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A Guide to Music Publishing Part I: Mechanical Royalties

Last updated: December 30, 2022
Written by Bradley J Simons

Reading time: 3-5 minutes

Hey guys! Today's post is going to give you a rundown of music publishing and how it works. This will be a multi-part series of blog posts, and the intent is to help you enter the world of music publishing with knowledge you need.

Publishing is one of those topics that is a complete mystery to a lot of us, as it can get somewhat complicated. The basis is that if you wrote or co-wrote a piece of music, you are technically owed royalties every time that it is played in a public setting or it is purchased. Cool, right?

Aside from massive touring, this is how a lot of artists generate huge amounts of revenue. Especially if they're avid songwriters. A guy like Ryan Teder from OneRepublic makes a lot of money from his band, but he also has co-written so many successful songs, that he's accumulated large net worth.

There are many avenues to music publishing, so we're going to start with one of the basics, Mechanical Royalties. Here we go!

What Are Mechanical Royalties?

In a nutshell, mechanical royalties are a fee that the artist is paid when a copy of their music is made, regardless of whether or not it has been sold. So for instance, if you get signed to a label and they manufacture 100 vinyl records of your album, they technically owe you a mechanical royalty fee just for manufacturing those records.

Who Gets Mechanical Royalties?

Mechanical royalties go to the songwriter, and not anyone else, unless the songwriter decides to give up a portion of their mechanicals. So for instance, a lot of bands typically have a main songwriter or two, and then everyone else is simply adding their parts to the song. In that instance, the main songwriter would get all of the mechanicals, unless he or she shared them with the rest of the band. Often band members will share a portion of mechanicals to avoid disparity amongst the group.

Another example includes the release of a cover song. Say I covered a song that you wrote, and when I released it, it went platinum. Would that mean I get the mechanical royalty portion? Absolutely not. That means I simply made you a lot of money in mechanicals. Cha ching!

How Are Mechanical Royalties Collected?

Mechanical royalties are a bit trickier to collect than other royalties are. Your typical collection agencies such as BMI, ASCAP and SOCAN in Canada do not collect mechanical royalties. You'll be looking at the Harry Fox Agency in the United States, and the CMRRA in Canada.

If you're working in international markets, this can become quite tiresome to collect. Every country must have it's own mechanical royalty collection agency, and in order to collect, you'll have to sign up with each one. Sometimes, this can even prohibit musicians from ever receiving the mechanicals. Not cool!

This is where having a publisher will come in handy. Collecting your mechanicals is a part of their duty, so you will have that built into your plan. Awesome!


That's it guys! We'll be back with more info on music publishing, what it is and how you can make it a part of your music marketing strategy. I'm going to also recommend a few books that can help you dive into this topic on a deeper level:

As always, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed the post, share it with your friends, follow us on social, and join our mailing list for more tips and tricks on the music industry.

- Bradley

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We aim to help artists build a long term fanbase, increase their streams and visibility, and set an upward career trajectory towards sustainability.

Juno nominated canadian musician, producer, and founder of Velveteen Music, Bradley J Simons

Bradley J Simons

Bradley is a Canadian musician, producer, and is the founder of Velveteen Music. His work has been nominated for 3 Juno Awards, and he has toured Canada and the US as a session guitarist. In addition to making music, Bradley also develops software for Velveteen.

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