Get paid when you get played!

May 18, 2010{ 38 Comments }

If your music is currently being streamed on the web or getting played on other prominent formats (Pandora, Internet radio, cable music channels, etc.), you might have some money coming to you.

Unfortunately, for many artists, the methods for collecting this revenue remain shrouded in mystery. Most musicians know that ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC are there to collect royalties for the songwriter, but who represents the recording artist whose performance is also critical to a song’s success?  

SoundExchange, a non-profit performance rights organization, is here to help. Not only do they offer a comprehensive understanding of the way royalties function in the digital world, they can also aid in collecting money that you may be due.

This short video contains a quick overview of how SoundExchange works. Take a look – you just might have money waiting for you!

Watch the video and then go to for more info.

For more information about earning money from the usage of your music, download our FREE guide:

Guide: Make More Money From Your Music

  • Many thanks for the reminder! Getting registered with SoundExchange has been on my to-do list of admin tasks for a little too long!

  • A few notes:

    – SoundExchange has a database of unpaid performers/songs called PLAYS, which has a separate registration process. Make sure to register for both PLAYS and SoundExchange.

    – Before you register online, make sure you have a voided bank check (I know, paper checks! Who does this anymore?), a scanned copy of your license or passport, and a completed W9 tax form. You'll need all of these to register and it helps to gather them in advance.

  • Is this strictly for United States residents? Is there such an organization for Canada?

  • Does anybody know if Soundexchange is it worth it for CD Baby artists? Typically most CD Baby people have a digital streaming contract with all the major providers.

  • This is a great idea to help navigate the infuriatingly complex world of music promotions these days although I have to say that if the instructions above from Scott are anything to go by, then I won't be bothering until it is simplified and less US-centric. But a great idea regardless.

  • Thoughts and opinions. Nothing definitive; hoping for discussion.

    1. So why do we need SX? Supposedly, the other PROs (ASCAP/BMI) don't pay 1. To register, you have to provide your name, date of birth, SSN or Tax ID Number, street address. This scares me. This is golden info to id theives. How much do you trust their security? Their privacy policy is at

    2. You need the bank info since they apparently don't want to mail checks. That's OK I suppose. They supposedly pay into your bank acct after accruing $10 of royalties.

    3. The biggest flap I read about was that apparently in an interview they said they were sitting on $200 million of unpaid royalties since they were unable or hadn't yet located or identified the payees. O rly? In a later interview they "clarified" that they really meant $39 million. Or maybe it was $80 million, depends how you count it. Check the article at Damage control or clarification? Another article at hypebot is claimed by SoundExchange to be more accurate. Great. One blog has an article that contradicts another blog. Well, THAT clears everything up!

    What's funny is that the comments which follow the hypebot article (which was supposed to explain sx's side) were all negative.

    4. All that said, supposedly ASCAP/BMI don't pay royalties on streams. See… for what SX pays for and what it doesn't. I'm afraid it's still not clear to me where ASCAP ends and SX begins.

  • Is this strictly for United States residents? Is this organization working for France residents ?

  • i will look into it thanks for sharing

  • pissedoffmusician

    You know this service ownly clarifies that as usual musicians are being ripped off by EVERYONE thats using their music, CD, ITUNES and all partners inclusive, the tracking etc is soooo out of control however the pennies they make from each artists x the number of artists equals a ridiculous amount of money. Derek Silvers comes off as a savior for musicans but he's just as bad, look at his bank account that alone should tell you something. Someone should start a service that removes all distributors STOPS music being played PERIOD until its paid for. So tired of seeing all these new services basically forcing musicians to sign up, sonicbids and companies like that should be TRASHED

  • I notice it says: "The owners of streaming web radio and such fill out playlists and sedn in teh singer's royalities."

    Haha do any of them do that? I seriously doubt it, espcially at the indie level.

  • I joined Sound Exchange a couple of years ago and have been receiving royalties since that time. My royalties come from music of mine still being played on radio, XM and Sirrius, from a hit record I had in the 70s and a current CD my band has that is getting some radio play.

    I'm not sure how much in royalty payments anyone will get from internet play since most of them do not pay for the music they play, but they collect from a lot of sources, including international.

