Sentric – What is music publishing?

Music publishing, to an emerging artist, can be somewhat of a mystery and at Sentric they’ve more than aware of that. Arguably; it’s why they’ve come to exist.

When they launched in 2006 (Sentric Music is essentially a university project which has gotten quite out of hand now) they were learning as they went along, doing things differently and turning the heads of music industry old-schoolers (which they still are to this day I should add). Now, any artist who signs up to their free service is tapping into an infrastructure that includes a team of over 80 people (and counting) with decades of publishing experience to boot.

So I suppose, in theory, that this post could simply read: “What is music publishing? Why do you care? You don’t need to worry about that. They do it for you at www.sentricmusic.com. Just click on that, relax, and go back to making wonderful music.”

But that would be a bad blog post. Just because someone out there can do it for you, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be educated about what they’re doing for you. If you’re an emerging artist (or you work with one as a manager/indie label etc.) then I want you to truly understand what music publishing is so you realise the value they’re adding at Sentric. Because that’s all they do; they add value. And they’re currently adding value to over a million copyrights around the world thanks to their knowledge, technology, infrastructure and network.

In the world of professional procrastination and minuscule attention spans within the inherent TL;DR culture we find ourselves living in these days, this post will be a touch on the lengthy side, but don’t be reticent to dive in when I inform you that you’re about to embark on a six thousand word magnum opus; if you’re serious about making money from your music and turning your passion from a hobby into a career then it’s indisputably worth the investment of your time.

So… What is music publishing then?

  • Music publishing is about your songs, not your recordings, but it is essential that the people who look after both of these copyrights have a strong relationship and are in regular communication with one another.Let’s have a real-life example, shall we? Adele’s first three albums are signed to XL Records, so they gave her a bunch of cash to go into a studio and produce some recordings which they then own because they stumped up the money in the first place, but the publishing copyrights of the songs featured on those records have nothing to do XL and are looked after by Universal Publishing (well, Adele’s shares are at least).

    Take the single ‘Someone Like You’ from her second album 21; that rather wonderful ditty was co-written between Adele herself and a gent called Dan Wilson (who used to be in the band Semisonic, remember them? Closing Time was a banger, eh?) and is published by a company called Chrysalis. Now every time you hear that recording then XL is making money and the publishers/songwriters are also making money, but if you hear someone do a cover of that song, say on a glitzy Saturday Night talent show or a ropey karaoke performance down your local boozer, then XL Recordings don’t see a penny and it’s only the songwriters and the publishers who earn from that because, on said examples, it’s about the song and not the recording.

    So music publishing is about the creation of copyrights and the protection of intellectual property.

    To stress, this is income for the songwriters. It is imperative that if you’re in a band of two/three/four people that you agree from the offset who has written the songs. It might be an awkward conversation, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to discuss before you’ve actually generated any money as when there is cash on the table that’s when people really fall out.

    Another real-life example. Coldplay: Although it’s Chris Martin who writes the songs, they split the publishing income four ways because he’s a vegan and he’s nice like that. Whereas with someone like the Arctic Monkeys all publishing income goes to Alex Turner as he’s the one who wrote the songs, so why should he give the rest of the band money for his hard work?

    This, in a nutshell, is why Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are worth $300 million or so each, but Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood are ‘only’ worth $160 million apiece. The ones who write the songs open up another, very lucrative, income stream.

    The publishing copyright is essentially split into two parts; the authorship (lyrics) and composition (music). What we suggest here at Sentric is if you have a band consisting of four members where one person writes the lyrics, but then the band as a whole come up with the music then it should be split;

    Examples Splits:
    Person A: 62.5% (50% of the authorship & 12.5% of the composition).
    Person B: 12.5% for their share of the composition.
    Person C: 12.5% for their share of the composition.
    Person D: 12.5% for their share of the composition.

