What to Expect When Distributing Your Music

Not only is getting credit for your releases important, getting the money you deserve for them is just as important.

In today’s episode, we’re taking a deep dive into how to get paid for your licensed tracks, the process behind registering your music on Performance Rights Organizations (PROs), and the difference between BMI and ASCAP.

This is a necessary episode as most producers are unsure of the benefits of registering your music, or what it actually does!

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What royalties are
  • How to get paid royalties
  • Registering your music
  • What registering does
  • How to license your music
  • Why it’s important to license your music
  • The differences between BMI and ASCAP

and so much more!

Episode Links


BMI – https://www.bmi.com/

ASCAP – https://www.ascap.com/

SESAC – https://www.sesac.com/#!/

Distrokid –https://distrokid.com/

CD Baby – https://cdbaby.com/

Amuse.io – https://amuse.io/

Electronic Dance Money Episode 005 – How to License Your Tracks and Create Passive Income – https://www.enviousaudio.com/episode5

Beatport – https://www.beatport.com/

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy

Please note, the below transcription is automated so please be wary of unedited text.

Speaker 1:
Hey guys, welcome to electronic dance money, your number one business resource for making money as electronic musicians and producers.
Speaker 2:
Speaker 1:
what’s up everyone? Welcome back to another brand new episode of electronic dance money. I’m your host
Speaker 3:
Christian Kasisto and we’ve got another solo episode today. Um, I’m working on some guests. Guests can be a little bit tricky to get connected. It takes in scheduling and uh, finding guests appropriate for the show too that I think you’ll be able to learn from. I’ve got a few guests in the works right now. I’m actually hoping to have Sam Heights back on same Heights gray from episode. What was that? Episode five? I think we’ve talked about licensing and I think we’ll see what we’re going to be talking about the next time. But um, he’s got a lot of stuff going on. Actually would never land retreats. [inaudible] coming up in about a month or so. Actually I want to see a couple of weeks. So, um, I was actually going to see if he wanted to come on for this episode to talk about what we’re going to be discussing. But unfortunately he has some things.
Speaker 3:
He’s doing some catch up work and preparing for Neverland retreats. So he’s going to be going off and running around in the jungle for a couple of weeks. A little bit jealous, not gonna lie stringed cool down here in Austin, Texas. So, you know, if I could go down to, um, a tropical paradise for a week, I wouldn’t mind doing that, which actually I’m hoping to go to Neverland in June. I think they said they’re having the first one of 2020. So I’m going to be pooling that money together going on down to, I think they said Costa Rica, right? Regardless it’s tropical paradise on Island, secluded beach front too. Nice. A lot of fun. So anyways, but uh, yeah, so I’ve got some guests lined up or I’m working on it, trying to get some dates scheduled. We’ll be discussing some things. I’ll give you a little sneak peek real quick though.
Speaker 3:
I do have someone coming on who is a professional DJ. Now I’m not talking like up huge professional producer who’s on like DJ top mag. And yet none of that shit. Now, this guy’s actually a professional DJ. He does this [inaudible] living. So, uh, he’s got like mobile DJ stuff. He does a, I think he was saying he does some wedding gigs, but he gets paid or [inaudible] all around the city that he’s in. He does a lot of corporate gigs stuff. So we’ll be discussing that. And he does that full time. So that, that is his complete dedication is just doing deejaying stuff for his business. So he’s going to be coming in and we’re going to be talking about how you guys can get started on that and, uh, make some money doing deejaying gigs. So you’re starting to really kind of blend the two worlds of production going full time, which is what this whole show is about.
Speaker 3:
Business opportunities being an entrepreneur. So anyways, today’s episode is more about you and your artistry and you getting paid for your music. You’re getting paid for royalties. We’re going to be going into a deep dive of BMI as camp, talking about royalties, uh, percentages. What should a record label get? What should you get? What should, um, collaborate or get? What should a vocalists get those kinds of stuff in. Yeah. We’re going to be discussing kind of how BMI works, how as cap works and what you should be expecting when you are signing up on those sites, registering your music and kind of how they interpret things and how royalties get paid out. So let’s get started. The first thing we are going to be discussing his royalties. I’m sure many of you know what a royalty is, but just in case if you are new to the industry and you’re just starting out on this episode, which I don’t really recommend you start out on this episode, but if you are a royalty is a percentage that you get paid for your track whenever it’s played in a public space or for a public quote unquote performance.
Speaker 3:
