Collecting Digital Royalties: Step By Step Guide for Artists & Producers


If you are a music producer or indy artist you likely have digital royalties floating out there you have no idea you have. If your music is available for play on Pandora, or any other streaming service then you likely have money waiting for you in the royalty ether.

Digital royalties are fees that service providers such as Pandora, SiriusXM and webcasters are required by law to pay for streaming musical content. This is different from publishing royalties that go to writers. Digital royalties are paid by the streaming services to SoundExchange and paid out to the actual performers and owners of the songs.

SoundExchange explains clearly on it's site that under the law 45 percent of performance royalties are paid directly to the featured artists on a recording, and 5 percent are paid to a fund for non-featured artists (such as musicians or backup singers). The other 50 percent of the performance royalties are paid to the rights owner of the sound recording. (remember that time I went with my GRAMMY family to advocate for artists rights like these?)

So if you are a producer that has signed an agreement that gives you a producer's royalty from the artist's share you are entitled to digital royalties as well.  (...if you are working with no producer agreement or don't know what your agreement entitles you to let's schedule a time to talk)

So yes, if you are an artist or producer you could have serious money left on the table and this is how you collect it:

1. Make sure YOU are properly registered and up to date with a performing rights organization (i.e. BMI, ASCAP, etc)

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This is simple. But it's also a good idea to make sure you are update to date in their system with the correct address, phone numbers, and emails so you can be sure to get your checks! Up to date? Move on to step 2

2. Make sure your SONGS are registered with your performing rights organization

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Many digital distributors like Tunecore and CDBaby automatically register the songs for you. But login to your PRO account and DOUBLE CHECK because songs are often missing or may predate when you started using a digital distributor.

3. Make sure YOU are registered with SoundExchange.

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SoundExchange is the proverbial digital royalty bank. Even if you have songs from years ago that streamed and were paid royalties, if you are listed as a featured artist you likely have money waiting for you. You can search and find out for free here:

4. Make sure all your songs are listed properly in the Sound Exchange repertoire.

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You cannot receive royalties if you are not registered and your song repertoire is not up to date. Becoming a member of SoundExchange is free so there is no excuse! Take the 15 minutes it takes to fill out the paperwork so you can get PAID. Register here:

5. For EVERY SONG you do make sure there is a completed Sound Exchange Letter of Direction.

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A Letter of Direction tells SoundExchange who should get paid what percentage for performance on songs. This is extremely important if you are a producer because this is a direct instruction from the artist for Sound Exchange to pay you from their share. Download a reusable Letter of Direction template here:

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