    That all seems fair, right? That said, each artists’ situation is different so split the copyright to suit your needs. Just do it before you sell a million records and you realise that, as much as you used to like your drummer, it rather annoys you that your inherent songwriting abilities are now funding his party lifestyle.

    (I don’t know why the majority of jokes aimed at musicians always land on the drummers, I’m sorry drummers, without you we’re nothing.)

    By law, you’ve created a publishing copyright when one of two things have happened. 1) You’ve written it down as a composition (although I really don’t know many indie bands from Wolverhampton cracking out Sibelius these days) or 2) you’ve recorded it, and that could be just on the voice memos section on your phone as long as you’re getting the bare bones of the track down. But in reality, you can start making money from your publishing copyrights before you’ve done either of them. If you’ve written a song in your bedroom this morning and then you go and perform it at a gig tonight, then it has generated cold hard cash which you should make sure you’re collecting.

    So where is this cash generated?

  • If you’re reading this in the UK, then hopefully you’ll have heard of the PRS. The PRS is our PRO and each major territory has their own.

    Germany has GEMA, France has SACEM, Australia has APRA and so on and so forth (there’s a nice post here that covers all the acronyms you’ll come across in the music industry which is worth bookmarking). America is a bit different than the rest as they actually have three who compete with one another; BMI, ASCAP and SESAC, and as a writer, you can choose which one of the three to go with depending on your individual needs.

    Now, in theory, all these PROs have reciprocal deals in place with one another; so if you’re a PRS member and one of your copyrights generates money, say in Norway, then TONO (which is Norway’s PRO) should collect that money and give it to the PRS (after taking a cut) who then pass it onto you as a writer (after taking another cut). Now, this is the theory, but in reality, this can take a hell of a long time, if it happens at all. That’s why it’s strongly recommended that you work with a publisher who is a member of all these PROs directly and therefore can register your copyrights with every PRO instead of just one. This, in a nutshell, means you get your money significantly quicker.

    So, for example, you play a European tour which lasts for twenty dates across seven countries. If you went for the DIY approach then you’d have to wait for seven different PROs to collect your performance income (more on that shortly), find out who you are and with what PRO that you yourself are registered with and then pass that to them to give to you. This creates a massive lag in getting your income, whereas if you work with a publisher (like Sentric, naturally) we will have registered your copyrights directly with the seven PROs already so, therefore, you’ll receive royalties from us at the next available distribution.

    So what kind of money is available?

    Well as an emerging artist there are three main ways you’ll generate income from your publishing copyrights; these are Performance Royalties, Mechanical Royalties and Synchronisation. There are more; sheet music, lyrics on merchandising etc., but they only kick in when you start making megabucks, so let’s just focus on these three to begin with.

  • Performance royalties are generated every time your copyrights are broadcast in public. The main areas I’ll cover now are radio, TV and gigs.

    Performance royalties are also generated when songs are played on jukeboxes, in cafes, restaurants, karaoke bars, doctors’ waiting rooms etc. Basically, if you hear music when you’re out and about then it’s generating cash for the people who wrote the song you’re listening to. Anywhere that wants to play music within their business has to pay the PRS for a license in order to do so, by law. Even if it’s in an office with just three people working in there; if they want the radio on in the background they have to have a PRS license.

    The basic rule of thumb to keep in mind throughout all this is; the more people who hear it, the more cash is generated.

    Radio Royalties

    Here are some example figures of the kind of money which is generated when your music is played on the radio (as of October 2020). All the figures here are for a song four minutes in length, as these royalties are all based on the amount of airtime you receive. So if you’re doing two-minute punk songs then half all these numbers and if, perchance, you’re Meat Loaf reading this where all your songs are at least eight minutes then double them. And on a side note; we love you, Meat Loaf.

    Again, to stress the point above, the more people who hear it, the more money is generated. BBC Radio 2 has the highest number of listeners for any BBC station in the UK and that’s why you’re getting over double for a play by Zoe Ball than as you are by Greg James. Most regional BBC stations are worth a couple of quid a go, with BBC Radio London being the highest due to its listener size.

