You have likely come across reference to mechanical royalties in researching revenue streams for music. Perhaps you are like me and at first had no idea what these were or how to get them. I would wager most artists do not even know that they are owed mechanical royalties and that they have money sitting somewhere out there in the abyss.
When you have written or own the copyright to a song (musical work “composition”) you have six legal rights in relation to that copyright.
The royalty money from the right of reproduction is called a “mechanical royalty”.
This money is totally separate from the money paid out to you through your distributor (Distrokid, CD Baby, Tunecore, etc…).
Mechanical royalties are paid out to the owner or owners of the copyright for a musical work or composition. If you write your own music, then this is you.
Your PRO (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, etc…) does not collect your mechanical royalties.
Your distributor does not collect your mechanical royalties. Some distributors do offer publishing admin services however you have to opt-in and pay for this additional service.
You must either do this yourself, which most artists likely won’t be able to do due to bureaucratic BS and lack of interest and effort by music services to establish infrastructure to deal with these payments. OR you must sign up with a 3rd party go-between service (who of course takes a fee) such as Audiam, Songtrust, or the Harry Fox Agency.
Dear friends who have had success on Spotify or other streaming platforms, please go get your money. Look into these three services to collect your mechanicals:
As of November 2019 the US mechanical royalty rate for a stream on Spotify was $0.0005390232 per stream.
That is $539 for 1 million streams.
What is compound interest?
In the money and finance world compound interest occurs when you reinvest the interest earned off an initial principle / investment. Then your principle plus the interest earns more interest which you can reinvest to earn more interest which you can reinvest to earn more interest and so on… The ‘ole logarithmic millionaire maker..
However, we can see the effects of compound interest in our lives in many other areas as well.
Let’s take exercise for example. Let’s say you pick up running as a hobby. You go from running zero times a week to running two miles three times a week. At first, the exercise is miserable and you’re grumpy and dang wouldn’t it be nice to get back inside and turn on Netflix and finish season two of Outlander.. Alas, you persist and after a month you start noticing you have more energy at work, you are sleeping better, and you’ve lost 5 lbs. Woah that’s cool. In month two it’s easier to get up and run then when you started. In month three you’re feeling real good and have come to enjoy running. You’re in better shape which makes running easier and now you can run faster and longer. The effect of running has compounded in your life and the longer you do it the more benefits you achieve.
Now let’s talk about your music career and the easiest way to blow up any potential of compound interest.
1) Quitting Too Early
So many things to quit. So many ways to blow it all up and kill the potential of compound interest. Here are a few example:
2) Making Bad Investments
Homework for the people who care:
Try writing down three ways you can utilize the effects of compound interest in your music career. This could be really investing in your relationship with a co-writer, choosing 10 cities to really really focus on and play shows in until you can fill 100+ rooms, reinvesting your earnings from one release into the marketing of the next released and so on…
The distinction between a worker and a leader:
A leader takes ownership of and responsibility for their part.
A worker does not have to worry about the results they just do what they are told.
When you go into the studio to record try being a leader unless you are explicitly asked to be a worker.
What does it look like to be a session leader?Be willing to satisfy your creative expression first before taking feedback. The artist likely will have already given you a general idea as to what they want. I’m not saying ignore that. Once you know the boundaries set by the artist or producer act with autonomy within them. Do not defer decisions to anyone else in the room too soon. Set a high standard. Care about the end result as much as if it were your song. You know better than anyone whether you could have played the section better. If you know you can play it better, then ask for another pass. If you are unhappy with the part do not sign off on it.
Pay attention. Every section, every phrase, every transition, etc… Pay attention to what you are doing. If the transition into the second chorus felt off, then speak up and overdub it. Tell the engineer what you need.
Tell the engineer what you need.
You help dictate the pace. You do not need to wait to be told what to do.
A leader says, “give me another pass”. A worker stares vacantly at the ceiling until they are told what to do.
