2 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Paid All the Performance Royalties You’re Owed

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How to Overhaul Your Live ShowWhenever music you’ve written is played on the radio, streamed online, used in the soundtrack to a TV show/film/game, or performed in a live venue — you are owed a royalty for that “performance.”

But independent artists often don’t get paid all the performance royalties they could be collecting, and there are two common reasons for this sad fact.

The two main reasons songwriters aren’t collecting all the performance royalties they could

#1- No P.R.O. affiliation.

What’s a P.R.O.? According to Wikipedia: “a performance rights organization  provides intermediary functions, particularly royalty collection, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly…”

Hmmm. So a P.R.O. collects royalties FOR the songwriter FROM… some “parties?”

Who are those parties? Well– restaurants and stores that play music for customers, websites that stream music online, bars and venues that host live performances, and TV and radio stations that transmit music to listeners and viewers.

You can directly affiliate yourself as a songwriter with an organization like ASCAP or BMI, or let CD Baby Pro handle that affiliation process for you the next time you distribute an album or single through us!

No P.R.O. affiliation, no performance royalties!

#2- Not listing your actual songs with your P.R.O.

Performing Rights Organizations aren’t psychic, and they certainly don’t have the time to keep theirs eyes on every career move you make. Whenever you write, record, and release a new song or album, you actually have to go back into your P.R.O. account and tell them about this new material! Otherwise they have no idea what songs they should be collecting performance royalties for in the first place.

If you want to get paid performance royalties for your songs, you’ve got to register them with your P.R.O.

OR…. sign up with CD Baby Pro and we’ll handle the ASCAP or BMI song registration process for you!

Unless you like to leave fruit on the money-tree unpicked, it’s time to sign up for CD Baby Pro. 

For more information about music publishing, performance royalties, and mechanical royalties, download our FREE guide:

Guide: Make More Money From Your Music

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  • AmbientGuy

    Performing Righs Organisations don't tend to pay artists for usage in restaurants, stores hotels etc because they estimate what is being played and expect only the top consumer market earning artists are being played so hand the license revenues mainly over to them. Even is an independent artist knows a local retailer is using their music it won't make any difference to their earnings if they are signed up to a PRO. In my opinion PROs are only useful to independent artists where the user of the music is logging and reporting their usage to any relevant PRO.

  • David J. Bembry

    I've registered my songs as a writer and publisher w/BMI faithfully since the mid 90's and have been online for 15 years, 8 albums and have never received a cent for anything from them aside royalties from a tv show a few years back.

  • Elscotto

    You talk about writers, what about performers' royalties?

    • Performers do not earn publishing royalties, only songwriters and publishers. Though you can earn a certain kind of performance royalty through SoundExchange as a performer on a recording.


      • The problem with “Performers” not getting performance royalties from AM and FM stations goes all the way back to the 1940’s when those stations were granted a waiver by congress. At that time, there was no such thing as a copyright for “sound recordings”, so maybe they thought the waiver made sense. But the waiver did not cover composers (lyrics and music), so that group of individuals *should* have been getting performance royalties for airplay all along. BTW: No such waiver exists for satellite stations, so the satellite station owners tried to get the 113th congress (which ended last year) to give them relief from paying performance royalties to performers. They failed with that congress, but I’ll bet the owners keep going back to Washington.

    • Bobby Dee

      I have never gotten a performance royalties check. But, You might check with SOUND EXCHANGE” They pay out also. You are right Chris.
      Nashville Recording Artist’
      Bobby Dee.

  • James D. Gilmore

    Still very difficult to get your money from BMI. I went with them in 97 over ASCAP because my research showed they pay more. Good luck getting any though. Also recall signing a postcard giving them authorization to collect on my behalf money collected from blank media sales (cd's, tapes, etc…) about 12+ years ago. Nada. Filled out the requisition forms on my last cd, but my returned papers were sent to another bmi affiliate. Thankfully, he sent them to me! Maybe that's where my checks are? Bernie Maydoff must have missed this gold mine…publishing! LOL!

  • B. Jordan


    My affiliation with BMI stretches back to 1971 when Arthur Smith signed me at the release of my first record. The listing of songs is in fact essential in order to get those checks for radio airplay. Something is dead wrong, however. in the way money is ‘paid’ for ‘live performances’. That’s not happening with everyone whose part of the system.

    About a third of my live music shows feature my original songs which have all been listed with BMI. In addition to that, BMI as well as ASCAP collects expensive fees yearly from the owners of the small café that I’ve been with for more than 17 years. BMI reps know full well that I’m here as I’ve supplied all the necessary paperwork including my personal home address, telephone number, registered songs, social security number with full legal name as well as rights organization affiliation. Every penny is also reported to the IRS right down to the tip jar and BMI is paid in full every year.

    Yet not so much as a single dime has ever been issued from BMI for a live performance at this well known place of business. (why marry the cow when the milk is free) and at this point I’m no longer interested.

    Just because certain musicians receive a performance fees in exchange for a name and address of a place of employment doesn’t fairly represent the whole picture. It’s time to understand the fine print of the objective. The emphasis is on not what they can give, rather what they can get, and/or get away with.

    Musicians had best examine the consequences of buddying up to music organization(s) with a history of not paying their own bills. Cd baby should also take a close-up view of what’s really going on in the real world of professional local artists who will also tell exactly as I’ve just explained.
    ditto for ‘Sound Exchange’

    Cheerful Regards,

    B. Jordan

  • Marmaduke Dando

    Is the royalty companies CD Baby use just US based? I’m a UK musician, so I’m wondering if getting CD Baby to do this is worth it, or whether I should arrange with PRS myself.

  • Hey M,

    Right now, CD Baby Pro is only available for US-based artists, but we're working on making it international. Once it's available in the UK, we'll let you know! Thanks for the interest.


  • Yep. Worth looking into SoundExchange for sure. Though the performance royalty they pay is different from the performance royalty paid to writers and publishers. It's easy to confuse those two different "performance royalties."