    To answer one poster's question about being from Canada, I don't believe there are any restrictions on where you're from. It's an American based company but they have arms into every country that has radio. Europe has had a system like this in place for a long, long time and it's about time we have our own version so artists can get paid for their property.

    If you have been getting or believe you might be getting airplay, you should go ahead and join SX. I did a lot of research and my only misgiving was that they're tied in somehow with RIAA, which I don't like. Possibly some conflicting interest. But I can't complain since they've been direct depositing money into my account every 3 months for a couple of years.

    My recommendation is go for it.

  • Does Sound Exchange collect monies for English/European artistes? If not, who is the UK/European equivalent of Sound Exchange?



  • In addendum, I'm noticing that some of you are confusing writer/publisher performance royalties (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC) with ARTIST ROYALTIES. These are not Publishing or Writer Royalties they are ARTIST Royalties. Just thought I'd clear that up for those of you still confused about that.

    Artists have never been paid for airplay until the inception of Sound Exchange. 'Bout time we did, don't you think?

  • Just so everyone's clear, SoundExchange is not a promotional tool, and is not a new fly by night digital music company. They are a government regulated institution that was designated by the government to be the entity that collects performance royalties from non-terrestrial (i.e. satellite and internet) radio, and then pay the owners of that content. This would be over and above any royalties the PROs pay artists.

    They are paid millions a month by these broadcasters, and need to track down the labels and owners of this content, so that they can pay you.

    In short, SoundExchange is looking to pay you any royalties they may owe, but you need to register first.

    CD Baby has partnered with SoundExchange in the past, and we've been very successful getting our clients paid. In fact, SoundExchange tells me they get the highest sign ups from CD Baby clients for whom they have money than any of the other companies they partner with.

    So, big government paranoia aside, there's no significant reason to shun SoundExchange.

    Tony van Veen

  • David

    Of course any CDbaby artist should see if SoundExchange has some cash for them. This post describes the 'Non-profit organization' quite favorably, so it doesn't hurt to get educated about how SoundExchange operates. It's become a bureaucratic institution with huge operating expenses in part to well-paid employees and Directors.

    KCRW's Celia Hirschman offers indispensable insights into the current trends in the music business and my fellow CDbabies might want to read (or listen) to her podcast about SoundExchange:

  • The statutory licence rates imposed by SoundExchange (formulated by the four largest American record label conglomerates) on the radios are simply too high for many independent web stations. This endangers the existance of such radios that take a huge role in promoting the music. Fortunately some of them have found a way around and hopefully the hegemony of SoundExchange will be broken, because while it may work fine for mainstream music business, it's just not ethic and not realistic for the underground music scene supporters. Here's a good example and explanation:
    Hopefully more independent radio stations will follow their steps and bypass SoundExchange offering a direct license agreement instead of quitting because of the ridiculously high SE fees – otherwise only mainstream radios playing mainstream music will be left.

  • Michael

    Just my opinion but…

    So far my experience is that Soundexchange appears to be yet another waste of time for an indie or Pro.

    I signed up months ago and so far I'm very nervous about it.

    Has anyone else had this happen when they signed up?

    I have been emailed by three different internet website sources to sign up because I supposedly had money owed to me.

    My name has appeared on every search email list that was sent to me by CDBaby, Sonicbids, Garageband, Discrevolt, etc.

    Then after going on SX… reading page after page of legal disclaimer drivel and signing away privacy and bank account numbers SX can't seem to tell me if I'm owed money. The kicker is… once I signed up I used the logged in SX site search and they can't even find my name. Where's the cancel button?

    It appears they are just ripping lists off of streaming and sales sites and implying you MAY be owed royalty money to get you to sign up. CDbaby and the like may be complicit with this by encouraging us to sign up. It seems even more legit that way but it's no guarantee.

    Best I can figure they're just making a huge database of music making suckers like me.

    Maybe they are using a classic internet "Bulid your numbers and sell your info site to someone bigger" plan?

    Or trying to beat some else to the punch on internet royalty revenue streams? I don't know but

    now I want to talk to someone that can tell me they are legit and I want to kick my own ass for buying into this crap.

    I'll stick to ASCAP for my REAL royalties and I'll just assume everything I've ever done on the internet is now free forever.

    I'm just sincerely pissed I've given them my info and so far it works like a bunch of BS.

    So far I feel like I got a bait and switch on this deal.