    All these monetary figures fluctuate and are amended every quarter using RAJAR data. RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) release listener figures for all the radio stations in the UK every few months. For example, you only used to get about £5 for being played on BBC 6Music, but ever since they threatened to shut that station down and its listenership increased significantly, the performance royalties of being featured there have notably jumped.

    Within the world of radio, you have two classifications of stations; census and sampled.

    Census Stations

    All the largest radio stations (and indeed, all BBC stations) are census stations. This means every single track which is played on there is reported to the PRS and therefore the songwriters will receive royalties for the broadcast. Currently, 93% of radio income is distributed via ‘census’ stations so it’s very much the lion’s share.

    Sampled Stations

    A sampled station is a smaller station with a much lower audience share than a census station. So a local station in your area will probably be sampled around ninety days of the year. That means, if one of your tracks gets played on one of those ninety days then you’ll receive royalties, if not, then you don’t.

    Now, this might sound a touch unfair, but it’s currently the best system we have. Firstly, you have to remember that the number of royalties we’re talking about here for broadcasts on small, regional stations of this size are a matter of pence per play so you’re not missing out on much.

    Secondly, the PRS is a not-for-profit business. They collect all the income, take a percentage for the administration, and then pay out the rest to rights holders and songwriters. Currently, they process over six trillion uses per annum (mainly thanks to the wonderful world of streaming) and if they then added to that already hefty workload by turning all small sampled stations into census stations then that would increase their overheads, which would result in them needing to take a higher percentage admin fee, which ultimately means less money is distributed to the writers and publishers.

    So it’s now you can start to see the true value of performance royalties just from radio alone as you’d need roughly 200k streams on Spotify to generate the same amount of income from a single spot play on BBC Radio 2.

    Every week the BBC publish their new playlists for the week which are split into A list, B List and C List. If you’re on the A list you’ll average around twenty-five plays per week, which for a four-minute track is just over £1k per week in gross performance royalties.

    And if you’re on BBC’s playlist then it’s highly likely you’ll be on the playlist of every other pop music station in the country. If you take a look at the airplay charts (which you can find in Music Week) you’ll see that big songs will have huge numbers of plays behind them; as we write this, Miley Cyrus’ Midnight Sky clocked up 5,249 across 217 stations in a single week within the UK alone. That increases to 22,744 plays across 1,284 stations across Europe. With the vast majority of those plays generating a performance royalty when broadcast, that’s some serious publishing revenue right there.

    TV Royalties

    Above are the primetime per minute monetary values of some key channels within the UK (October 2020). Once again as you can see; the more people who see/hear it, the more money it generates in performance royalties and much like the radio stations, you also have ‘Sampled’ and ‘Census’ TV stations.

    These figures above are essentially one of three income streams you get from your music being broadcast on TV as this just covers the performance royalties. You also get mechanical royalties and PPL broadcast income, but I’ll come on to that further down the line when we discuss sync.

    Live Performance

    Live performance and ‘gig’ royalties are outrageously important. Around half of all income we distribute for emerging artists at Sentric Music are for gig royalties and every single show you play generates performance income which you need to collect.

    The figures following are all examples of the average amount of performance royalties Sentric has collected for artists who use our service in the past. To stress; all the money mentioned above are performance royalties alone and they have nothing to do with the income you’ll get from the promoter/venue for playing the gig or from ticket sales etc.

    Within the world of live royalties, you have two main categories; ‘Gigs & Clubs’ and ‘Major Live Events’.

