To get paid for the music you create, you MUST register your songs with the appropriate services and you MUST have well formatted metadata.
These registrations and the metadata are key information related to your revenue. Without that in place, any money attributed to your music will go into the “Black Box”* and you will not get paid.
(*The Black Box is more like a black hole of unclaimed unattributable royalties. When a song is played or purchased but the rights can’t be traced because of lack of attribution via registration or metadata, those royalties go into a financial “no-man’s land” collected by the labels. It’s reported by some that royalties, that go unclaimed for 2-3 years, are arbitrarily redistributed to PRO’s or label artists based on charts or Black boxed to cover operational costs. Don’t let your money get sucked into the Black Box!)
So – let’s get things registered!!!
In order for your release to be completely registered, protected and ready to bring in all the revenue it can bring in – you must register for the following: SR and PA Copyrights (US copyright Office), ISRC, UPC, PRO , Soundexchange, and a Mechanical Rights Societies or Publishing Admin Platform. (Extra credit registrations: Soundscan, BDS, and Mediabase. If you’ve already done the the others, you’ve already done the hard part! These last three will take you a total of five more minutes!)
This sounds like a lot, and it is, but it is not hard stuff. Time consuming, yes. But not hard.
This article has been broken up into sections just for readability, but if you follow this list and do what we suggest, you can literally be registered everywhere you need to be in an afternoon!
NOTE: We advise that you start this process six weeks or so before your official release date (especially if you don’t already have PRO or SoundExchange membership). You’ll also need that lead time to properly prepare your release with your distributor (more on that in a follow-up article).
With that said — Let’s get started REGISTERING!!!!!
Part I: Sound Recording (SR) and Performing Arts (PA) Copyrights:
Let’s start by registering for your copyrights. Under copyright law (dating back to January 1, 1978), any music is automatically protected by copyright when it is created in a ‘fixed copy’. Back in the day, that meant it had be recorded to tape or vinyl, but now that ‘fixed copy’ is usually created digitally. However your fixed copy is created, you must register with the copyright office so there is a public record of the copyright claim. By the way, you might have heard of the ‘poor man’s copyright’ (or maybe you haven’t) — either way, don’t do it!
Every song is actually represented by two copyrights which you register at the US Copyright Office: the Sound Recording copyright and the Performing Arts copyright.
- The SR (Sound Recording) protects the sound recording — the specific performance of the song. This copyright corresponds to your album or single sales. To protect and leverage your Sound Recording, fill out the Form SR with the US Copyright Office: http://copyright.gov/forms/formsr.pdf
- The PA (Performing Arts) protects the underlying music composition (both music & lyrics). This copyright corresponds to your publishing. To protect and leverage your composition, fill out the Form PA with the US Copyright Office: http://copyright.gov/forms/formpa.pdf