The AJ Community Guide #2 - Performing Rights Organisation Royalties (PRO)

Hi again, it’s time for the second chapter of the guide. This time about PROs and royalties.

(Pasted from first chapter) I have been participating this forum for three years. During that time I’ve learned from more experienced fellow authors A LOT about our music industry. It was a long trip based on collecting knowledge from single forum threads. I am very grateful for that so I’ve decided to gather in one place the most important advices I’ve learned here.

I’ve written three chapters already:

In the future I would like to write more about other issues and invite others to share their experience.

We all know that such topics like PRO are very complex and unclear. That’s why I’m asking for your help. I do not feel all-knowing or even enough experienced, that’s why I am sharing this draft with you and asking for comments based on your experience and knowledge. I hope it will develop into a guide approved by community so feel free to find my mistakes and inaccuracy.

To keep things simple, I shall remain right to make the final decision about form of the article and its content. After final edits, I will ask native English speaker for a linguistic correction. At the end I will publish it on forum and/or website.

At this stage I would like to thank @PurpleFog for his substantial comments about this draft version in our private correspondence. He is one of the most active and dedicated community members with a big knowledge which he likes to share.

Feel invited to contribute to this guide. I’m waiting for your comments. I will start the discussion about next chapters in the nearest future.

Chapter #2 - PRO in the post below.

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AJ Community Guide #2: Performing Rights Organisation Royalties (PRO)


What are the PRO royalties?

PRO royalties are additional money you earn when your track is broadcasted, public performed, streamed or even physically released in many countries all around the world. PRO royalties are paid by broadcasters, service providers, event organisers, venues etc. (e.g. Youtube, Fox TV). Money is collected upfront and obligatory before finding composer. Many fresh composers do not even know that somebody legally and automatically collects their money. In the professional music industry registering in PRO is a standard for composers.

PRO (Performing Rights Organisation) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_rights_organisation system has been established by international treats and local law all around the world. It guarantees composers and other authors a share from successful national and foreign use, especially broadcast. Type of media distribution which is obligated to generate royalties varies in each country.

How much can I earn from PRO royalties?

It depends on range, country, media type and efficiency of local PRO society. The most profitable are high repetitive TV commercials and big shows with a wide broadcast range.

For example a national-range commercial which has been broadcasted via the biggest TV stations in a big European country may generate royalties around 500-3000$. But… one of AudioJunglers had his track in a huge marketing campaign of a well-known brand and received 50.000$ of royalties! Even few seconds of music during a huge big tv show can generate hundreds, thousands of dollars.

The lowest royalties are from an online streaming like Youtube or Facebook.

Who pays PRO royalties? Who collects them?

PRO royalties are paid by different institutions, depending on the media type. What is most important, buyers of your music usually do not have to pay them. For example TV and radio broadcast PRO royalties are paid by the broadcaster (e.g. CNN, Fashion TV). PRO royalties from streaming are paid by streaming service (e.g. Youtube, Spotify). If your track is used in the video during a public event, royalties are paid by the event organizer or venue owner (e.g. FIFA, Los Angeles Lakers, Tomorrowland).

Payers transfer money to a local PRO society (e.g. in USA are ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, in Germany GEMA, in UK PRS, in Russia RAO, in Ukraine UACRR, etc. Here you have a full list of PRO organisations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_rights_organisation). Usually but not always they attach report based on a cue sheets filled by commercial creator, event organiser etc… Another very important thing is that usually PRO royalties are obligatory paid upfront, before finding author (!). So it means that even if you’re still not registered, you may have some cash waiting for you in PRO.

If content has been broadcasted/played/distributed abroad, foreign PRO will try to find you in an international database of registered PRO composers. If they find you, they will transfer money to your local PRO.

By the way - PRO societies collect millions or even billions dollars every year. A huge amount of cash never finds authors.

I’ve already sold a broadcast license. What will happen if I register this track in PRO?

Generally it’s always better to register tracks before first sales. If you register track after broadcast sale, you may receive your outstanding royalties but it can be too late depending on a local law and PRO efficiency. Contact your PRO and ask them what to do in such case.

Does joining PRO affect tracks which I have sold before the registration in PRO?

Generally not at all. But it has to be said that theoretically there is some incredibly small number of cases in which client buys non-PRO music to avoid paying royalties (e.g. a restaurant or an online radio podcaster). How this can affect such cases depends on local law and local PRO rules. But keep in mind that every composer on Earth has his right to register music in PRO. This means that client who buys unregistered music takes a risk for using it because it can become PRO-registered any day.