    Gigs & Clubs

    Essentially these are gigs in venues where live music isn’t the sole purpose of the venue and putting gigs on is one way they get punters in to make money. As mentioned previously, anywhere that has music playing (be it live, jukeboxes or DJ etc.) has to have a license from the PRS to do so and that’s where your £5 comes from. The journey looks a bit like this…

    • That venue will say to the PRS; “We’re this capacity, we have live music on three days a week, karaoke once a week and we have a jukebox the rest of the time.”
    • The PRS will then say; “Well then your license is £X, XXX” a year please.”
    • Then when you play a gig at that venue, we say to the PRS; “Our artist played a gig at that venue on this date and they performed these following songs which we have registered with you.”
    • Then the PRS will take £5 from that initial license fee and pay it to you, the songwriter, and your publisher.

    So to stress one more time; the venue/promoter isn’t paying you this directly and you’re not upsetting anyone by claiming these royalties which are rightfully yours. In the past I’ve had artists say to me; “we’ll stop getting gigs if you go around pestering them for money”, and, as I just hopefully explained, that simply isn’t the case.

    Major Live Events

    As the name suggests, these are bigger gigs where the amount of performance royalties you get is dependent on:

    • The ticket price
    • The number of tickets sold
    • Your set length and billing position

    Currently, the major live event tariff is 4.2% of the gross ticket sales. So if you play a 1,000 capacity venue that sells out at £10 per ticket, therefore, £10,000 is generated. 4.2% of that (£420) is then split between the songwriters of the songs performed that night, weighted in favour of the headliners. For festivals, the tariff is between 2.5% and 2.7%.

    As you can see, there is some really significant income to be collected out there, and depending on the kind of gigs you’ve been playing (and in which territories) it’s sometimes possible to go back six-to-twelve months in the past (sometimes further) and collect your royalties for those as well. We have an entire team at Sentric whose sole jobs are to make sure that all these gig performance royalties make their way to the artists that use Sentric’s service and they’re rather incredible at what they do.

    How about another real-life example? We look after an artist who was asked to support a well-known British indie band on a month-long tour around the UK in venues circa the 2,000 capacity mark. They were offered £50 a night to cover their petrol and food so they did it knowing they’d lose money overall but decided it was worth it in a bid to sell copies of their album and make new fans. Half a year later (it can take six-twelve months for gigging income to come through) they brought home £4.5k in performance royalties alone which were more than they’d ever generated through any other income stream before, including record sales.

    And another? Years ago we had an artist win a competition to support Bon Jovi at a football stadium. They did a quick 20-minute set early on in the evening and they bagged £8,000+ in performance royalties. That’s nice eh? So if you consider the fact that if they received that much for twenty minutes, then Bon Jovi would have pocketed £72k for their three hours on stage. And that’s per gig on a worldwide stadium tour. Basically, as soon as you’ve finished reading this post go and write the next Livin’ On A Prayer.

  • Now onto mechanical royalties which in the UK are collected and administered by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS).

    Essentially, an MCPS royalty is generated every time your music is reproduced and that’s across all formats, including downloads and streaming.

    For example, if a record label wanted to release your record and pressed a thousand CDs and a hundred vinyl, they’d need to pay a license fee for each generated in order to do so, which would go to the songwriters (and their publishers) of the respective songs on said LP.

    As an emerging artist, your mechanical income will be notably less than your performance income at the start of your career, but when you start shifting units it’ll become a very noteworthy source of income indeed so it’s best to ensure you’re on top of it from the beginning and have your copyrights registered with the MCPS (which is yet another thing we do for you at Sentric – we’re a busy bunch).

    Let’s take a look at the income flow for a mechanical royalty generated from a physical CD sale:

    Currently, the MCPS rate in this country is 8.5% of the ‘dealer price’. The ‘dealer price’ is the cost per unit the record label sells the CD to the retailer for, not the cost the consumer pays for it at the till.

