Black Box Royalties – Are you missing out on the money your music makes?


Streaming services like Spotify, Apple, and Amazon all pay royalties to songwriters whose music is played on their platforms. But what do these payments actually look like? And are you missing out if you're not getting paid? Here's what you need to know about black box royalties.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what music royalties actually are and how they're paid. In this article, we'll dispel some of the myths about music royalties. And show you how to calculate your own black box royalties. We'll also provide tips on maximizing your income from your music. So if you're wondering whether or not you're missing out on money that your music is making, read on!

Black Box Royalties
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Learn The Music Business

The music industry can be a lucrative business for those who know how to navigate its waters. There are a variety of ways to make money in the music business, including royalties from sales, streaming, and licensing; promotion and marketing; and owning one's own publishing or record label.

In the music industry, royalties are paid to songwriters and artists based on how often their songs are played. These payments usually come from radio stations, streaming services, and other venues that use music.

It's important to understand the different types of music royalties and how they're paid.

What are music royalties?

Every time your favourite song comes on the radio, or you stream it on Spotify royalties are generated. But what are music royalties, and how do they work?

Royalties are payments made to artists and songwriters for the use of their music. They can be earned in a variety of ways, such as through radio play, streaming services, live performances, and more. Royalties are usually split between the artist and the songwriter(s), with the amount depending on how the music is used.

Types of Music Royalties

The five other royalty types that you should know about are:

  • Mechanical - Mechanical royalties are paid whenever a copy of a song is made. For instance, when a record label presses a CD of your song, you are due a mechanical royalty.
  • Public Performance - Performance royalties are paid whenever music is performed publicly.
  • Synchronization - Synchronisation royalties are paid for the use of a song for a movies, TV shows, or commercials. A sync fee is often charged as well which is usually a one-time fee.
  • Master - Master royalties (also known as recording royalties) are paid towards the actual recording of a song. These are paid to Recording artists and Record labels.
  • Print - Print royalties are paid for the sale of printed sheet music. They can take the form of musical notation and/or lyrics.

What are Black Box Royalties?

The term 'Black Box Royalties' has become a general term for money that is earned and owed but never actually gets paid out to the rightful owner.

Black box royalties, or more precisely ‘unallocated royalties’, are basically unclaimed royalties. Whereby the publisher or writer of a song can be named but cannot be traced by a collection organization.

Writers who are owed royalties but cannot be found are often referred to as "lost writers”. Unaware that such a payment exists it is lost.

So how does a royalty you are owed end up in the black box category?

There are several ways money can end up there…

How much money is there in unclaimed black box royalties?

Black box royalties can be worth a lot of money. In fact, one study found that unclaimed streaming royalties totalled more than $100 million in 2017 alone. This figure is only going to continue to grow as streaming becomes more popular.

These payments can come from a number of sources. Including performance rights organisations (PROs), such as ASCAP and BMI, music publishers, and streaming platforms. However, when royalties go unclaimed or are paid to the wrong party, they become known as black box royalties.

There are a number of reasons why black box royalties go unclaimed. Sometimes the right parties don't receive payment because of incorrect or incomplete information.

If you are a musician missing royalties, now is the time to claim them! You could be owed a lot of money.

Who gets paid black box royalties?

Some people might wonder who gets paid black box royalties. The answer is that it depends. Some of the biggest names in music are getting paid black box royalties. That is because black box payments are distributed to the most commercially successful publishers. However, in some places these royalties are kept by publishers, as there are no works to match them to

Song registration

Song registration is where everything begins.

If a song has not been registered with a Performance Royalty Organisation (PRO) or Mechanical Collection Society in the territory in which the song is getting streamed, sold, or performed once again it ends up in the Black Box category.

Whenever the society doesn't know who to pay the royalties to it always ends up in the Black Box category.

So as a music artist it’s pretty important to be affiliated with a PRO and also to register your songs. Otherwise, your earnings will end up in the black box as well.

Black Box Royalties - Wrap up

In conclusion, it is evident that the black box royalties system is flawed. By having knowledge, rights holders are able to control how much they earn from their music. It is important to reform this system and ensure that everyone involved in the creation of music is fairly compensated.

Want to continue learning about royalties? Check out our article on Performing Rights Organisations 101: All About PRO’s.

Thanks for checking us out here on Indiy and Good luck on your music journey! ✌️


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Andrea graduated from Roehampton University and The BRIT School, whose globally recognized alumni include Adele, Katy B, Ella Eyre, FKA Twigs, Jessie J, Leona Lewis, Katie Melua, Kate Nash and the Rizzle Kicks. She takes her love of the arts and entertainment industry to provide useful information to upcoming musicians, helping them navigate the industry and avoid making costly mistakes. She actively mentors our current contributors. Andrea has qualifications in Content Marketing and also manages our collaborative playlists for independent artists

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