Music Royalties Part 1: Who, Why & How of Mechanical Royalties

Mechanical royalties are one of the many types of music royalties. They are the most elusive and confusing royalty in the music business. Many songwriters are unclear on how mechanical royalties contribute to their overall income. Starting with the basics, this article will bring about the clarity and confidence a songwriter desires to handle the business behind their song.

Who is entitled to Mechanical Royalties?
A songwriter is entitled to collect mechanical royalties. Mechanical royalties are music royalties paid to a songwriter. A songwriter is an individual who has written the lyrics and/or composed to the music (i.e. created “the beat”) for a song. An artist who records a song in which they did not write the lyrics or composed the music is not considered a songwriter. The artist would not be entitled to mechanical royalties. On the other hand, if the artist recording the song has also contributed to writing all or part of the song the artist is then entitled to mechanical royalties.

Why are songwriters entitled to Mechanical Royalties?
Mechanical royalties are paid to songwriters because of their ownership interest in the performance arts copyright. When a songwriter’s song is pressed into physical format (vinyl,CD,etc.), streamed or purchased digitally (i.e. iTunes, amazon music, etc.) the songwriter is entitled to collect the statutory mechanical royalty rate, unless they have contracted otherwise.

How are Mechanical Royalties collected?
Mechanical royalties are collected by music publishers, via organizations like The Harry Fox Agency, on behalf of songwriters once their song has been physically distributed, sold digitally or streamed. Music publishers collect the mechanical royalties from the record labels and streaming services. If a songwriter is not represented by a music publisher it becomes the songwriter’s responsibility to collect their own mechanical royalties.

Mechanical royalties are one of several streams of music royalty income available to a songwriter. Later posts will discuss other types of royalties available to songwriters looking to understand and maximize their royalty income.

Until next time, go be Genius!