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Royalties is an income earned through the licensing or sale of recorded music and the users – also known as the licensees – include TV and other media companies, advertising agencies, film production companies, theatre companies, record labels, museums and galleries, and theme parks, etc.

Income streams from these various uses are known as ‘secondary use fees’. One example of a secondary use fee would be a song synchronised into a TV advertisement, where a fee from the advertising agency would be collected and distributed to the relevant musician.

Musicians are entitled to receive royalties from these secondary use fees when their original recorded performance is covered by a recording agreement that stipulates this.

The current term of copyright is 70 years for sound recordings released in 1963 or later. Recordings released prior to 1963 are now in the public domain and do not attract royalties.

The MU, PPL and PRS for Music royalties

The MU has its own Royalties department which collects between £1.5 million to £2 million a year for musicians for the secondary and further use of recordings.

Royalties administered by the MU are different to income earned through PPL (‘Equitable Remuneration’ for performers and rightsholder royalties for labels), and different to publishing royalties from PRS for Music. The MU does not distribute sales revenue, except in rare cases where a label is unable to distribute royalties directly to a session performer. There is no conflict in the royalties collected by the MU and those collected by other organisations or agencies. 

At present, session musicians will not typically receive royalties from sales and streaming services, unless it is stipulated in their recording agreement.  The MU is currently campaigning to have a fair portion of revenue from streaming services paid out to session and ‘non-featured’ performers

There are a number of other income sources that are not collected by the MU. These include:

PPL Performer Revenue

PPL collect ‘Equitable Remuneration’ for performers, when their recorded music is broadcast on radio or played in public spaces.  This is a statutory right, and is not determined by a recording agreement, nor can it be bought or sold.  For this reason, PPL revenue for performers is not the same as a ‘royalty.’

PPL Rightsholder Royalties

PPL also collect royalties for the owners of master recordings – typically a record company, but also self-releasing artists, or those who have bought a temporary license to release a recording.

PRS Royalties

PRS For Music collect royalties on music publishing where music is broadcast or used in public spaces.  If you are a songwriter, lyricist, composer or publisher of your work or any other work, you will need to join PRS in the UK to earn this kind of royalty.

Sales and Streaming Royalties

Revenue from sales and streaming services is collected by the recording rightsholder (label or self-releasing artist).  At present, session musicians will not typically receive royalties from these sources, unless it is stipulated in their recording agreement.  The MU is currently campaigning to have a fair portion of revenue from streaming services paid out to session and ‘non-featured’ performers.

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