Collecting Your Royalties
There are a variety of different income sources for songwriters, such as record sales, radio and TV performance income, film and TV synchronization fees, and sheet music royalties. The two main sources are mechanical royalties (sales from records) and performance income (revenues from radio and TV airplay). Performance royalties in the U.S. are collected by ASCAP, BMI and SESAC and distributed quarterly to each writer (see “Performance Rights Organizations” section below).
In most cases, mechanical royalties in the U.S. are collected and distributed by The Harry Fox Agency (HFA). HFA takes a commission of 6.0% to issue mechanical licenses and collect royalties from record companies. HFA is widely respected, and is utilized by both small, independent writer/publishers and the large publishing corporations. Self-published writers with just a few cuts can be assured of being paid properly by HFA. Occasionally, HFA conducts audits of labels to ensure that all royalties are being paid.
HFA also provides a service to collect foreign mechanical royalties. Writer/publishers who have not entered into subpublishing deals (for overseas administration and collection) can utilize HFA to do the collecting. In Canada, collection and distribution of mechanical royalties is largely handled by The Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd. (CMRRA). Most publishers utilize CMRRA for their collection of Canadian royalties.
Here are the links to HFA and CMRRA.
- Also included is the link to HFA’s excellent “Frequently Asked Questions” webpage.
- Also FYI, there is an article in SongwriterUniverse Magazine about the history of mechanical royalty rates: