all of the different types of royalties available so that you make sure that all the money that is owed to you. For more information about all of these methods of earning royalties for musicians check out our Royalty Guide for Musicians.

Mechanical Royalties

If you own the composition of a song, which includes both its music and lyrics, and you have permission for its reproduction – be it physical (CDs, vinyl records or tapes), digital (streaming or downloads), or both (master recording rights). Also notable: anyone can record your composition; other artists could cover your song – something publishers and famous songwriters have been taking advantage of by purchasing master record rights of popular songs — this ongoing stream can prove far more lucrative than one-time royalties from sales or streams.

Digital downloads and streaming combine mechanical royalties with public performance royalties to form what is known as an all-in royalty pool – meaning any company using your music must pay both types of royalties. As such, various companies such as CD Baby or Distrokid collect royalties; others like PRS and ASCAP collect royalties as do mechanical licensing agents such as Harry Fox Agency or SongTrust who collect both types.

Mechanical royalties are determined by a government set rate; currently for physical CDs and downloads in the United States, physical CDs/downloads incur 9.1 cents in mechanical royalties per track and each additional track that exceeds five minutes incurs an additional $0.0155 fee per minute.

While you can be signed to a label and still collect royalties, many songwriters and artists who do NOT belong to any labels often collect royalties independently. One reason may be that when a record label owns master rights of an audio recording of your song, they often deduct their share (known as a “label share”) before paying out shares that belong to you as royalties.

Lately, there has been considerable buzz surrounding the potential that the Copyright Royalty Board may approve a settlement to raise U.S. mechanical royalty rates to 12 cents per track – something all songwriters will welcome as it increases ongoing royalties payments.

Public Performance Royalties

Music users who perform copyrighted songs in public settings such as restaurants, bars, coffee shops, live concerts or streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music must obtain a license from songwriters and music publishers in order to perform these songs legally – this fee is known as performance royalty.

Songwriters and music publishers split performance royalties equally, though it should be noted that these differ from mechanical royalties mentioned above. Performance royalties are generated by a song’s musical work (its composition) rather than its recording, and are distributed through Performing Rights Organization.

A Performing Rights Organization, commonly referred to as PRO, is an association that represents musicians in the US and other countries worldwide. There are three major Performing Rights Organizations here in America – BMI, ASCAP and SESAC – each one offering membership-based organizations that you can join. Once joined they will manage any music royalties on your behalf.

Streaming services have altered performance royalties so that now payments are made to both publisher and songwriter. This is because most streaming services obtain blanket licenses from PROs that cover their members’ performance royalties; after playing back tracks from those blanket licenses they log them with PROs, who then distribute royalties according to contract terms between songwriters and publishers.

When songs are performed publicly, record labels also receive their share of royalties. When streaming services pay performance royalties for songs they host, rights holders typically earn about 73 cents of it; this goes to songwriters, publishers and record labels respectively who split 9.4%.

Royalties from music licensing agreements may also be distributed through jukeboxes, terrestrial and satellite radio, TV shows, commercials, in-store merch and other uses. Some countries administer royalties through another entity such as SAG-AFTRA for performances on TV shows.

Print music royalties are another type of performance royalties. These fees are collected when musicians transcribe copyrighted music onto sheet music for sale or distribution through companies such as Alfred Music or Hal Leonard, although these royalties are less often utilized by modern artists than by classical and film composers.

Publishing Royalties

Publishing royalties are paid out when their music is reproduced or performed – such as when their songs are heard on radio, TV, jukeboxes, at bars and restaurants or anywhere else it could be heard. Royalties collected by publishers or labels representing songwriters then distributed directly back to them when their songs are played back – this can even apply when using streaming services that pay royalties when their songs are streamed online.

Royalties are collected by Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP, BMI or SESAC in the US or SOCAN in Canada and PRS in the UK – these organizations exist solely to collect and distribute performance royalties – not mechanical royalties. If you are an artist who wishes to join one, that decision is optional and should only be done if their work meets PRO requirements.

A music publisher can act as your agent, registering your works and helping to fill out paperwork to secure synch licenses. They may also assist in the administration of royalties by negotiating and collecting payments from various collection entities; as well as helping secure gigs by connecting you with artists and industry people they work with; some publishers even take a percentage of your royalties as their fee, which must then be approved by you.

“Synchronization” royalties may also provide royalties, and are paid out when your song is used with video or other audio content, such as in ads, movies, TV shows or as background music on websites. Royalty payments typically come through an agency such as Harry Fox Agency in the U.S or MCPS in the UK – or your country’s equivalent.

Record labels often own the master rights to songs they produce and may collect royalties before the songwriter or composer does – so always read your contracts closely!