Let’s start with some basic definitions:
The first thing to know is that there is a difference between an “artist” and a “songwriter.” You can be one, or the other, or both, but the important thing to know is that even if you are both, the royalties for “artists” and those for “songwriters” are completely different.
Artists record sound recordings. A band is an artist. A rapper is an artist. A singer is an artist. Typically, whatever name is on the album, belongs to the artist. If the artist has not written any of their material, they are not a songwriter.
Songwriters write the compositions. You do not need to be an artist to be a songwriter.
This is commonly called the “master.” It’s the actual recording. The mastered track. Sound recordings are not to be confused with compositions. Artists record sound recordings, whether they wrote the song or not. From now on in this primer, when we use the word “master” we mean an individual sound recording.
This is the song, the melody and lyrics, not the sound recording/master. One composition can be recorded over and over again by different artists. From now on in this primer, when we use the word “song” we mean a single composition.
The legal copyright owner who has the right to license and administer the song and collect royalties is the publisher. Unless you have entered into a publishing deal, YOU are inherently the publisher of your songs.q
This stands for performance rights organizations which collect income from public performances of songs (ie. radio, TV, concerts, etc.) The major PROs in the US are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. You can only be a writer member of ONE PRO, and you must have your writer account AND your publisher account at the same one.
Because SONA is a songwriter’s organization, we will focus here on information concerning songwriters and compositions.
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