Attention, recording artists and sound recording copyrights owners! Did you know that there may be unclaimed royalties in your name floating around out there on the interwebs? Did you know that a friendly, non-profit organization exists solely for the purpose of helping you find them? That’s right. They’re called SoundExchange, and they want nothing more than to give you money.
SoundExchange recently reported a quarterly payout totaling $54.8 million, a record high for the organization. All this money went straight into the pockets of recording artists and sound recording copyright owners (typically labels, sometimes artists themselves). If you’re a registered SoundExchange member, you may already be a winner!
“But how does this crazy scheme work?” you ask, “Surely this is too good to be true!”
If you’ve spent much time on the Internet, you’ve probably heard a lot of offers for easy money. Many of them have probably come from sketchy-sounding Nigerian dudes or “a Mom from [name of your city],” and may or may not involve discount male enhancement drugs. But SoundExchange is no get-rich-quick scheme — it’s an organization entrusted by Congress to serve the best interests of musicians and labels like you.
SoundExchange is the non-profit performance rights organization (PRO) that collects statutory royalties from services that digitally stream sound recordings. So whenever one of your recordings is broadcast digitally — on Internet radio, satellite radio, or those weird cable channels that do nothing but play music accompanied by soothing pictures of birds and waterfalls — SoundExchange collects money in your name! All you need to do to cash in is become a registered member. Once you’ve registered, the royalties you’ve earned will be paid directly to you on a quarterly basis for as long as you’re owed.
SoundExchange currently represents over 5,500 record labels, over 45,000 featured artists, and has paid out more than $470 million in royalties since its creation in 2003.
If you’re not yet a SoundExchange member, it’s easy to sign up. There are no registration fees or membership dues. It’s simple, it’s free, and it might easily become one of your most important revenue streams in the brave new music economy. Plus, when you sign up, you’ll be eligible to collect any back royalties you may have earned since 1996.
SoundExchange complements the work of other PROs (of which you may already be a member) such as BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC. It’s the only organization that collects digital performance royalties. It’s also the only PRO that specifically compensates performers — including both featured artists and side musicians —and sound recording copyright owners.
(Interestingly, other PROs are required to pay only the owners of a song’s underlying composition: that is, the songwriter, composer or publisher. Since there is no public performance right for regular radio, only the owners of these copyrights are paid for over-the-air spins — the performer and sound recording copyright owner get squat. For more information on the legal loophole that enables this disparity, see our Fact Sheets on SoundExchange and the Public Performance Right for Sound Recordings.)
SoundExchange has caught some flack in the past for not being aggressive enough in tracking down unregistered artists who were owed digital performance royalties. Fortunately, they’re working hard to remedy the situation, and now it’s easier than ever to find out whether you have royalties waiting for you. SoundExchange maintains a public database of all known unpaid artists and copyright holders where you can search for your name to see if you’re owed any outstanding royalties.