Does joining PRO affect sales?

Many authors stated on the forum that joining PRO doesn’t affect sales at all because…most of buyers do not have to pay PRO royalties. Most of uses of our music is Youtube, social media, tv, radio, film. In all those examples royalties are paid by service provider (e.g. Youtube) or a broadcaster (e.g. CNN, cinema), not by content creator. And they are paid obligatory, no matter if track is registered in PRO or not.

On the other hand we can say that tracks registered in PRO are more likely to be bought by a big companies for a broadcast use. A composer who is registered in PRO may be seen as a more confident partner who will probably avoid plagiarism etc. It has to be said that almost every composer from a “big” tv/cinema world is registered in PRO.

In fact a tiny number of buyers is afraid and still keeps away from PRO music, just to be safe. This just-to-be-safe attitude, is a problem and shows the need to educate buyers. Fortunately this attitude is rare enough to affect overall sales after joining PRO.

What does the “writer”, “publisher” and “artist” term mean?

When you create and upload to the AJ a track, you are its writer and publisher. In other words you have 100% writer’s share and 100% publisher’s share (some institutions call it 50/50% instead of 100/100%). Each PRO registeted writer and publisher has its own unique IPI number and name or/and nickname. You can register many nicknames as a writer. Registering and using unique nickname may be little more efficient in some cases (e.g. if you have common name and surname).

Optionally you can make a deal with a 3rd party publisher and sell him some part of your share. Usually it’s full publisher share.

PRO splits royalties for writer and publisher. If you didn’t sell your share to a publisher, you can leave “publisher” field empty and you will receive your full publisher share.

“Artist” is a person or band who “plays” composition. E.g. Celine Dion is an “artist” and she records songs written by some “music writers” and “lyrics writers”, sometimes she is a “writer” of her own songs. Of course she has also few “publishers”. So if you record your AJ track by yourself = you are “the artist” and “the writer” without 3rd “publisher”.

What is a cue sheet and why it’s so important? How do PRO societies find authors?

Cue sheet is a document with all data about broadcast and authors of the content. Creator/publisher of the final product/event organizer/etc. fills the cue sheet and sends it to the broadcaster or directly to the local PRO. In many cases it’s impossible to broadcast video or perform record without filled cue sheet (and without already paid royalties!).

The most important field of a cue sheet is a “writer” sometimes seen as “composer name”. It should include your name (or nickname) which you had registered in a PRO, name of your PRO and your unique IPI number given by PRO. Another important field is a “track name”.

Our biggest problem is that content creators often do not fill cues correctly. They fill a cue sheets with our nicknames or surnames with misspellings. Or even they write “AUDIOJUNGLE” in the “composer field” (!). Another important issue is the lack of the IPI number. IPI number is a unique number of registered PRO composer which allows to track author immediately. It’s always safe to remind buyer about the need of including all composer data. Remember also that you should register both your name and AJ nickname. Another hint is to register nicknames with common misspelling e.g. with and without space in two-words-nicks like THIS NICK and THISNICK.

What about PRO royalties from online services like Youtube, Facebook?

Rates for online services are low. Even more - lots of smaller local PRO societies have problems collecting them. E.g. to collect Youtube related PRO-royalties you have to register in CID service provider like AdRev so they can pass the info via Youtube to your PRO. But to be honest, it’s very vague and inefficient. In the future we expect dynamically rising royalties from the online streaming, especially after implementing famous EU 13 article.

What are the best PRO societies?

In most cases authors choose American PROs like BMI or ASCAP proving that they are the most efficient in our case. BMI is little more popular on AudioJungle but ASCAP seems to be little more active in finding broadcasts without properly filled cues by using SoundMouse audio recognition technology. In theory this may be crucial for many AudioJunglers. Registering in a small local PROs can generate various problems with foreign royalties, collecting them from social media, etc.

Do I have to pay for a registration in PRO?

Some PROs are free, some have a sign up fee (e.g. ASCAP = 50$). They also charge a fee around 20% of royalties they collect.

When I will get my royalties?

It takes a long, long time, even up to 1-3 years, especially from foreign broadcasts.

I’ve registered my tracks in PRO. What I have to do now?

Here you have step by step made by Envato: https://help.author.envato.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000473403-Submitting-and-selling-P-R-O-Music-on-AudioJungle
You can also think about including a pdf file with your name or nick which are registered in PRO, name of your PRO, your unique IPI number and a short instruction about the importance of the properly filed cue.

Why do I have to monitor broadcasts with my music?

