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by Nancy VanReece

©2000 Nancy A. Reece. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

ORIGIN:Written for the September '98 issue of the North American Folk Alliance Newsletter, reprinted by permission -

There are four basic areas to earn money as a songwriter; Performance Royalties, Mechanical Royalties, Print Royalties and Synchronization Royalties.  We will address each of them briefly and touch on some tips for the self-published songwriter.

Performance Royalties
This is where our buddies at ASCAP, BMI and SESAC help you out.  To put it extremely simple, when your song is performed enough, you see money.  It has been made known to me that the PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) have shown a dismal effect on the majority of our genre's music.  It has become easy for us to accept that with limited radio airplay we can't count on our PROs to be a significant part of our bottom line.  In an effort to counter this, try the following suggestions.

  • Know your rep!
    Make personal contacts with your rep, E-mail, phone and/or fax.  Do what you have to do to make a friend at your PRO.  The writer/publisher relations departments are there for you.  Make a friend.  If they do not want to help you, find out how soon you can move to a new PRO!  
  • Give your rep your schedule and set lists for every show. 
    Don't just list out city and date.  Give the details showing where you have played.  List the venue or event name, address and phone number.  If the venue is a licensed club, restaurant, or festival,  you should see the performance count on your report.  If the place where you are playing is not yet licensed, the PRO will thank you for the information and should license the place promptly!   Be nice to your rep by sending this information every 6-8 weeks instead of after every show.  Make sure the information is presented in a professional and easy to understand format.

Mechanical Royalties
This is what you are paid by the company that manufactures something and sells something with your compositions on it.  If you have ever covered a song by another writer, you have seen how this works.  More than likely, if you write all your own material, you have not thought of your own songs, recorded by you, as a mechanical.  Yes, they are!

  • Have your own Publishing company issue mechanicals to your own Record Company. 
    This is not just to create paperwork, honest.   You may be able to better see the help this gives your bottom line if I give you an example.  When you grant full-rate licensing from your publishing company for ten songs the fee would be .71 per record sold. (The current US Statutory rate as of Jan 1, 1998 is .071 for songs 6 min or less) If you sold 5000 units, your publishing division generates $3,550.00 to be distributed to itself and the songwriters it represents.  Showing that your catalogue is earning money may help in your talks with investors. Further, if your record division could use another tax deduction, consult with your accountant about showing the expense on the record side.  You already knew it was going ‘out of one pocket' but this is a way to put it ‘in the other'.

Print Royalties
This is what you are paid by the company that prints your composition.  Lyric or music applies.  Have you thought of publishing your own chord book with your songs in it?  Why not?

Synchronization Royalties
This is what you are paid when someone compensates you for applying your music to a moving picture.  This could be commercials, television, film and the like.  We are proud to say that several of our clients have had success in this area.  It is important to know music supervisors and film directors and producers.  The more people with whom you network, the better your chances are in this area. Explore independent film.  An average "festival-use license" can run $500-2000 per song.  Any film made for less than two million dollars is considered a low budget film and 3-6% of the budget is used for music licensing. 

At the recent Nashville Independent Film Festival it came to my attention that there are 1100 films made a year in the United States. 700 of these films are independently made!  This information is amazing. We are releasing nearly 30,000 records in the United States each year. That is nearly 540 new titles, every week into the marketplace.  And this is only counting the projects with SPCN numbers!        

We have a great chance at getting our rich cultural material heard through independent film.  What are film makers if not story tellers, and what are folk singers if not that!

Carpe Diem’s owner and president, Nancy VanReece has been involved in the music business since 1983. She was the president of an independent advertising agency for eight years as well as a successful personal artist manager for nine years. She represented the careers of several recording artists and songwriters including those with EMI, Zomba and Liberty Records as well as Benson, Starsong, WoodBridge, Temple Hall and  N’Soul Records. She also represented, for a number of years, a Grammy and Dove nominated record producer. Reece has won awards of excellence in print magazine advertising and has been named as one of 2,000 Notable American Women (1995) as well as being listed in the International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women (1993). She was also named Cashbox Magazine’s Promoter of the Year (1989).
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