Mechanical royalties are the oft-overlooked relative of public performance royalties. Just like performance royalties, they’re owed to composers and copyright owners for the usage of their musical compositions. However, the two royalties are generated differently.
What Is a Mechanical Royalty?
First, to understand mechanical royalties, we have to understand where they come from and how they are created. Every recorded song has two different copyrights: 1) the master rights, which cover the original sound recording, and 2) publishing rights, which cover the actual composition. The recording artist owns the master rights, and the songwriter owns the publishing rights.
Mechanical royalties are generated from the publishing rights. Any time a composition is reproduced, the publishing rights owner will receive a mechanical royalty. For example, when your song is reproduced for an interactive stream or a digital download, or when a record label presses a CD or vinyl record of your song, or songs on an album, you’re owed these royalties.
The name “mechanical” comes from back in the day when music was “mechanically” reproduced on player piano rolls or record discs. Nowadays, most music is digital, but the term “mechanical” still applies even though it’s more electronic than mechanical. Online music sales from streaming services and digital downloads (such as Spotify, Apple Music, or iTunes) generate mechanical royalties. Whenever a song is chosen on a streaming platform, the streaming service reproduces the underlying composition, producing a mechanical royalty.
How Much Do Mechanical Royalties Pay?
The amount of royalty depends on the medium. Streaming services pay mechanical royalties to artists at around $0.06 per 100 streams. Physical copies of music and permanent downloads generate a royalty of $.09 cents per song.
How Are Mechanical Royalties Paid?
Money generated from mechanical royalties doesn’t go directly to the writer but through an intermediary system. Mechanical royalty collection agencies collect these royalties. The royalties are then paid to music publishers and disbursed to the songwriter.
Most countries have their own agencies. In the United States, one of the biggest collection agencies is Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), representing all major music publishers. Other key collection agencies in the US are Harry Fox Agency and Music Reports.
Other big collection agencies around the world include:
- Australia: AMCOS
- Austria: AUSTRO-MECHANA
- Belgium: SABAM
- Brazil: UBC
- Canada: CMRRA
- France: SDRM
- Germany: GEMA
- Mexico: SACM
- Netherlands: STEMRA
- Italy: SIAE
- Japan: JASRAC
- Portugal: SPA
- Scandinavia: NCB
- South Africa: CAPASSO
- Spain: SGAE
- Switzerland: SUISA
- UK: MCPS
How To Claim Mechanical Royalties
Mechanical royalties are dispersed in a variety of ways and in various countries. If you don’t have the legal know-how, the best thing you can do for yourself is to work with a music publisher. While it is possible to attempt to publish your songs worldwide on your own, it is very time-intensive work. A music publisher has the personnel, the knowledge, and the legal expertise to exploit your compositions. A publisher will make sure that you are getting all of your royalties from every source and territory.
How to find a Music Publisher
You can sign up with Sugo Music Group Publishing and begin claiming all the songwriting royalties you’re owed.
- Song registrations: performing rights organizations worldwide
- Song registrations: mechanical right collection societies
- Collections: all performing royalties across the globe
- Collections: all mechanical royalties across the globe
- Licensing: pitching your songs for sync placements and collecting sync royalties