  • If you're having a problem, then you should call them. The number is on the SX site. I had some problems when I first signed up but the people I talked with were most helpful.

  • Jim

    CD baby should truly "partner" with them( work out the $$ split) and have all CD Baby artists automatically enrolled in Sound Exchange. We(the artists) dont have to do any additional admin tasks, and if there IS money owed,CD Baby gets a cust and we get ours. SOundExchange sends the $$ to CD Baby and CD Baby pays us as usual.

    That makes sense to me Tony, if CD Baby really believes in Sound Exchange.

    Jammin' in Jersey,


    • Allysen Callery

      I agree with Jim. And I WISH that would happen. CD Baby pays out has very detailed reports from Spotify, EMusic ect.

    • Allysen Callery

      I agree with Jim. And I WISH that would happen. CD Baby pays out has very detailed reports from Spotify, EMusic ect.

    • Allysen Callery

      I agree with Jim. And I WISH that would happen. CD Baby pays out has very detailed reports from Spotify, EMusic ect.



    I emailed SOCAN about this (the Canadian version of BMI), and they had no problem at all with Sound Exchange suggesting I sign up. Why not ask them yourselves. And ask the AFM about it since they are the ones who told me about it to begin with. SOCAN collects for the writer/composer, but only Sound Exchange collects for the performer and owner of the recording (and this can be the same person as the composer of course). It's very simple! I'm more concerned with people signing away these rights to their labels not realizing it is extra cash they are letting go of.


  • Please tell me how to subscribe to sound exchange. I get allot of internet airplay.


    LouAnn Lee

  • Don't waste your time signing up to SoundExchange if you think you're going to get paid for internet radio play. I've been getting over 2000 spins a month on internet radio- Live 365,Loudcity,ShoutCast,Audio Realm and many other TOP internet stations(100 in all)for close to a year(I'm an independent artist) and haven't seen a dime. I've even been on satellite radio. They tell me that none of the radio stations submitted any playlists with my name on it. I could see this happening if I had a couple stations playing my music, but not 100. This has been my experience, maybe yours will be different, but I doubt it.

    Good Luck…

  • Matt

    I am an indie artist, had a lot of the same concerns expressed here…my band's music was featured on a couple of Yahoo's editorially-programmed stations on Launchcast for a couple of years starting in 2004, and on Live365 from 2006 on. Never saw a dime from anyone — STILL haven't seen a dime from the useless jackasses at ASSCAP.

    I had been starting to feel the same way about SX when I first heard about them a couple of years back — kept searching the PLAYS database, wondering when our music was ever going to show up, since we KNEW we were getting extensive internet radio play via Launchcast and Live365. But they contacted us (through our CDBaby account information) back in February 2010 and told us that we should go ahead and register since we had shown up in their records and they had money for us. They would NOT tell us how much, and it took nearly a year for them to get us fully processed and in the system. So imagine my surprise when, a couple days before Christmas, we got our first SoundExchange quarterly statement showing we had a royalty in the low four figures coming to us.

    GRANTED — and THIS IS IMPORTANT — the payment reflects royalties due to us going back as far as April of 2004. SO — my distinct impression is that SX really is busy catching up on past royalties. There were a bunch of court cases over how much royalties were going to be owed, and during that time SX was not distributing *anything* for the time period in question. Once that got cleared up, they really started pushing people with the "SX may owe you money" business and that's why it feels suspicious that they're only NOW contacting you about royalties you earned (in our case) six years ago.

    So I can't really say anything bad about SX except that they're really slow to get you registered in their system. It's ONE thing if you know you've been played online and SX doesn't have you in their system — I know what that feels like because ASSCAP still treats us like we don't exist while we've just received a pretty major royalty catch-up from SoundExchange. It is ENTIRELY another thing if SX has contacted you saying they have money for you. While it may not be significant, and it WILL take a long time for them to get you set up in their system (as much as a year, even though they don't claim that), they're not cold-calling musicians trying to get them signed up for some kind of a worthless tracking system. That's not how it works.

    Matt (who, with SX statement now in hand, is eager to get in touch with the good folks at ASSCAP to inquire as to WTH they still can't seem to figure out that we actually exist).