    • Simon Records sells 100 CDs of Pursehouse’s GrimeTime LP to a local record shop at £5 per unit which generates £500 of revenue.
    • 8.5% of that £500 is £42.50 and that’s the mechanical royalty from that transaction.
    • If there are ten tracks on the LP all running at four minutes each then that is divided between them so each track gets £4.25 each.
    • Say track seven on that album was written by two people, that £4.25 is then split between the two songwriters and their respective – publishers receiving £2.12 (and a half) each.
    • That £2.12 is then split between the publisher and the writer on whatever terms they’ve agreed on (the Sentric service is an 80/20 split, so the songwriter would get £1.70 and Sentric would get 42p for the registration, administration, collection and distribution of the royalties).
  • You’ll also be glad to hear that mechanical royalties are generated when your music is streamed. Basically, if you’re getting decent streaming numbers across any of the big platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon Prime etc) then being on top of your digital publishing income is key, because if you don’t collect it efficiently and properly then you could be missing out on rather good money.

    So…when a stream happens it generates a royalty for your master rights and a royalty for your publishing rights.For ease of understanding, throughout this section we’re going to assume that 1,000,000 streams on Spotify generates a total of £5,000 in royalties, which is approximately right at the time of writing this (taken as an average of the years of distributions they’ve had at Sentric). There are obviously loads of ‘what ifs and maybes’ here including the territory it was streamed in, if the streams came from free or premium accounts and other voodoo and witchcraft that’s forever to be kept hidden thanks to NDAs.

    You would generally expect around 80% of the income generated to go to the master rights owner to be distributed to you by your record label or digital distributor. I’m not going to go into the reason why the master rights get so much more than the publishing rights here as it’s a bit of a minefield, but it’s essentially a hangover from the music industry’s previous practices where, in theory, the record labels had a much bigger overhead in breaking artists than publishers did.

    Now, the remaining 20% which is the publishing income is then split again into a performance royalty and a mechanical royalty. Usually, this is split 50/50 so it’d look like this for 1,000,000 streams:

    • £4,000 – Master Rights Income
    • £500 – Publishing Digital Performance Income
    • £500 – Publishing Digital Mechanical Income

    We say ‘usually’ because of another wonderful quirk of the music publishing industry. Depending on the territory those streams happened and the local PRO, they might be split 65/35 rather than 50/50. BUT, as this is all about simplifying things let’s stick with the 50/50 split because that’s what PROs in the UK, US and Canada do.

    So, let’s say those million streams happened in ten different European countries, miraculously as a dead-even split (so, therefore, 100k streams per country). That means each country’s publishing income breakdown would be:

    • 10 x £50 – Publishing Digital Performance Income
    • 10 x £50 – Publishing Digital Mechanical Income

    So now we’re essentially talking about a micropayment (a stream) broken down into a further micropayment (20% for the publishing income) which is then split in half (one for performance, one for mechanical) and then that’s split into ten further micropayments (as it’s spread across ten different territories).

    That sentence alone should hopefully show you just how many gaps there are for this income to get lost in. Mind-bending at times, isn’t it?Several years ago at Sentric they realised that the distribution of these royalties from PROs around the world was, frankly, not great and identified that their songwriters were missing out on the income they deserved for their hard work. Therefore we decided to take away the rights from the local PROs to collect the digital income on our behalf, and instead, put them with a rather forward-thinking company called AMRA.

    AMRA directly licenses their songwriters’ digital mechanical rights, (and in some territories, the performance rights as well), to all the major online stores in well over 100 territories worldwide (excluding the US where Sentric collects directly via the local societies including ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and Harry Fox) Therefore that means Sentric now collect that income like so:

    • 10 x £50 – Publishing Digital Performance Income from each individual PRO that Sentric are members of and have directly registered your copyrights with.
    • 1 x £500 – Publishing Digital Mechanical Income via AMRA.

    Now, the great thing here is that the income they receive from the PROs and from AMRA should match up with it being a 50/50 split. So say if from AMRA we receive £50 in digital mechanical royalties from your music being streamed in the UK, but Sentric only receive £36 in digital performance royalties from the PRS, it allows them to go to the PRS and say; “Oi, now then, you clearly have underpaid our songwriter £14 and we have the data from AMRA to prove it”.

