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The most important thing self releasing artists need to remember. 

It’s 2017, there’s a global connection linking the world’s computers, tablets, phones and other smart devices. Information is whizzing around at lightning speeds, phrases like “big data” and “the internet of things” keep popping up.

So it’s easy to understand how one of the most widespread, and potentially financially damaging, misconceptions about the music industry came to be.

The misconception is that the music industry is interconnected. That all the data flows between the various societies, organisations, and companies that operate within the industry. That the metadata embedded in your audio files will be disseminated, logged and processed accordingly. That collecting the revenue derived from your works is just a case of telling someone where to send the money.

None of this is true.

If the recordings and the relevant data are not registered with the appropriate organisation, by the stipulated deadlines, then some things just won’t ever happen.

You could sell 100,000 downloads in a week, more than enough to chart, but if your recordings don’t have a valid ISRC and barcode (UPC/EAN) and those codes are not registered with the chart compilers then they will never chart.

Usually, the distributor would assign the necessary codes and register the recordings for the charts. However, none of the most popular online distributors offers this service. So it’s up to the artist to get this done themselves, to have even a remote shot at a chart spot.

Likewise, if you hit sales landmarks such as silver, gold or platinum sales nobody is going to come knocking on your door with a nice plaque for you to hang on your wall. It’s up to the record label to monitor sales. When they think they have reached the required amount of sales they then need to contact the relevant organisation to get those sales certified. IE BPI in the UK, RIAA in the USA). The label then has to pay to have the silver/gold/platinum discs made. If you are self-releasing, you are the label, it’s you that has to do these things.

…and the award goes to….

The same is true of most awards too. You have to submit your album, single, video etc for consideration to have a chance of being nominated. There is often a cost involved. For example, to submit works for Grammy consideration you have to be at least an “Associate Member” of the academy. To join, you pay an annual membership fee, and have to prove you have significant involvement in the music industry.

To be considered for the Mercury Prize (Album of the Year by a UK artist) costs £190.00 + VAT. Of all the albums I have contributed to only 2 were submitted for the Mercury Prize. One was nominated in 2001 (“Run Come Save Me” – Roots Manuva). The other won it in 2009 (“Speech Therapy”- Speech Debelle). I’m left wondering how many of the other albums I have contributed to may have had a chance of being nominated or winning if they had been submitted.

Neighbouring Rights

Now, most artists are aware of “Performing Rights Organisations” (PRO) such as PRS(UK), APRA (Australia) or ASCAP (USA). They have usually registered with one of these societies and logged their songs. These registrations are for the composition of the song. As a self-releasing artist you also own the recording of the song and this ownership has its own revenue stream.

These royalties are collected and distributed by “Collective Management Organisations” (CMO) such as PPL (UK), SoundExchange (USA) or PPCA (Australia). To get these royalties the recordings need to be registered (within a certain time frame) by the owner of the sound recording. Not registering the recordings, or registering them late will result in any potential earnings being lost.

So to summarise, nothing is automatic. If you have ambitions to win awards, have chart hits or simply make sure you are paid all the money due to you, then you will need to make sure you have taken all the necessary steps.

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