Music royalties: How to get paid what you’re owed


The Performing Right Society (PRS) for Music distributes royalties to songwriters in the UK. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you get paid for your creative efforts.

PRS for Music is a membership organisation that represents the rights of over 135,000 songwriters, composers and publishers in the UK. It’s home to two societies – the PRS and the MCPS. Don’t be put off by the acronyms, both help songwriters get paid the royalties to which they’re entitled.

What is PRS?

PRS collects and distributes royalties for musical works that have been performed or played on the radio, on television, or live at gigs and festivals. It does this by gathering details of what music is played at live venues and collating information from TV and radio broadcasters.

What is the MCPS?

The MCPS (Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society) collects and distributes royalties for musical works that have been reproduced or copied – for example onto CDs or vinyl, used on TV and radio and when music is streamed or downloaded. MCPS uses data from online services such as YouTube and SoundCloud to calculate the distribution of royalties to members.

Register your details

If you’re a songwriter and your songs are being performed, or copied, then you should (and when we said should we really mean must) register with PRS and MCPS.

To do this, visit the PRS for Music website HERE. Once you’ve registered and have an account, you can check your royalty payments, claim unpaid royalties and report your live performances online.

What about singers who don’t write music?

PPL distributes royalties to people who perform on recordings.

How much can a songwriter expect to be paid in royalties?

It depends on how and when your work is used. This is a pretty woolly answer, we know, but differing usages generate different values. PRS for Music operates a variety of licensing agreements to ensure remuneration is fair.

When are royalties paid?

PRS pays quarterly and MCPS pays monthly.

Who pays if a singer performs someone else’s music at a gig?

When you “cover” other another person’s work at a gig, you don’t personally have to pay money. It is the obligation of the venue or premises you are performing at to report this to PRS for Music. All concert venues are asked to provide details of all music performed live within their premises as part of their licence with PRS for Music.

Nevertheless, members can report details of their own performances too.

Get wise and know your royalty rights

The music industry is first and foremost a business. Educate yourself about how it works. You don’t need to be a legal expert in copyright law, but you do need a good general understanding of the relevant issues. Start by reading iSingmag’s Copyright 101 HERE. Another good resource is the PRS for Music website:

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