Streams: How Music Publishing and Copyrights Work

Guide to How Music Publishing and Copyright Works for Streams

If you’re an artist or a listener to modern music in this day and age then you’re familiar with music streams. Music streams are now the new way consumers listen to and purchase artists music. This is the new route for mainstream and independent artists. Some of these streaming services include: SpotifyApple Music, Tidal and more. If you’re a recording artist or aspiring to be one you may wonder where does music streaming becoming so popular leave you. Sure it may be you recognition and attention, but where does it leave you on the business side of things. Find out how music publishing and copyright works with streamed music here.

Exactly what are music streams?

Before I explain music publishing 101 and copyright 101 in relation to music streaming I want to give you a thorough understanding of exactly what music streaming is. Music streaming is when a company allows you to listen to songs without requiring you to download any files. It was designed to make the music listening experience for the audience more convenient. Some music streaming services are free. A lot of these music streaming services require a paid subscription that allows you to listen to and stream over 50 million songs.

Logos of popular music streaming services

What is music publishing?

o understand how music publishing rights work with music streams you must first understand what music publishing is. Music publishing is the ownership of songs where you can earn money from the usage and exploitation of those songs. This applies to any musical composition (song) or sound recording (master).

What are music copyrights?

To understand how music copyrights work in regards to music streams you must first understand what copyrights are and how they work. A copyright is the original composition and/ or sound recording that grants the creator exclusive rights to the use of that work and protects the work for the creator. Now to put it all together you have to understand how music publishing and copyrighting is related.

Music copyrights and music publishings are very important in the business side of music streams

How music publishing and copyright works together

Before I can fully get into the business side of music streams I have to explain how music publishing and copyrighting works together. It’s not a matter of what’s the difference between a music copyright and music publishing. It’s a matter of how they work together. A music copyright allows you to protect your music that you created. Music publishing allows you to get paid for the music you protected with the copyright. So now that we have music publishing explained, copyrights explained and we know how they work together we can get into how they work with music streams.

How does all this work with music streams?

If you’re an artist whether singer, rapper, songwriter or producer and you create a song you have rights to that song. In order to protect your rights and get credit as one of the creators of your music you have to copyright it. In order to get your music officially copy written you have to go through the U.S. Copyright Office. Once the process is complete you now have to monitor the usage of those songs. This is where a music publishing company comes in. If you’re a mainstream artist then 9 times out of 10 you’ll have a major music publishing company monitoring your copyright songs. However, if you’re an independent artist you’ll be your own music publisher or you can sign on with an independent music publishing company. Either way before your songs are represented by a music publisher or publishing company you have to register with a PRO. PRO are performing rights organizations that represent songwriters and composers. They aren’t music publishing companies but they correspond with music publishing companies. Once you’re registered with them they monitor and track different music royalties of yours and pay you based on the usage of your copy written songs. The two most popular PRO companies are ASCAP and BMI. So now that you have your songs copy written, you’re signed with a performing rights organization, you now have the choice to be your own publisher or sign with a music publishing company. Once you make that decision this is where the business side of music streams come in. You now figure out how to get paid from your songs being streamed. There are several different types of music royalties. Depending on how your song is played or used will determine which type of music royalty you’re paid. If your song is being streamed on a streaming service this falls under performance royalties and neighboring royalties. With performance royalties your PRO (performing rights organization) will collect and distribute the proper royalties you’re owed from your song(s) being streamed on several platforms. With neighboring royalties in order to receive your proper monies from your songs being streamed you’ll have to register your songs with different collection agencies. Make sure you register your songs with collection agencies in the same territories your songs are getting streamed.

ASCAP and BMI are the 2 most popular performing rights organizations (PRO) which are very important in regards to music publishing and music streams

Music streaming for indie artists

If you’re an independent recording artist then the business side of music streams is going to be slightly different for you. You’ll still have to go through the process of copyright your songs and  registering with a PRO (ASCAP or BMI). In regards to the music publishing aspect you’ll become your own music publisher. This means you’re in charge of keeping track of your songs and staying on top of collecting monies that’s owed to you due to your songs being played. If you’re an indie artist you’ll have to put your songs on music streaming services yourself. You can do this by signing up with admin publishing companies such as TuneCoreCD BabySongTrust and many more. Once your songs are available on these streaming services and it’s now time for you to get paid you’ll receive songwriter and publisher shares. This is only if you’re an independent artist. The reason you’ll receive royalties as the songwriter and music publisher is because no other music publishing company is representing you. Of course if you’re an indie artist more than likely you’re writing your own songs so that’s why you’ll receive songwriter royalties. Of course if you wrote the song with someone else he or she also have to receive songwriter royalties as well. Also keep in mind the producer of the song is considered a songwriter too. This means he or she also gets songwriter royalties share from the song being streamed.

The exact amount you’ll end up with as an artist who songs are being streamed can vary. It depends on a lot of different factors. It depends on how many people worked on the song with you. It depends on if you’re going to be your own music publisher or not. It depends on if you’re aspiring to be 100% an independent artist or not. Then of course it depends on how many streams your song actually generates. But knowing and understand the foundation of music publishing and copyrights as it relates to music streams will make the process so much more easier.

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