Earn from It

Get It On TV, Film or Advertising

If a piece of music is used in an audio-visual work, be it a film, a TV programme or an advertisement, a fee will often be paid to the songwriter/composer. In addition to this fee, money will also be earned on the public performance of the composition when it is aired, and mechanical royalties will be due upon release of the soundtrack or the DVD version of film or TV programme.

Production/Library Music

Often overlooked by certain sectors of the music industry, production music can be a substantial source of income for publishers and composers alike. It generates a substantial amount of income for many large publishing companies, and the most successful writers can expect to earn six figure sums every year.

Production music is specially written for use in TV, film, advertising and media. The sound recording and the publishing is controlled by the publisher, who can license them together without having to consult the composer.

The amount paid is usually determined by a rate card and differs from one country to the next. In some countries a blanket license is granted for unlimited use and the money is distributed via collection societies.

The standard split between publisher and composer is 50/50, and some companies buy out the mechanical royalties (see 'buyout publisher').

Radio or Television Airplay

In theory, every time a piece of music is played on radio or television on a UK station, then a royalty is due. The BBC and several larger broadcasters participate in ‘census’ monitoring and are able to account for every play. This ensures a set amount is paid which is based on the audience size.

By contrast, local radio and smaller digital channels are subject to a sample whereby every piece of music over a given number of days is logged. The money paid to the collection societies for the year is divided up between those composers/songwriters played during the sample period.

According to PRS, two thirds of the revenue collected from radio comes from census stations and it aims to reduce the reliance on sampling. However, it should be noted that if a composition does not fall on a sample day, then PRS will not pay a royalty.

Specially Composed

When composers are commissioned to write a piece of music for a particular event, orchestra, film, television programme or advert they will usually receive a production and license fee, and then earn royalties on the public performance, as well as mechanical royalties if the piece of music is made available to buy. In the case of adverts, the composer might be hired to write a piece of music similar to one which already exists, but where the copyright holder has not granted permission for its use.

Buyout Libraries

When the composer signs away the mechanical royalties for a fee, the only revenue available will be performance royalties. However, it is worth noting that these publishers usually supply music to smaller TV channels which are only sampled by PRS, so the chances of earning an amount which compensates for the loss of synchronization and master fees are fairly slim.

Sample CD/Download

Sample CDs and downloads feature sound samples and loops of varying lengths for sale to composers, producers and programmers. The creator of the sounds is not credited with a writer’s share on the works created using the sample, but would receive a fee, and in some cases, a cut of the CD sales or downloads.

Arranging Fees

Sometimes a piece of music needs to be arranged to make it suitable for use in a synch or for a particular performance or audience. Where this is done, it is usual to pay a fee to the arranger.

Online use

With the rise of internet radio and other online services such as podcasts, MCPS-PRS Alliance has established a system of tariffs whereby users are charged for a license. While changes in these licenses can be expected as the demand for music on websites and internet-based services increases, at present a sample system is in place for most online radio stations.

However, with companies such as AOL, iTunes, Real, Sony and Yahoo, which all pay in excess of £20,000 per year for a MCPS-PRS Alliance license, all compositions are run against a database of registered compositions. At present, over 90% of titles can be accounted for, and an Alliance team aims to track down the composers/songwriters of the most popular unregistered compositions.

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