This definition of performance is pretty lucid. It’s not necessarily you in a physical space performing that song. It’s that song in a public space performing the song, whether it be on a radio station, Spotify in a hotel, if they are playing it on Sirius XM. So like those kinds of things. So it’s basically any radio play, TV play, movie play, any public space where it’s a business and they’re using your music as entertainment in that space, ah, you should be getting paid a royalty for that. Or if someone’s just listening to your song on Spotify in a car, you should be getting a royalty for it. Now if you’re signed up on something like SoundCloud and you just put your track out for free on SoundCloud, you’re not going to get a royalty for that because within SoundCloud’s terms and agreements you are by uploading. You are saying that um, basically you, no one has the right to get charged for that track.
Speaker 3:
No one’s going to get a payment for that track being played. But if you self-distribute and you have your music on Apple music or Spotify and I go and look up that song and I play it. I think with Spotify, I think it’s like 30 seconds or 20 seconds of the song has to be played. Vow count is a stream. You’ll get a percentage royalty paid out for that. Now with the streaming platforms, they pay a ridiculous amount. Like, I think Spotify play or pays like 0.00007 there might be another zero in there to the dollar per stream. And that’s within Spotify agreements. Now let’s say you have a track, ah, you signed a track with a record label and they say, okay, we’re going to take 70% of the royalties. So they’re the publishing company, the record label, they’re publishing the song, they’re going to take 70% you’re going to take 30% and that song gets sold for a dollar on iTunes.
Speaker 3:
That means you get 30 cents to the dollar. So when someone buys that track, you’re going to get 30 cents and that gets broken down real quick. If you have co-writers vocalists, um, mixing or mastering engineers that want a percentage, there’s a [inaudible]. That number can get chopped up real fine to where you’re not getting that much. But when you self-distribute, when you release through record label, there’s almost always a contract and you’re almost always agreeing to a specific percentage royalty payout. It is important to take a look at those contracts too and look at when you get paid, not just what you get paid when you get paid. Cause some of them will say you need to reach $10,000 in order for us to send you a check. So pay attention to how much money you have to accumulate for that release in those streams. And what time of the year it might be quarterly that they’ll actually send you a check [inaudible] or a direct deposit for that money.
Speaker 3:
I think with like distro kid and some other self-distributing platforms, they take a fee quote unquote fee for each stream or whatever your payout is, which you could technically count as a royalty because they are the quote unquote publisher. When you do self-distribute though, through distro kid or I send a lot of my clients to amuse, um, or even CD baby, you don’t need to register your music with these performing rights organizations. You’ll get paid out through those distribution sites and they kinda, they handle all the back end. Now, I will say it is best to register your music on these performing rights organization sites. It’s, I highly recommend it. It’s a backup for anyone who might use your song. That district kid didn’t necessarily distribute too if you’re using distro kid, although it doesn’t really make sense if dish, if district kid handles the distribution for that one master that it got sent to someone who didn’t get it from distro kid, but it’s always best to be registered on these sites registering your music and it helps for copyright claims.
Speaker 3:
Uh, and basically just covering your ass. And Sam and I briefly talked about this in episode five where we were talking about licensing, but I do feel we need a deeper dive because a lot of artists don’t know what BMI is or as cap is and they don’t necessarily know what they do or what the purposes and it’s really all just about collecting royalties. You getting paid for your performances in public spaces. Now when it comes to these contracts that we were discussing and collecting your oil or deciding what your royalty payment is going to be, it’s important to look at a few things. You want to take a look at. Let’s say you’re signing a track with the record label. That’s what we’re going to start a basis off of because I think a lot of producers are always looking for that record label contract.
Speaker 3:
So let’s kind of discuss that a little bit. You should obviously be paid what is deserving and one of the things you need to look at with record labels is what exactly are they doing for you? Do they have a plan in place to do a lot of promotion for you? Are they going to be able to get it radio played? Are they going to be able to add you to a bunch of big Spotify playlists? What is their promo list look like? Who’s going to be getting this promo? You have to take into account what exactly are they doing for you? Because if a record labels asking for 70% and you’re going to keep 30% but they’re not going to do half of the things that I mentioned before and it’s probably safe to say they don’t really deserve 70% because what are they doing for you?
