Getting Paid As A Songwriter


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This article appears courtesy Future of Music Coalition, a national nonprofit that conducts research, educates, and advocates for musicians.

How are musicians and songwriters compensated when their music is played on the radio, sold on digital platforms, webcast or streamed on interactive services? We know it’s difficult to keep things straight, especially when: (a) compositions and sound recordings are treated differently in the licensing process, even if the songwriter and performer are the same person; (b) there are usually multiple rightsholders; and (c) the processes by which music is licensed and the money flows back to creators varies by platform/service.Over the years, FMC has done its level best to present this information to musicians and songwriters in easily-digestible ways to ensure that musicians aren’t leaving money on the table. Since 2008, we have maintained and updated the New Business Models spreadsheet, which describes if and how labels, performers, songwriters and publishers are compensated on a variety of emerging music platforms.  We also have an infographic that describes digital distribution, and the ways in which self-released artists can participate in these various services. And, we have itemized all of the possible revenue streams for US-based musicians, composers and performers, and examined how these income sources are changing over time.

In recent months, we’ve been working on two more resources.

Last week, we released four Music and Money Quizzes that use real-world scenarios to test your knowledge of the copyright laws, licensing agreements and business practices that determine compensation. (Take one — or all of them — today! They’re fun and we guarantee you’ll learn something.)

Today, we’re rolling out a set of infographics that visualize how the money flows from various services back to labels, publishers, artists, and composers/songwriters. This page includes seven different presentations of information:

But we also broke it down into more discrete chunks. You can look at how the money moves by type of service/platform:

Or, you can examine it by the type of rightsholder:

  • big labels that negotiate directly with stores and services
  • indie labels that use aggregators like IODA/Orchard to make their catalog available
  • self-released artists/bands that use distributors like CD Baby or TuneCore to get their music into stores and services.

Click the image below to see a giant version.

long form


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