    Simply put, since we started collecting digital royalties via this model, we’ve seen a 400% increase in digital publishing royalties paid out to our artists in just three years.

    In the example above, if you weren’t using Sentric and, say, were just a member of your local PRO (ergo the PRS if you’re reading this in the UK), then you’d be relying on nine other PROs around Europe (who your copyrights aren’t registered with) figuring out who you are and with what PRO you are affiliated with. Then all of them would have to pay the PRS your performance income share (after taking a cut) who would then distribute it to you (after taking a cut themselves too). A process that *can* happen, in theory, and if it did, could take years for the money to find its way into your bank account. And also, if you’re not a member of the MCPS then you can essentially kiss goodbye to that mechanical income share.

    See. We told you it was confusing.

  • Finally, there is the wonderful world of synchronisation. Sync is basically ‘putting music on stuff’, that said stuff being adverts, TV shows, movies, computer games, online promos, apps and all the rest of it (we once ‘synced’ one of our artists’ tracks as hold music for a boiler company in Norwich for a tidy £1k, imagine that).

    More than ever artists and copyright holders are increasingly eager to land sync deals because of the money they can generate and the invaluable exposure they can offer.

    In this post, we’ll cover three areas of sync. Firstly…

    Adverts/Films/GamesNow, these are the ‘big’ syncs that everyone in the music industry is fighting for (and I mean everyone), it’s an extremely competitive marketplace and to increase your chances of landing one it’s best to work with a sync team who really know what they’re doing (like the sync team at Sentric Music who have been nominated five years running as ‘Best Indie Publisher’ at the Music Week Sync Awards *drops mic*).

    For your music to be synced on anything at all two copyrights need to be cleared; the master copyright and the publishing copyright. Be sure you know who controls both of these copyrights and that they know how to get hold of one another in case they need to discuss clearing the track in question for a sync opportunity.

    Stereotypically the master copyright is controlled by whoever paid for the recording. So traditionally this would be the record label, but in the modern emerging music industry we all know and love, this is now quite often the artist themselves.

    The publishing copyright is controlled by the publisher (which is what they are at Sentric), but keep in mind that a track might have a number of songwriters who may all have different publishers and those publishers might have sub-publishers in various territories – all of which would need to give permission in order for a sync to go ahead depending on where the license is being generated. And we mean all of them – even if someone who owns just 1% of the publishing copyright says no to a sync deal, the song simply can’t be used.

    The upfront sync fee is split between the master & publishing copyright holders, (which, again, in the emerging artist world is commonly the artist themselves). So a £10,000 sync fee is split £5,000 to the publisher and £5,000 to the label. These two parties almost always receive the same amount of money as one another and this is referred to as ‘MFN’ – Most Favoured Nation – which essentially protects either party from being taken advantage of.

    This is why it’s imperative that the two copyright owners are in cahoots and communicating regularly. If a sync deal worth £10,000 (£5,000 per side) was on the table and the publisher said ‘yes’ but the label said ‘no, we want £6,000 for the master rights’ then the client would have to match that and also pay the publisher £6,000, therefore, the original offer of £10,000 would have to increase 20% to £12,000

    Oh, look! Another real-life example: At Sentric, they represent an artist who released an album that went through a subsidiary of a major label in the States. One of their tracks was up for a small movie trailer for a reasonable enough fee of $35,000 (so $17,500 for each side). Sentric were happy and the band were bloody chuffed (as they had actually split up at this point so this was essentially bonus money), but the label tried to push it up to $20,000 for the master rights and the client didn’t want to pay $40,000 in total so they pulled out of the deal and everyone lost out. Bad times.

    This is also a reason why it’s extremely attractive to music supervisors and sync agents to license music which is ‘one-stop’. This means that the master & publishing copyrights can be agreed upon and licensed from a single contract which makes their life significantly easier. At Sentric, if they’re working with an artist who owns their master copyrights they always ask to also represent those rights for sync so therefore they can pitch the track as ‘one-stop’ and therefore significantly increase the chances of landing a sync for the song.