Do not let a producer comp your part. Write your own part. If a producer or artist wants another option, give it to them. The artist has final say because it is their song. Giving dozens of options to an artist is not the same as writing a part. Your session work should not be the equivalent of a creative brain dump unless you are asked to dump. Commit. Fast.
DO all this and you will have an edge over every other session musician and be asked back for more gigs. You will certainly make your artist, producer, or engineer happy.
Have you ever been paid by a friend to work on their music project or have you ever paid a friend to work on yours?
It can be pretty uncomfortable owing a friend money or asking a friend for money that they owe you. We’ve all been there.
Music is more fun to make with friends.
I mean don’t we all just want to retire someday and all own a house in Crieve Hall and have our own personal home studios and spend all day making music with our friends?!
Making music with somebody is a great way to become friends. I almost always become friends with the people I make music with unless they ask me to put a 32nd note tambourine in their song. Then we become enemies…
How do I avoid getting hurt and feeling resentful?
First off, I know what this feels like. I have had struggles in this area. This can be really hard, and there’s always room to grow.
A proper agreement or contract should protect both parties from feeling hurt and resentful.
I once heard someone actually call contracts, “disagreements”, because they are meant to lay down the rules when parties disagree. That’s what they are there for. They offer protection to both sides if such a situation arises.
There’s a stigma surrounding contracts and working with friends. Ewww Zach that’s way too formal and businessy mannnn. I get it. It can be awkward coming up to a friend with a contract and asking them to review and sign it, but would you rather feel awkward for five minutes or hurt and resentful towards a friend?
Working for free may not be a good idea.
Here’s a surefire way to be annoying and likely piss off a friend: assume they are going to work for free without any mention of money or the value they offer.
It is not wrong to work for free or to honestly communicate your lack of a budget, but it is always the service provider’s right to decide whether they will work without pay.
Have you ever played a show for a friend and they didn’t pay you? With no mention of money at all… That’s no fun. We need to create boundaries.
Here’s the thing that people often miss: your boundaries are for you.
You set your own boundaries. Boundaries are not about what other people should do to you or for you. Boundaries are about what you will do when other people misbehave. People will misbehave. People can do whatever they want. Your boundaries and your reactions are up to you. For example:
I may think it’s really funny to spit in my hand right before I shake hands with any one I greet. I may do this every time I see you. But you could set a boundary,
“Hey man, I don’t like having your spit in my hand so I’m not going to ever shake your hand again if you do that. I’m not judging you for doing that or saying you can’t do it. I can’t tell you what to do but I can tell you what I will do if you do that to me again.”
Setting boundaries with your friends can actually be really kind and loving!
Say no to your friend if you don’t want to do it.
If you know the conditions of a gig are not what you want then don’t do it. Say no. If someone is really your friend then they would rather hear a no from you and an honest explanation instead of have you go through with it and be hurt and resentful towards them.
Be honest about your budget.
If your friend charges $150 / song to play drums, but you only have $100 budgeted for drums be honest and upfront about that. Also if you aren’t in a rush you could also just postpone tracking for one month or until you save $50.
Think about what you would want.
How would you like it if your paycheck was delivered to you at random and your “money in” was always in a state of “tbd”… You wouldn’t like that would you? So stop doing that to your friends. If you’ve agreed to pay, then pay promptly and at the agreed upon time.
If you are the one being paid don’t be afraid to follow up.
Stop haggling just to “get a deal” from your friends.
If you have the money, then pay your friend what they are worth. If you don’t have the money don’t haggle, just be honest about where you are at.
Your creative work is valuable. You offer something unique and beautiful and so do your friends. See the beauty in what your friends do and respect the value of that. We all want more money. We all want to be highly valued for what we bring to the table. Getting our shit together in the money department I believe will actually lead to better projects and better art being made. We all spend a considerable amount of brain calories thinking about money. You do yourself and your friends a great deal of service, and enable them to spend all those brain calories instead on creativity, when you handle the money stuff with integrity and honesty.
Founder of @lostharbormusic