In some cases broadcasters do not fill cue sheets (e.g. for commercials in USA) or fill them unprecisingly. In both cases you will have to find the broadcast and make a PRO claim with full known info about commercial like name of brand and campaign, link to youtube/vimeo, date of the first broadcast, channel name, country. This is how looks an example of commercial claim in the ASCAP (USA): https://www.ascap.com/~/media/files/pdf/members/payment/advertisement_claim_form_final.pdf?la=en&hash=BBC76374B59EF9A007567B7EE7D7D52D5A8A30FB

There is one useful tool for finding info about commercials. It’s Numerator (old CompetiTrack). More about Numerator: Numerator (Competitrack) - Tool to help you track down unpaid PRO royalties

How to find if and where my track has been broadcasted?

We have to mention that the industry standard is to collect specific broadcast data directly from buyers. Unfortunately Envato doesn’t collect this data. Even more, we are not able to see any of buyer’s contact details. It makes hard to collect the basic broadcast info even on our own. Without this we have huge problems in collecting many royalties e.g. from US TV commercials (they do not use cue sheets) or those with unprecisingly filled cue sheets. This is a very important issue which has been raised on forum many times and solving this problem has become one of the most requested features. Another requested feature is including basic PRO text data (writer/publisher name, IPI and name of the PRO) into item license.

The simplest way to find your music in tv is to use a software which monitors television using modern audio recognition fingerprinting technology. The most popular software is TuneSat https://tunesat.com/tunesatportal/home (you can upload 50 tracks for free and have 50 free detections each month) but it scans only satellite tv in USA and 13 European countries. This technology isn’t perfect but very simple and quite efficient. More about this you will find in Chapter 1 “How to find projects with music I’ve sold”.

You can also manually search the internet for a video using data from invoice and by using other online services like AdRev. For example most of tv commercials can be found on the Youtube and Facebook. You can also find your buyer the same way and ask him via mail if he use your music in a broadcast. More about this you will find in Chapter 1 “How to find projects with music I’ve sold”

Another useful tool is SoundMouse. You can join this service for free and upload your tracks with full composer data. SoundMouse works the same like TuneSat but it also co-operates with some of PRO (like ASCAP) and some broadcasters sending them reports and full data about music it has found e.g. in broadcasts. Unfortunately you can’t see those reports but you can ask your PRO to get them. Here you can find SoundMouse registration instructions: Soundmouse track registration instruction

Hint: if you have found broadcast with your music, make sure that buyer has bought proper broadcast license on the AudioJungle. If not, contact him or/and Envato. Unfortunately it happens. We have reports about Audiojunglers who found their tracks in regularly broadcasted commercials or in popular tv shows without a proper broadcast license. Authors contacted buyers and asked for a purchase of proper license. Buyers are usually eager to make a correction, one of them bought the biggest license for 1000$. In this scenario buyer can ask Envato for the refund of the first wrong smaller purchase.

What if I have found my music in a broadcast but I haven’t received any royalties?

Contact your PRO and they will tell you what to do.

How does it really work? Is it worthy?

AudioJungle allowed to sell PRO registered music in January 2017. In the 2018 authors reported first PRO royalties received for sales made in 2017. In many cases we are still waiting for a foreign royalties and it’s still too early to make a final conclusion. But… we have many reports about royalties from a single campaigns which varies from 1$ to 50000$. In other words, If you are new in the music for media industry and have sold first broadcast license, you should register in a PRO. Realize that somebody obligatory had to pay money for your broadcast royalties so why not to collect them! But keep in mind that safest way of receiving all PRO royalties is to register tracks before first sales.

Unfortunately a huge number of broadcasts with music bought on AudioJungle has been released without properly filled cues. This makes it very hard or even impossible to find an AudioJungle composer in a PRO database without our investigation. Another problem is a low efficiency of local PRO societies especially those outside the US. On the other hand many of us have received PRO royalties already which can be quite decent. The best way is to register your tracks, actively monitor broadcasts and make claims if needed. Unless you don’t need an extra cash :wink:

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Thank you so much for your effort, It’s really instructive, can’t wait for the last chapter

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This deserved a standing ovation! VERY thorough and well explained! Actually this should be pinned to the AJ dashboard when it’s complete.

Thank you for the information!

Hey @RedOctopus, thank you so much for this. Many questions I had have just been answered. Good things will come to you when you help people and you just did. All the best my friend! :slight_smile:

Thank you very much for this, man!.:heart_eyes:
This might be useful as a blog or pinned thread @KingDog or @admins

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RedOctopus -thank you for the information!

