Are You On The List? – Unpaid Digital Music Royalties for Independent Artists


The creation of internet and satellite radio stations has created more opportunities for independent music artists to get airplay and promote their music to a wider audience than ever before. Yet the biggest piece of the puzzle that continues to evade many independent artists, is to not only figure out how to record great music, get spin time and grow their fan base; but also how to make these virtual tools work to create revenue and royalty streams.

A big part of the answer lies with a performance rights company named, SoundExchange. SoundExchange is a non-profit organization that collects statutory royalties for artists. Although they are not widely known to most independent artists, the organization has been very effective with helping artists who are registered with them, collect their share of an estimated $31 million dollars in unclaimed royalties that they probably don’t realize they are owed.

SoundExchange collects royalties from:

  • Satellite radio stations (such as Sirius XM)
  • Internet radio stations
  • Cable TV Stations
  • Music channels and similar platforms for streaming sound recordings

“The Copyright Royalty Board, which is appointed by The U.S. Library of Congress, has entrusted SoundExchange as the sole entity in the United States to collect and distribute these digital performance royalties on behalf of featured recording artists, master rights owners (like record labels), and independent artists who record and own their masters.”

Several months ago, SoundExchange “Released a list of more than 50,000 recording artists and record label names owed tens of millions of dollars in unclaimed digital performance royalty payments.”

SoundExchange is “Encouraging recording artists and record labels to view the searchable database located on its website to learn more and register to receive their share. The unclaimed royalties, ranging from $10 to more than $100,000, have been collected by SoundExchange during the past decade. Those that are not included on the list, and have not yet registered with SoundExchange, are encouraged to also register to receive future digital radio royalties.

SoundExchange is for real, and the numbers show proof. “To date, SoundExchange has paid more than $1 billion in royalties to the creators of music.” Through the first two quarters of 2012, the company announced that it had “distributed $204.4 million in digital royalty payments to recording artists and record labels in the first two quarters of 2012. In its second quarter, SoundExchange distributed $95.8 million, the second highest quarterly distribution in the organization’s history.”

Membership with SoundExchange is very different from being a member of ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, because unlike SoundExchange, these three companies compensate songwriters and publishers. Therefore, being a member of SoundExchange will not jeopardize your status with these PROs (Performance Rights Companies), because SoundExchange compensates performers and copyright owners for the sound recording itself.

Some other things to note about SoundExchange are:

  • Registration and membership with SoundExchange is free.
  • Registration doesn’t impact your rights to your tracks.
  • Registration will not prevent you from making private licensing deals with other music-using service.
  • You must provide personal data and tax forms, because the royalties are taxable income.
  • Registration is the only way to claim the royalties you’ve earned,
  • If your band or group isn’t registered as a legal entity, each member should register individually.

Once you’re registered, you’ll be paid quarterly every time you’re owed money. So help spread the word about SoundExchange to other independent artists, to help them “get paid when they get played.”

Click here to register with SoundExchange