Aside from working with a publisher to get your songs sung by the right artists, there are other ways those songs can make you money. Just like the written word in any form - poetry, novels, articles - if your song is printed and published, you are owed your royalties. Here are some ways your song might be used and what you can expect to earn from it.
When we start talking about royalties for songs in print, you may be thinking it’s unlikely this affects you, and you may be right, but you still need to understand who this works. We’re not just talking about sheet music, although that can be important, we’re talking about every way in which your song may be used in print. Song lyrics used in books, greeting cards, magazines etc. It depends how much of your song is used in this way as to what royalties you can expect, but this is your song so nobody can use it for free.
As digital outstrips print, this will be where you can expect your songs to be ‘printed’ the most. Just like with digital downloads and streaming, it’s all about quantity versus rate. You’ll get less due to the lower rate the song lyrics are offered at, but the numbers of people using the sites will be high. Some sites are offering lyrics for free and make their money via advertising, in which case publishers take around 50% of the ad revenue. In cases where there’s a charge to download lyrics, the publisher takes 50% of the income generated. So, it’s a higher rate, but on a lower starting price.
A sub-publisher is someone who collects money on behalf of a publisher, usually in a territory in which the publisher doesn’t work. However your songs are being published, your publisher won’t cover all territories, so they need to employ a sub-publisher to cover those areas for them. The sub-publisher deals with a wide variety of ways your song might be used and they collect the money owed for all of it. So, if your song is covered by a band in another country, the sub-publisher makes sure they pay up. The sub-publisher usually get around 50% of the earnings from that cover, and from that of course, the publisher wants their cut and you want yours. A sub-publisher also covers performances of your songs, and of course any printing of your lyrics.
A side note here is on individual copying your songs for private use. This is pretty impossible to enforce, but it tis still illegal in the UK for anyone to record or copy a song for non commercial use. You can’t play your favourite track over your homemade video on Youtube or Facebook without permission. You can’t, technically, copy a song onto a blank CD, though we all know nobody is going to jail for doing it! This is simply in place to protect the artist from their songs being used for free.
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