But the real answer is… music publishing!
There’re a number of different kinds of publishing royalties you can earn from the usage of your original music.
One of the big sources of publishing revenue you’ll earn as a songwriter is performance royalties. But an even bigger revenue stream (at least for the music publishing industry at large) is mechanical royalties, which we’ll talk about in this article.
Mechanical royalties and independent songwriters
The term “mechanical” and “mechanical license” has its origins in the “piano rolls” on which music was recorded in the early part of the 20th Century. Although its concept is now primarily oriented to royalty income from sale of compact discs (CDs), its scope is wider and covers any copyrighted audio composition that is rendered mechanically; that is, without human performers.
In a nutshell: every time a song you’ve written is manufactured to be sold in a CD, downloaded on a digital music retail site, or streamed through services like Spotify and Rdio, you are owed a mechanical royalty.