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Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Does a songwriter receive money straight away if his song is bought?


May I ask this question?

To simplify the matter, let's suppose you are the sole author of your songs. And you are your own publisher.

Suppose a mainstream singer (Rihanna, Ariana Grande, etc) likes one of your songs and puts it in their albums.

In this case, do you receive an agreed fixed amount of money before they can record and distribute your song?

Or do you only receive the mechanical fee (apparently 8 cents per CD) and the performance royalties?

My sincere thanks,


Dealing with income from intellectual property, particularly songs,  is complicated, but if you understand the basic royalty streams and how they are generated, tracked, collected, and distributed,  you are in the best position to receive all that you are entitles to receive.

If you retain all the publishing rights to your song, there are five primary ways you receive royalties if the song is used by any third party, whether they are a major well known artist or a small unknown artist.

1 - Mechanical Royalties (CD sales and downloads), set by statutory rate in the US at 9.1 cents per copy manufactured or downloaded (i,e, $91 USD for every 1000 copies made or downloaded).
You receive this royalty stream usually quarterly, as the copies are made or downloaded.   
You typically do not receive an up front lump sum for this UNLESS the person using your song wishes to pay in advance for a specified number of copies/downloads.  This can be done if your song is registered with the Harry Fox agency and that is how most cover versions of songs are licensed. Alternatively, they can negotiate directly with you.  Once a song is recorded once, anyone is then free to record your song in any way they wish, not needing your permission, as long as they pay the mechanical royalty.   

2 - Performance Royalties - Payment for when the song is performed live or played on non-digital radio.  This royalty stream is tracked by the PRO's (Performance Rights Organizations, e.g. ASCAP/BMI/SESAC/SOCAN, etc) and is paid quarterly to the copyright administrator (publisher).   You only receive royalties if the song is tracked by the PRO and if you are registered with the PRO or if you use a service like CD Baby to track for you.  

3.  Synchronization (Sync Licensing, where the song is used in conjunction with moving image, as in Film/TV/YouTube/Video Game).  This is typically an up-front payment negotiated between the publisher and the licensee.  

4 Sheet Music -- This royalty stream is paid over time at a negotiated rate with a print publisher as copies of sheet music are sold.  This is a major royalty stream in music for churches, schools, and theater

5 - If your song is played on digital radio (satellite, Sirius/XM, internet, etc) you can receive quarterly royalties from Sound Exchange, if you are registered with them.

Those are the ways a publisher typically receives money from a song, which they then split with the songwriter according to their agreement.  If you are your own publisher,  you get to keep 100%.

Good luck with you music.

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Bill Pere


Can answer questions on : Technical aspects of lyric and music compostion; How to give and receive objective critique; Arranging and production; Concrete vs abstract imagery; Use of metaphor; Rhyme techniques; Song Structure; Collaboration; Songwriter Associations; Promotion; Guitar technique; Music Business;


Grammy-Award-winning songwriter; President of the Connecticut Songwriters Association and Director of the Connecticut Songwriting Academy; Named one of the Top 50 Innovators and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry in 2008 by Music Connection Magazine; Author of "Songcrafters' Coloring Book:The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting." Named Independent Artist of the Year,by the 2003 national Independent Music Conference; 30 years as a professional singer-songwriter; 16 original CD's released;
Have had songs placed on other artists' CD's. Twice named Connecticut Songwriter of the Year.
20 years as Executive Director of the LUNCH Ensemble. Have attended more than 200 presentations by top industry professionals and have critiqued thousands of songs. Have written and produced dozens of stage plays and hundreds of concert events; Have coached hundreds of aspiring songwriters, and collaborated with several award winning writers. Have written commissioned songs as an Official Connecticut State Troubadour. Music Director of youth choirs and music camps.

Connecticut Songwriters Association (President); LUNCH Ensemble (Local United Network to Combat Hunger -- Exec, Director); CMEA (Connecticut Music Educators Association); Folk Alliance; Association For Psychological Type; Songsalive; WE R Indie; Creative Songwriting Academy;

Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Succesful Songwriting Songwriters Market (2001, 2002); Connecticut Songsmith; Contemporary Songwriter Magazine; Songwriters Musepaper;
Songcrafter's Coloring Book;   Strategies for Teaching Guitar;

Masters Degree Molecular Biology; Certified MBTI Practitioner (Myers Briggs Type Indicator); Connecticut Secondary Public School Teaching Certificate; Author: "Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting"

Awards and Honors
2012 Grammy; Named one of the Top 50 Innovators and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry in 2008 by Music Connection Magazine; Independent Artist of the Year, (2003 national Indie Conference); Official Connecticut State Troubadour, appointed by CT Commission on the Arts, 1995 ; 1982 and 1992 CT Songwriter of the Year; 2000 Award for 20 years of Outstanding Service to Songwriters;
2002 CSA Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education through Music; Numerous awards for outstanding community outreach through music; 1997 Citation from Connecticut Legislature for exemplary dedication to community outreach through music. 1995 Renaissance Award for multiple music achievements in a single year.   Invited Presenter and Mentor at various Music Conventions

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