Speaker 3:
What are they doing that you couldn’t do yourself through self-distribution that’s something you have to really look at. What kind of connections do they have that could really help you out with this release that you just don’t have. You can’t put together. If they’ve got a lot going for you and they can do a lot for you and really help you out, then it’s a really good move to make. If they’re going to be taking something like 70% for track, but you have to determine what is the cost benefit of signing this track? Who’s going to be listening to this song? Who’s going to see it and is that worth the 70% that they’re going to be taking for every single play? And you gotta keep in mind that 0.00007 that Spotify is going to take, you’re going to be taking 30% of that, 30% of that.
Speaker 3:
So it’s even smaller, even smaller than the 0.00007 and then you’ve got to take into consideration, let’s say you have a collaborator on the song with collaborators. Obviously you guys should be splitting half of it. So let’s say you get a track signed with a record label. The record label says that we are going to take 60% that leaves 40 left for the royalty and now you need to split that with someone 50 50 so you’re only to be getting 20% now add an add in a vocalist, and maybe the vocalist wants equal amounts or they may be, they’re only gonna take 25% this is where numbers can get really tricky. This is where numbers can get really tricky and you really have to fight for what you’re, you’re going to get a record label wants 60% there’s 40% left, there’s two collaborators plus a vocalist and the vocalist wants to take 20% well that means the vocalist would take 20% and you and your collaborator would take 10% each.
Speaker 3:
So you really have to think about your negotiation tactics and you can see very quickly how the amount of money you might get paid for a track, you’re not going to get paid that much. And the money isn’t really in these tracks, especially when it comes to streaming, especially when it comes to streaming. It was different when people could go on to iTunes and buy, um, attract for a dollar, buy an album for $14. Those were different times. We’re in this world of streaming and it’s really turning more into artists wanting to self-distribute because a lot of record labels don’t have the connections that you can get that want you. So let’s say you want to sign with spin and, and you’re an artist with no more than 200 fans. If that spinning might not sign you, unless you know someone who knows someone who can get you on to the record label and you’ve got a really, really, really good track that fits for the record label.
Speaker 3:
And in which case, yeah, it might be best to have them take a large percentage because they’re going to be able to get you in front of a really big audience. But if you sign with a record label who’s super small and can’t do a whole lot for you and they’re taking a large percentage and you’re getting dwindled down to 10%, now you’re seeing a for rack [inaudible] of what you could probably do yourself through self-distribution. And I do want to just touch base a little bit about vocalists. And when you are working with vocalists, who is going to get signed to record label with you, um, and they want a percentage, a royalty percentage, you have to take a look at what you are actually paying for the vocal. If they’re asking for six or seven, maybe $800 for a vocal, they should be getting a very low royalty percentage.
Speaker 3:
In my opinion. This is something you really have to pay attention to is if you, and this is a good negotiating tactic, you could lower the price tag for a vocalist if you are willing to give up a bigger royalty percentage. So let’s say you have a vocalist who says, yeah, I’ll do this track. The vocals are going to cost $800 with royalty included. Then you could say, okay, well what if we did $200 and I gave you a 30% royalty for the track? They might be super intrigued by that, so just keep that in mind too is what are you paying for the actual Volkl and what are they asking for percentage wise as far as a royalty goes? All right, now let’s go ahead and transition over into these performing rights organizations and we’re going to start it off with BMI. The reason why we are going to start off with BMI is because this is the one that I am actually registered with.
Speaker 3:
I think BMI States that one in two songs are registered with BMI and there are multiple of these organizations. So it’s not like, well yeah [inaudible] ASCAP and BMI are the big ones and BMI says, yeah we won in two songs are registered through us. Then obviously as cap has the other one that’s not true at all because there’s a few different ones. I think see SAC is a big one, but the thing about C-SAT cause is you actually have to be invited to see SAC either by the company or through some sort of connection with an agency, a manager or maybe you are writing a song who’s actually registered with sea SAC. So there’s not a whole lot of information on sea SAC unless you’re already a member of [inaudible]. But we’re going to start with BMI. Quick thing to keep in mind is you have to only, you can only be registered to one of these.
