Music Rights Explained

Music rights can be a very tricky area to understand, with a crazy number of acronyms and collecting societies to remember. In this blog, we will explain a bit about what the PRS (Performing Rights Society) and MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) do for songwriters with publishing royalties, and what PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) do for performers and recording licenses.

Music Rights Explained

 

PRS and MCPS

The PRS are a UK collecting society for songwriters and composers. When using a song for publishing there are 2 different components to the song that collecting societies have to consider.

These are the songwriters royalties and the recording artists royalties.

PRS represent the writers, composers and publishers of a piece of music whenever it is played in public. Songwriters can sign up with the PRS who then add your content to their database, and collect any performance royalties on your behalf. This includes whenever a track you wrote is publicly performed, such as in radio, TV, film and video games. This is done by adding a special code called an ISWC to the song that allows PRS to keep track of where the music is played. If you are a writer credited on a track then you will be entitled to publishing royalties through PRS.

PRS for Music has blanket licenses in place with UK terrestrial TV networks for the use of music on their channels. Any track that is registered with PRS for Music can be used by the TV networks without the need to seek individual clearance. There are no blanket licenses in place in the US, or elsewhere.

MCPS are another collection society that work to collect royalties on behalf of writers, composers and publishers of a piece of music whenever it is reproduced. Whereas the royalties from PRS are called performance royalties, MCPS collect what is known as a mechanical royalty. These kinds of royalty are made from downloads, streaming and physical sales of music. In order to collect mechanical royalties, you must have a membership with MCPS, who can then send information about your mechanical royalties to PRS. PRS for Music can pay both the mechanical and performance royalties to writers, composers and publishers if you are signed up to both organisations, which means you can collect all your royalties from one place.

PPL

PPL are a performance rights organisation that deal with collecting royalties for the performing artists on a track. Rather than PRS who represent songwriters and composers, PPL represent the recording artists and the record label, collecting royalties for the use of their recorded music publicly. If a retail shop wishes to play music in their store, they must buy a license from both the PRS and PPL as they are using the songwriters work as well as the performers work. Any situation in which the recorded music is used would mean paying for a PPL license.

Income Streams

It is important to know your right and where you can earn additional royalties from.

Performing Rights - when music is played in public. Collected by PRS.

Mechanical Rights - when music is reproduced. You must be a member of MCPS, but the royalty can be paid through PRS.

Synchronisation - when music is placed with visual images. Can be a deal with a publisher or specific sync companies.

Print Rights - when sheet music is sold or lyrics are printed. These can be both in physical and digital formats.