What Are Mechanical Royalties? Explained for Musicians
Music copyrights are split into two parts. One covers the original sound recording (known as the master rights) and the other covers the composition (known as the publishing rights) which protects the underlying melody and structure of a song.
Mechanical royalties are paid in relation to a song’s composition.
Learn more about music publishing here.
What are Mechanical Royalties?
Mechanical royalties are owed every time a copy of a musical composition (also referred to as a Musical Work) is made. This applies when a song is recreated in just about any format.
In the days before digital media, these royalties were paid every time a song was mechanically reproduced as a CD or other physical medium.
Nowadays, mechanical royalty payments have been extended to online sales. They’re generated whenever a composition is streamed or downloaded on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and Amazon.
That means you could be earning additional mechanical royalties on top of your existing royalty payments every time someone plays your song on Spotify.
And as mechanical royalties are paid in relation to the composition of a song (rather than the sound recording), when someone reproduces and releases your material as a cover version, you’re also owed mechanical royalties.
How are Mechanical Royalties paid?
Major music platforms pay mechanical royalties for streams, sales and downloads to mechanical right collection societies.
Most countries have their own mechanical right society and any mechanical royalties generated in that region are paid to the local society.
For example, in the US mechanical royalties are collected by Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) and Harry Fox Agency (HFA). While in the UK they’re processed by the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS).
Here’s a list of some other mechanical right societies around the world - some of which are in partnership with Performing Rights organisations, or are also Performing Rights Organisations as well.
Australia - AMCOS (in partnership with APRA)
Austria - AUSTRO-MECHANA
Belgium - SABAM
Brazil - UBC
Canada - CMRRA
Germany - GEMA
Mexico - SACM
Netherlands - STEMRA
Italy - SIAE
Japan - JASRAC
Portugal - SPA
Scandinavia - NCB
South Africa - CAPASSO
Spain - SGAE
Switzerland - SUISA
UK - MCPS
Your publisher should track down and claim the mechanical royalties you’re owed from all of these societies, and pass on the payments to you.
How do I claim Mechanical Royalties?
Claiming mechanical royalties can be a complicated business. As you can see above, different types of mechanical royalties are paid out in different ways, and things get even more complicated when crossing borders.
So unfortunately, it's very difficult for an independent musician to do it themselves. This is where a Music Publisher comes in.
Ditto Music Publishing can claim and pay out all the mechanical royalties you’re owed.
If you’re not already receiving mechanical royalties, then you’re missing out! Every single stream or download generates these additional payments, so make sure you’re not leaving the money you deserve on the table.
Learn more and sign up to Ditto Music Publishing here.