Speaker 3:
So let’s say you are registered with BMI, you can’t go to ASCAP and register your tracks through ASCAP because then you would be getting paid out twice for the same royalty. And that is pretty sure illegal. So you don’t want to be getting mixed up with that. I do need to mention that the things we’re going to be discussing today are within us law and how the U S runs with music and music licensing. So if you’re somewhere outside of the U S unfortunately I don’t have all the answers as to what, how your country distributes music or what the laws are or your country. So I will recommend that when you’re done with this episode, look it up. Find out some organizations that may be work worldwide or that worked within your country’s laws. Find out whether your, the copyright laws are for your country so you can properly register your music and get it to where it needs to be so you can get paid for it.
Speaker 3:
But anyways, a lot of the things that we’re going to be talking about with BMI basically translate right over to as cap. They’re very, very similar. Couple things to point out right away is BMI is free. You don’t have to pay any sort of membership fee, application fee, service fee, annual fee. There’s, there’s no fees as cap. There is a $50 application fee when you first registered to be a member. And I, they have to like review the application and they accept you. But anyone can register for an application. You don’t have to have music out already or have a song lined up for you to register. You can just register whenever you want. The thing about ASCAP though, because they have a lot of different, uh, benefits that members get that you don’t necessarily get with BMI. And we’ll get into that once we kind of do a deeper dive into ASCAP.
Speaker 3:
So first thing with BMI, and I’ll say this goes right across the same with as cap is obviously the, they’re an organization that allows you to register your tracks so that you promptly receive royalties for the songs being played in public settings, restaurants, clubs, gyms. This is what we were discussing earlier about, well, what royalties are all of these registered businesses need to have a music license in order to be able to play music in their space or venue. Now there’s a copyright law that States this information for the U S it’s copyright law States that if a place of business meets, um, specific standards, so they’re, they have a certain size venue, I think it’s like 3,400 square feet or any food or restaurant places or any places under 2000 square feet that don’t serve food or beverages. They need to have a music license in order for them to be playing stuff on the radio or Spotify or TVs if they have a certain amount of TVs, like there’s specific standards that they have.
Speaker 3:
If they meet these standards, they need to have a license. If they don’t have a license, it can get sued by a lot of musicians if their stuff is getting played. When businesses go to places like BMI or ASCAP, now these places aren’t just for us. The musicians and the writers and the publishers, this is for businesses to go to. They can actually purchase licenses from these sites in order for them to use for their businesses. So they go there and the fees that they pay for the licenses, this covers all the music that they’re going to be playing. But not only that, if you have a song that goes on TV or on radio or is on a movie, which again, we got into that in episode five, these places have to register what are called cue sheets. And this is something that Sam had mentioned but we didn’t get into.
Speaker 3:
Now what a cue sheet is, this is filled out by a production company. It’s provided by the production company. It’s almost always required that the production company fills this out. When your song is put into, um, a TV show or a movie or a commercial, this cue sheet gets filled out and gets sent over to BMI or ASCAP, whichever it’s registered with, and they take care of that. You don’t have to take care of any of it. And this includes reruns of these. They get, um, schedules of the [inaudible] reruns, which gets put into their database. So you’ll be getting paid out for those royalties. And that’s mainly where you’ll see royalties come from with BMI or ASCAP. If your song is picked up, let’s say on iTunes or the pour it’s downloaded from somewhere, someone purchases the song, puts it in their TV show. They have to fill out a cue sheet for that song when it’s played and if your song isn’t registered with BMI, a production company did everything they need to do [inaudible] your song is not registered with BMI or as cap and gets put in, then you might have some issues with you actually getting paid for that royalty that you’re owed.
Speaker 3:
So again, this is why we register on these sites [inaudible] in case it gets put on to some show or commercial or whatever it needs to get covered there. As far as Q sheets go, one thing to remember when you are licensing a track to a TV show or commercial, these production companies, it’s always important for you to double check that these cue sheets have been registered and they’ve been sent into these companies. If they haven’t been sent in, you need to get the cue sheet from the company and send it to BMI or ASCAP and they do like if they are late, they do have a certain timeframe that you can send them in and still get paid for your royalties. But I think it’s between like a six to nine month timeframe that you have to get these a cue sheet sent in. So always when you license a track to a TV show, double check within three months of you getting everything finalized, double check and see that they sent in the cue sheets and asked for a copy of them too just to have on file.