    Remember that the bulk of a music supervisors’ job (especially Stateside) isn’t actually creative; it’s clearing copyrights and tracking down who represents what copyrights in which territories. If you can make their job as easy as possible for them then they’ll bloody love you for it. Because we’re all slackers at heart, right?

    So what DOES sync pay?

    Well, the factors that influence the fee you can charge for a sync include:

    • Territory. The more territories the more money you can charge. A worldwide license will be significantly more expensive than a UK only one and you can even go as specific as regions, I.E; North-west only, Scotland only etc.
    • Length of license. The longer the license, the more you get. We’ve done three-day long film festival licenses right up to those which are in perpetuity (never run out).
    • Media. Is it an advert for TV? Is it going to be on the radio? Is it just for YouTube? The bigger the usage, the larger the invoice.
    • Profile of the artist. Ultimately this is still the key. The big money syncs still go to the big profile artists. The majority of syncs we do here at Sentric for emerging artists range from £1k to £20k with the occasional £100k+ deal making a pleasant appearance, but until you become a household name don’t expect to be banking any huge cheques in the immediate future.

    UK TelevisionIn order to get your music synced on UK TV, you need to get your music correctly registered with the PRS and MCPS which cover your publishing copyrights AND ALSO with the PPL which covers your master copyright.

    We stress the word ‘correctly’ because signing up with these societies is one thing, but registering and administering your copyright properly with them is another thing entirely (thus, sentricmusic.com… easy!). For example, if there are four writers of a song and one of them isn’t published or hasn’t registered their share of the copyright properly with the PRS/MCPS then it goes into intellectual property limbo known as ‘Copyright Control’. Whilst in ‘Copyright Control’ no TV programme or broadcaster will ever use that song. Even if it’s just 1% of the song in ‘CC’, it’ll be avoided like a musical plague.

    A quick note on the PPL

    The PPL has nothing to do with your publishing income, but it’s important that you’re on top of this for your music (and bank accounts).

    The PPL is an income stream for two people; the master copyright owner (traditionally the record label) and people who performed on the recording itself. So, therefore, if you’re a drummer (again, it’s always the drummer) who doesn’t write any of the songs and therefore isn’t eligible for any publishing income, but you play the drums on the master recording which people buy, then this is where you make your money. And of course; if you both write the songs and play on the record, then you get both sets of income.

    PPL income is split 50/50 between the master copyright owner and the performers on the record. The 50% which goes to the performers is weighted 65/35 in favour of the ‘featured artist’, ergo, if you were Adele then you would be the said ‘featured artist’.

    So if £100 was generated, £50 goes to the label, £32.50 goes to the ‘featured performer’ and £17.50 is split between the rest of the performers on the record.

    If you own your master rights then you need to sign up to the PPL twice; once as a performer and once as a master rights owner (or ‘repertoire owner’). It’s free to join so please be sure to do that. Or, again, Sentric can do it for you if you so wished.

    The PPL, PRS and MCPS are paid hundreds of millions of £££ a year by TV stations and broadcasters in order to be able to use the music they represent and by registering your copyright with those societies you are effectively giving them permission to license your music to the broadcasters in exchange for a royalty.

    As covered in an earlier slide, you’ve seen the amount of money available from the PRS when your music is used. Again, if you’ll allow us to reiterate the rule of thumb once more; the more people who hear it the more money you get. You’ll get a PRS royalty every time a TV show with your track in is broadcasted so it also includes repeats. For example, each episode of Hollyoaks is aired seven times (nuts, eh?) and you’ll receive a royalty for all seven of those broadcasts. That royalty will fluctuate depending on the channel; so you’ll get more money for when it’s on Channel 4 primetime than you will for the E4 Sunday morning omnibus slot.