This is not a 100% true statement. ASCAP and BMI pay performance royalties for domestic (USA) performances 6 to 9 months after air date and it’s all based on which quarter it aired in. Example: BMI is going to distribute performance royalties on June 21, 2019 for all “performances” (air dates tv broadcasts, streams, etc) that occurred in Q4 2018 or October 1 to December 31 2018.

https://www.bmi.com/events/entry/580091

The foreign collections from Europe, Australia, Latin America, Asia, etc… take longer - but I would say 1 to 3 years. It is not always a 2 to 3 year wait.

we have many reports/rumours about royalties from a single ad campaigns which varies from 1$ to $50,000.

Not rumors, these are facts. Cue sheets are not what you fill in at ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC for TV ad campaigns or tv spots or TV commercials. You fill in ad and promo claim forms, but you really need to know what you are doing so you get it done right. If you do not know what you are doing and want administrative help you can contact me for admin services for USA spots. I know exactly how to collect performance royalties for TV COMMERCIALS at all 3 USA PROs and have done so for 3 decades now.

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@SteelSound Thanks! I wrote "even 2-3 years, but yeah, I should probably wirte “up to 1-3 years”. In fact it depends on PRO. I’m making edits right now, thanks!

As far as we do not share documents confirming such payments I would prefer to say those are reports/rumors :slight_smile:

Yeah, that’s why I wrote:

So unless I post the statements, its a “rumor”? I have no incentive to lie about my past earnings from commercials. I do not see how I would benefit from telling non truths? I am stating facts based on what happened to me several times, not just one time. If your music lands in a big ad campaign you can collect a lot of performance royalty income. The definition of rumor is “a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.”

I am not reporting anything untruthful or doubtful here. I am reporting facts. Others have too and I believe exactly what they have reported because it aligns with my own personal experience. I do not want to engage in this kind of dialogue Red Octopus but when you write the word “rumor”, the context changes. Again, I have no incentive to lie or exaggerate or spread rumors. I am reporting facts about my own personal experiences with TV commercials in both the USA and Europe.

You have written a good article, I just thought I’d give a little feedback and offer to help those who may need some help with the administrative paperwork filing part of the equation at USA PROs only.

@SteelSound Sure, I can delete word “rumors” if you like. Maybe it was too harsh, I’m not a native English speaker, maybe I don’t feel that nuance the way you feel it. Or maybe it was about the “uncertainty” of reports and lack of documents published on forum. Don’t take it personal, those are only words :slight_smile:

And of course you are one of those guys who share their wide knowledge and huge experience in the topic of PRO on forum. Many, many, many times. This chapter includes some number of your thoughts and tips. Thanks @SteelSound, I / we appreciate it very much :slight_smile:

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Yes I kind of thought the the language barrier may be in play with the word “rumor”. I do understand that English is not your first language. Rumor- it has a negative component so I’d switch to “reports”.

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Thx alot for your informative blog! Just want to mention that you cant do sell Stock Music and being simoutanously in the German GEMA PRO, because they do sell the licenses of their members.
Check out Gema online they provide a second service for licensing.

Sorry for a late reply! Thanks for you comment.

Are you sure that GEMA doesn’t allow you to sell music via stock? Can’t you forbid GEMA to sell your music?

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Hello Dude!
By joinig the German Gema you have to grant them all usage rights too your music. After email traffic they have admited: “Gema PRO and selling stock is not compatible” and more over they said “So joining the German Gema is always a personal and individual economic demand.”

But its actually a bureaucratic advantage. If you are successfull you can pay privately into your pension without to surrender your right on statuory health insurance.
Unless you earn permanent around 2400€ Gross with your Bussiness you have to work here minimum after “Flextime Regulation (around 20 hours/ week)” to have the entitlement/possability to receive the staturory health insurance.

Thx for your feedback. Though we have to check this precisely, whole topic is very complex and we don’t want to make it more unclear or misleading.

It’s hard for me to believe that e.g. The Scorpions granted them all usage rights. This is not a thing PROs want obligatory, though some of them may have optional licensing service which can be opt out. They may want to MANAGE your usage rights to receive PRO related royalties but that’s different than managing usage rights at all. IMHO.

They can be incompatible, but is this forbidden? From my experience PROs employees often are not aware of what online so called “royalty free” libraries are and they simply misguide.

Though I can imagine that some local PRO can be so inefficient and old schooled that it can forbid AJ tracks to be registered in its catalog. That’s why in my opinion the best PROs are US ASCAP or BMI.

The Scorpions are with BMI. German GEMA are notoriously difficult to work with.