Speaker 3:
Now let’s say these production companies register your song already or a publisher registers your song. This is important to keep in mind. If you sign a track with the record label and they register your track on BMI or ASCAP, you do not need to register yours the second time. This is for if a record label registers the track with BMI and you’re signed up on BMI, you’re good. Now if a record label registers on BMI and you’re on ASCAP, you need to register yours on as cap. They will not talk to each other. When you are registering a track through BMI, there is one thing to keep in mind there. [inaudible] royalty percentage is a little bit different than let’s say you were to assign a track or a contract with a record label and they’re gonna take like the example we had earlier, they’re going to take 70% you’re going to take 30% it’s a little bit different.
Speaker 3:
BMI is total percentage. Royalty for a track is 200% if you sign a track with a record label and you guys are going to split it 50 50 that means the publisher gets 100% and you get 100% let’s say the record label was gonna take 70% and you were going to take 30% that means that the record label will get 140% and you will get 60% so yet to keep these in mind when actually registering your track and make sure you do the numbers right. If someone, if you’re working with a collaborator and they register for you before you can register again, you don’t need to do the due, you don’t need to double up. You don’t need to register a second time. You should be included in that, but make sure, double check with your collaborator, whoever helped you write the song, double check that they put your information in, right, and they put the royalties in, right.
Speaker 3:
You are able to edit these registrations afterwards. You just need to contact the support staff, but double check with people when you’re collaborating, if they register for you that all the information is right. Same with you. If you register your track and you have a collaborator, make sure you get all the information from them and let them know, Hey, I’m registering this with BMI. If you’re on ASCAP, do it on ASCAP, but I’m on BMI, I’m registering this. What’s all of your information and let’s get the percentages worked out. And with BMI they pay out quarterly, so you’ll get your payout in January, March, June, September. But there is a certain, you have to accumulate a certain dollar amount before you actually receive a check, which is $250 so if you’re at $240 when the first quarter’s coming up, or even the last quarter, you’re not going to get paid out for that entire year.
Speaker 3:
You have to wait until that hits $250 and then they’re going to send your check and your, that money will be held in your BMI account and once you hit that threshold, you’ll get paid. I do believe that is per track. So let’s say you have 10 tracks and each of them have 150 or even $200 on them, I’d not 100% sure if you’re going to get paid out four. All of those, like I think each track has stayed $250 in, you’ll receive a check for that specific track. I’m not 100% sure on that. Should be pretty easy to look that up. Or if you can’t find it, just reach out to BMI and they’ll be able to tell you that kind of information. And that’s basically it. As far as BMI goes, these organizations are pretty straight forward into the point once you kind of understand the basis for them.
Speaker 3:
And it’s really just to make sure that you’re getting paid for the royalties that you’re out. And again, this is mostly with TV shows and commercials and networks, all these different places that are entertainment media. When they use your work, this is where you’re going to get paid out through his BMI or ASCAP or C sack. When you distribute your music through distribution sites, they’re paying you for the streams, for the Spotify buys, for the Apple musics, for the YouTube reds, for the titles. That’s where you’re going to get paid out from are the streams with distribution sites. When your stuff is licensed, when it’s played on ads and chose, that’s where BMI or as capital come in. And so it’s very straight forward. It’s really to cover your ass so you get paid what you deserve for these quote unquote public performances. So let’s talk a little bit about ASCAP now as cap is basically the exact same thing as BMI.
Speaker 3:
It’s just a different organization with a few different things. The nice thing about ASCAP is their entire board of directors. Wood is made up of both writers and publishers. So people who are publishing music, like record label owners, um, and these are actually voted for. So the, the board members are voted for by the actual members of as cap and they pick 12 people for write 12 writers and 12 publishers that are elected into these positions for the board. So it’s all made up of musicians and publishers. So everyone is kind of kept in fair check and everyone is made sure like the, the musicians are getting the rights that they deserve. And so are the publishing companies and [inaudible] a little bit more con, more of a controlled environment. Whereas with BMI it’s a little bit more private. They kind of work within their own company and hire all the, all the different directors, four wherever they see fit.
