Updated: Dec 14, 2019
My cowriter says he's submitting his live set lists to his PRO, but I haven't seen any money yet. What should I do? #AskAmanda
First a little background to answer this question submitted by one of our Songpreneurs Leadership Community members.
We'll start with the most basic information and build forward from there.
As a songwriter, you have an opportunity to collect royalty money when your song is performed in a live music venue.
Whether you perform the song yourself, your cowriter performs it, or someone else covers your song, you are eligible to collect public performance money as a songwriter and music publisher.
There is a procedure for each of the United States based PROs (performing rights organizations), and for most international performing rights societies that you can find on their online FAQs.
As a performing songwriter, it's easy to submit your set lists to your PRO, and to get paid.
But what the question is asking is about a cowriter's submission, so let's go into that.
Reasons Why You Might Not Be Getting Paid
There are a couple of reasons why you haven't gotten paid yet for your public performances.
First, as the question suggests, your cowriter is lying to you about submitting the sets.
This is probably the least likely of your problems, and one that cannot be completely addressed in the context of this answer, but we'll give it some thought.
Importance of Trusting Your Cowriters
In general, you should have a good level of trust in your cowriters, because it's a serious endeavor to create intellectual property with another person.
You are essentially entering into an agreement with a person that has implications that last longer than either of you will live.
Copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years in the United States, so you should think carefully before writing with people you don't know well or trust.
It can help to work with trusted advisors when looking for new cowriters, or to take recommendations from friends and business associates you trust.
Being part of a group like Songpreneurs can help you to find quality cowriters that will keep up with their business paperwork.
But keeping in mind that not all groups are created equally, and not all put the focus on the business aspect of writing, you have good reason to tread carefully into the cowriting waters.
Assuming your cowriter is telling the truth about submitting the live performance setlists, there are a couple of other reasons why you might not have received any money yet.
Your song is registered incorrectly
If your song is registered incorrectly in the PROs, your payment will be delayed.
You should check the listings for the song in all the PROs where it is registered, and make sure the information is the same.
Also check that your contact information including your address is correct. This is very important. No correct address equals no payment getting to you.
Just wait longer
Given the fact that it takes up to a year or more for some payments to process through the performing rights organizations, you might just need to wait longer to see those royalties come in to your mail box.
If you thought the music business was fast paced, you're in for a surprise.
Sure a few things happen quickly when you have the right team and preparation, but usually royalty payments take at least six months to process, and that's if the income is significant.
For smaller live performance venues, it may take as much as a year to see the money on your end.
So be patient.
Other things to consider
A couple of other things to consider with this question.
If you are a songwriter who has not signed with a music publisher, you can collect the publishing income as well as the songwriter income for the public performances.
Just make sure you are registered as a writer and a publisher with your PRO, or if you're with BMI, you can register yourself as a self published writer by claiming 200% of your writer's share.
This is a thing unique to BMI among the three big U.S. based PROs.
Both ASCAP and SESAC operate as 100% writer, 100% publisher for each song, and require a separate registration as a writer and publisher if you're both.
If you have more questions about how this works, pick up a copy of our red workbook called "Getting Started the Right Way in the New Millennium of Music Business." It's a simple resource for songwriters by songwriters about how to understand your music business foundations.
Even if you think you know this stuff (especially if you think you know it all) you might want to give it a read.
There are a few things to consider when trying to make sure you're collecting all your royalties for live public performance.
Make sure you have done your paper work correctly, work with trusted cowriters, and be patient with your dealings in the music business.
Got a question about songwriting and music business entrepreneurship? #AskAmanda
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