It’s always a little astonishing when musicians tell us they haven’t even heard of SoundExchange, the non-profit organization set up to disseminate streaming royalties from satellite radio, cable, and other streaming services like Pandora. SoundExchange collects royalties for everyone who receives airplay, and to receive these royalties, artists and labels simply need to register through SoundExchange’s website. Yet many artists have never registered despite SoundExchange’s valiant efforts to track them down; that means tens of millions of dollars that should be in artists’ pockets are sitting in a bank account waiting to be collected.
Recently, Soundexchange publicly released an up-to-date database of all the unregistered artists and labels that are owed royalties. They’re hoping that making this information public will encourage people to spread the word. This is even more urgent because if artists don’t register by October 15, they could see royalties that are more than three years old disappear. As SoundExchange says:
SoundExchange is authorized by law to release older unclaimed royalties to offset our costs and distribute proportionally to those we already pay. We have repeatedly held off on doing this, but we need your help to spread the word and get recording artists and record labels to register.
Yikes! To find out if SoundExchange has money for you, check out their database.
Just out of curiosity, I put my iPod on shuffle play to see whether a random sampling of my favorite artists where on Soundexchange’s list. The first artist to come up was New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus, who have yet to register! Also unregistered: Seattle rapper Macklemore, Baltimore electro-auteur Dan Deacon, and Portland art-rockers Parenthetical Girls.
Soon I started to see patterns. Artists who aren’t based in the US are particularly well-represented on the list: Australian indie-pop band Cannanes, New Zealand legends The Bats, and German industrial goofballs Rammstein all need to register.
Another key group: artists who are no longer actively performing and recording. My favorite 90s hip hop group, the sadly defunct Evil Tambourines, has money waiting for them. So does Mika Miko, the awesome LA punk band which broke up in 2009.
Artists who’ve performed under several project names also need to take care to register for all their projects. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy seems to have signed up, but he’s neglected to register his previous projects Palace, Palace Brothers, and Palace Songs. Similarly, indie vets Yo La Tengo have registered, but they forgot to register their jokey side project Condo F*cks. Jonathan Richman has apparently registered, but his old group The Modern Lovers has not!
I could have kept going, but I started to notice many of my friends’ bands included on the list, so I abandoned the experiment, and spent the next two hours emailing a couple dozen friends to let them know that they had unpaid royalties waiting for them. Some of them were completely surprised and needed to be convinced that it wasn’t a Nigerian scam. Others said that they’d been meaning to register for a while but had kept putting it off; all of them appreciated the reminder. Maybe it’d be worth it to check and see if your friends are in the database as well, and let them know!
(Image via shutterstock)