    The MCPS royalty you receive however is a one-off payment which is for the ‘commitment of the music to the picture’, i.e. the reproduction of your copyright (just like the other aforementioned mechanical royalties). Depending on the broadcaster or production company using the music will result in the amount of MCPS you get, sticking with the Hollyoaks example; as I write this it’s currently around £140 per thirty seconds of music they use.

    The amount of PPL income you’ll receive is tougher to estimate as their figures aren’t public like they are with the PRS & MCPS, but it’s similar to what you’d get from the MCPS.

    As the TV stations and broadcasters of the UK have access to millions of songs they can use for the same price it is essential to really concentrate on approaching the right people in order to best help your chances of landing a sync. It’s pointless trying to get your track on a show which only focuses on using music which is riding high in the charts if you’re an emerging artist, so you’re best off pitching to shows who actively promote new music. Made In Chelsea is a great example that; regardless of what you think of the quality of the show itself, there is no denying the soundtrack is genuinely brilliant. This is proven by the fact it’s the most Shazzamed programme in the UK so getting your music on that will always bring in new fans who won’t have heard your tunes before. At Sentric, they’ve averaged about two of their artists per episode on Made In Chelsea for the past four seasons.

    There are a few types of usages which aren’t covered by these ‘blanket licenses’ between broadcasters and the collection societies. These include…

    • Opening Titles Music. If they want to use your track over the opening credits of the show then they must pay an upfront fee.
    • Closing Titles Music. If they want to use your music over the end credits then they need to cough up more cash.
    • ‘Contentious’ usage. If the scene they want to use your music on features sex, drugs, violence etc. then they need to get permission first as to not upset the songwriter of the track in question.

    US TelevisionAs with the first slide about sync, for a track to be used on a TV show in America they have to license the song up front, clearing both the master and publishing copyrights with a license fee.

    A music supervisor for a US TV show will get a set budget for music, say $100k for 100 tracks to be spread out across 10 episodes. They then need to stretch that budget out so it works accordingly, knowing that songs by bigger profile artists will cost more than songs by emerging artists. They might spend $50k of their budget on a single track for the key closing scene of the whole series, which means they then have $50k left for ninety-nine other tracks. This is where you as an emerging artist can make yourself really attractive to them by being a) cheaper than a chart-topper and b) easy to license, so this is where making your music the aforementioned ‘One Stop’ can significantly increase your chances of landing a sync.

    Another thing to consider when licensing to a US TV show is the performance royalties that are generated every time the show is broadcast. If you land a track on a huge show like Grey’s Anatomy then that episode will then be aired in hundreds of territories around the world, generating a performance royalty each time it is broadcast. Therefore, if you can get on the show by only charging $1k up front, but knowing you might get $5k or more from the subsequent performance royalties it’s often a clever and savvy deal to do.

    And to bring it back to the beginning of this rather lengthy post; each one of those territories the show is broadcast in will have their own PRO, therefore having a publisher who registers your copyrights in many PROs around the world as possible will mean you get paid quicker. Yet another reason why you should use Sentric. Lovely.

  • So there you go! Those, my friends who are still with us, are the basics of music publishing. It’s long, it’s dry, it’s complicated, it’s confusing and it’s why Sentric Music exists. We’d say we’re sorry to end this blog post on a plug for their services, but come on, what did you expect us to do really?

    Basically, all they do at Sentric Music is add value. If you go and register on their site right now then you’re using the same technology and infrastructure as the platinum awarded songwriters they represent who have sold tens of millions worldwide. Pretty smart that, eh? And it’s free to join. Double win.

    I truly hope that was useful. Go follow them over on Twitter @SentricMusic / @Pursehouse and like them on Facebook. If you’ve got any questions at all then call them on 0207 099 5991 and they’ll do their utter utmost to answer them for you.

This post was brought to you with the help of our friends over at Sentric Music. To find out more about how they’re changing the face of music publishing, head over to their site to learn more today!