Speaker 3:
But with ASCAP is a community, it is more driven from the members. The members decide how as cap is run, which is nice. It’s, it’s nice to think and know that you’re, you’re being represented by people who I have been in the same position as you so they understand. They might respect the work a little bit more. With ASCAP though there is an application fee, it’s a $50 one time nonrefundable application fee and once you’re accepted you’re good. You don’t need to, you, you don’t need, you won’t get charged that application fee ever again. And this is just to cover the costs for reviewing your application. So that is something to keep in mind when you’re taking a look into as cap. Now what’s nice about as cap is you get a lot of different member benefits. They’ve got a lot of programs that are affiliated with as cap where you’ll get major discounts on all sorts of different kinds of things.
Speaker 3:
They give you a lot of exclusive package benefits too. Wellness programs, creation tools and gear education, financial assistance instrument in studio insurance, marketing merchandise, some travel benefits. You get a lot of different benefits with ASCAP. So if you are like a big musician where you’re trying to go full time as cap might be a better place for you because you get a few more benefits included, that might make life a lot easier as a musician and you’ll be able to get a lot more guidance through that entire process. They actually even, uh, this program called better help, which is free professional counseling and it’s a 24 hour service. So if you’re needing counseling as a musician and you’re full time but you don’t have health insurance and you are a member of ASCAP, they can get you, I connected with someone online, a professional counsel, a licensed counselor and therapist to help you with that totally free of cost.
Speaker 3:
So with as cap like you, you, you can really tell they want to help their members, they want to take care of musicians. And I think a lot of this has to do with this board of not just people they elect within the company or outside of the company, but it’s, it’s people who I have been in this game, they’ve played this game before. They understand how they understand how it all works. So they’re here to help you. There is something that I forgot to mention with BMI and ASCAP. When businesses go to purchase these music licenses, I think it’s, I think BMI only takes about 10% of that cost for the license. The rest of it gets distributed back into the members. And same with ASCAP. I think as cap takes a level percent of that license and then the rest of the license actually gets distributed back into its members.
Speaker 3:
So that’s how those business licenses actually work. Now the cool thing about as cap is they also have something called as cap onstage. So when you perform for specific venues that actually have these business licenses, you can report those performances and get paid for the royalties of that performance. So long as the, uh, the venues are registered as well. So if you are in a performing artist and you’re going around playing a bunch of live shows, this is a way for you actually get paid an additional fee for the royalties that you pay during that performance. But essentially we covered most of what as cap does in the whole explanation at the beginning with BMI. So that’s really it. As far as the differences go between as captain BMI as cap is a lot more focused on the musicians in my opinion and BMI. BMI is, it’s really a, a faster and more clean cut way of getting the royalties that you need to get paid.
Speaker 3:
But that is it for this week’s episode. This one was, I think, super important to go over. I think, uh, there aren’t a lot of producers that understand the benefits to registering your music through these organizations and how important it actually is. And we needed an episode thoroughly going into this. So I hope you guys got a lot of information out of this. Make sure you read, register your tracks on BMI and ASCAP in addition to your distribution in case someone picks up your song for licensing somewhere, you get paid for that. Plus with ASCAP. Like I said,
Speaker 1:
if you’re starting to go full time, if you’re hitting that peak as cap has a lot of programs that are for you as a musician that can help you out and your career. So check them out. Head to envious, audio.com/episode 13 I’ve got all the show notes on there with the links to everything we discussed and for you to go register and sign up on BMI or ASCAP. Thank you so much. You guys go to facebook.com look up the Facebook community. We have electronic dance money community. It’s free to join. Just go in there and request access and I will add you in. Again, thank you so much and I’ll see you guys next time.
Speaker 2:

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