Ep. 56: How do artists and songwriters get paid when I stream their song or hear it played in a store? With Songtrust’s Anna Bond

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

August 18, 2020


*Note: Songtrust is offering listeners a 20% discount on registration! Use code ENHANCELIFE20 at checkout.

Royalties refer to the income artists earn when people or businesses use their music, including streams, radio play, album sales, musical toys(!), and more. We discuss the two most common royalties (performance and mechanical royalties), and how these are distributed to artists, song writers, band members, and other rights holders. Bonus: Learn who gets unclaimed royalties!


Songtrust is the world’s largest global royalty collection service – it helps artists both know and access what they’re owed. Songtrust represents over two million songs. Joining me today is Anna Bond, Songtrust’s Senior Director of Global Business Development. Anna works with record labels, music publishers, and music technology companies to streamline the collection of royalties for songwriters and other music rights holders.


  • Songtrust’s website has an excellent Glossary of Music Publishing terms that I found hugely helpful and educational. That Glossary gives the following definitions:

    • Royalties are payments made on a per-use basis. In the context of music publishing, royalties refer to the income earned through the use of a song. This can include album sales, digital downloads, streams, radio airplay and a host of other forms through which songs earn income for songwriters and music publishers.”
    • “Performance Royalties are payments made to a songwriter or publisher for the public performance or broadcast of a musical work. Public performance refers to playing a song on the radio, on television, in bars and nightclubs, at concert venues, and other public places. Performance royalties are collected by performing rights organizations such as ASCAP in North America and collective management organizations such as SACEM internationally.”
    • “Mechanical Royalties cover any copyrighted audio composition that is rendered mechanically (i.e., without human performers). As such, it includes: Compact discs, vinyl records and tape recordings, music videos, ringtones, MIDI files, downloaded tracks, DVDs, VHS, UMDs, computer games, musical toys etc.”
  • Music streamed on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube generate both performance and mechanical publishing royalties. 
  • Royalties are not all created equally – there is a different value assigned to a royalty when I listen to a song alone in my car, versus if Target were to play the same song in all of its stores. We discuss when businesses are required to pay for music licensed for business use.
  • We discuss the various parties that earn royalties (e.g., music composer, lyric writer, primary artist, backup artists, label, etc.). The percentage of earnings assigned to each party is referred to as song splits.
  • Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) are [North American] societies responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast. Public performances can include play in television, radio, clubs, restaurants, websites, etc. [e.g., ASCAP, BMI]
  • There is an estimated $250 million in unclaimed royalties!
  • Benefits of working with Songtrust:
    • Royalties are collected from leading streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, SoundCloud, and YouTube/Google Music.
    • New sources of trackable income may be created from more than 50+ performance and mechanical societies.
    • Your songs can be registered quickly.
    • You remain independent: Creators keep 100 percent of the rights to their songs.
    • You can focus on creating, producing, managing, or distributing music—not administrating.
    • Your global music publishing royalties will be collected all in one place. No need to register your works in multiple places.
  • Songtrust offers many free educational sessions, including Free Virtual Music Publishing 101 Workshop: “Whether you’re just starting out or well into your music career, our Music Publishing 101 virtual workshop, hosted by our Publishing Specialists, will help you better understand the painful parts of publishing. These sessions are virtual and free to attend, and include a live Q&A.”
  • Songtrust works with over 300,000 songwriters, incl. up-and-coming songwriters, as well as Grammy winners and more than 50 percent of the artists on Billboard’s Top 50 Hip Hop/R&B chart.
  • Songtrust is not JUST for songwriters. Artists, bands, producers, publishers, managers, labels, lawyers, and educators around the world use Songtrust to access what they’re due.

Connect/Other Resources

  • Songtrust website: Contact the team or access the many educational resources available (especially the Modern Guide to Music Publishing)
  • We reference Ep. 53, an interview with a teen who used her extra quarantine free time to complete an album and publish it on Spotify. She found Songtrust’s Free Virtual Music Publishing 101 Workshop very helpful.
  • We mention a few weird toys(!): The Teddy Ruxpin Tuxedo Love Song toy (from the 1980s) and Kewpie dolls (here’s a picture of me with my Kewpie doll, c. mid-1970s).


Anna tells the story of attending a George Clinton band concert as a teenager, and its impact on her world and love of music!

Closing Words

Here in the US we are in our last month of summer. One thought that I had recently was, “What song best represents (the infamous) Summer 2020?!” Let me know if you think of any good song candidates for this dubious honor! I recently encouraged my piano students to create their own original composition to memorialize Summer 2020. I asked them to think about what this song might sound like, and what it would be titled. I sent them this step-by-step composition resource from Teach Piano Today. Let me know if you create a song – I’d love to hear the song AND the title you chose! You can connect with me on social media, email, and my website. Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.

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