  • Grabo

    I have the same issues… My comedy troupe, "The Misplaced Comedy Group", has been featured on various Internet sites, played on satellite radio, played on radio stations throughout 3 continents… even named as one of the best emerging artists in American Idol Magazine in 2007… Still no royalties from Sound Exchange. They claim that they HAVE royalties in our name, but it's under the $100 minimum required to send payment.

    I was also told that every play that happens on the Internet, you get approximately .0014% from each play… which amounts to about 400 to 700 plays per dollar depending on the broadcasting entity.

  • Soundexchange is extremely ineffecient. (Unprofessional?). Their website is up to 1999 standards, very, very hard to sign up and upload documents. (When I called SX to find out if my docs were in fact uploaded–after many tries and some weird error messages– I was on hold for 15 minutes while someone went to 'check' my information… I finally hung up and I was informed that a) the website really only works with Internet Explorer and then b) they recommend that you don't upload docs (!). Though they say they answer emails in 48 hours, my emails 5 days ago have not been answered.

    After having read in the press some of the problems surrounding Soundexchange, and now personally experiencing them, it makes me wonder if they are able to handle hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transactions.

  • called a few times. at first they couldn't even find my account. another time i was on hold for nearly 20 minutes while they checked my account. a third time i explained my situation, but was given a bunch of useless information as to how to sign up– the woman plainly ignoring my information request, and not hearing when i explained the problems with their website (she basically said don't use the website to sign up.)

  • Marshall Tubbs

    Charlie did you get you songs coded with BDS and Media Base and are you ASCAP or BMI publisher/writer? if not, that could be why you have seen any royalties.

  • ASCAP and BMI are not legally tasked with collecting royalties for internet and satellite radio.

  • Gravediggers Ball

    they want your banking info? see ya. 🙁

  • Ascapsucks

    The truth about ASCAP:

    My music is played on radio stations from Californian to New York, and from Texas to Minnesota.
    I've been a "Member" of this BS ASCAP for many years. I have NEVER received one single penny
    from these scam scumbags!

    Here's what a smart-ass "Member Services" bitch told me when I asked why I've never received a damn thing from their crooked outfit:
    "I guess your music has never been picked-up sir." '
    I replied, "I'm not sure what you mean?"
    "We (ASCAP) are only required to record/sample 6 hours of music a month from a radio station of our choosing, and apparently your music was not played during that time."
    "Are you kidding?" I replied.
    "No, I'm not kidding," she rudely snapped back!
    "Just one 6 hour sample of whatever radio station ASCAP chooses?"
    "That's right."
    "Well, no wonder I never receive any "Royalty" checks. I mean, what are the chances that one of my songs are going to be played in such a tiny little window of time like that? Especially if ASCAP chooses some obscure radio station in the middle of the boondocks?"
    "That's the way it is. You may not like it, but it's legal," she smarted off.
    I told her that this was a rip-off. I reminded her that ASCAP forces (by intimidation, and thugs) radio stations to "Pay up, or else" for all the music they play. I reminded her that the monies that radio stations pay out is supposed to go to the artists, not in ASCAP's pockets.
    The bitch just got uppity again and said, "Well, if you don't like it, you can petition to cancel your membership to ASCAP," and hung-up the phone.

    Thankfully, I have a CD Baby account, and my CDs, and single Mp3s, sell enough to "help keep the lights on in our house," as the saying goes…

  • No, but SX accepts Canadian artists.

  • I wouldn't worry about sending TOO much personal info, until you see numbers in your acct. appear, then i would send tax info etc. to collect those payments.

  • Allysen Callery

    I just got off the phone with a rep from Sound Exchange. I have had music on Pandora since 2011, but did not know about Soundexchange until I registered Nov 2013. They assured me I would be paid retroactively from when my music first appeared.
    I still have never been paid one cent.
    The rep told me today my plays (since 2011) still do not add up to the minimum which is $10.
    I find this very hard to believe, when juxtaposed with my Spotify plays, which you can see add up to 5.96 just for one week.

    So what’s going on Soundexchange?

    I LOVE CD Baby, & the itemized reports and the payments are spot on.
    I wish you could take over royalty payments for ALL streaming services, I & all of your artists would thank you heartily.

    Allysen Callery

    • Ha. A CD Baby royalty collection monopoly!


      • Allysen Callery

        I’d have no problem with that! CD Baby knows what they are doing, & do it very well.