Today I feel good.
I received my first official royalty check from BMI, my performance rights organization (PROs), for college radio play of my album INSPIRADO during Q1 2009. Tomorrow morning I am going to take it to the bank and fund my poorly funded music business bank account.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by the amount of money I got. It won’t pay the rent, but it will probably pay for a couple months of heat this winter. But I don’t care about the money as much as the satisfaction of knowing that my hard work has paid off and PROs really do pay out, provided you’ve registered your published works with them.
Any musician who is serious about making a living from their music should consider performance royalties as one income stream, especially if they have songs or records in rotation with radio stations. Even college and community radio stations pay into the PRO royalty fund and have to report songs played each quarter (there is some fine print, but it is trivial).
So, if you have published songs (defined as any recorded and produced song available for public consumption, free or otherwise), make sure you own or share the copyrights and then register them with a PRO. You never know when some college kid is going to fall upon your music on a random Internet search and start playing it over the air on the college radio station (essentially, my story).
I have found the book THIS BUSINESS OF SONGWRITING by Jason Blume to be a great source on how to make money with songwriting. It explains PROs and how they pay royalties on performances of your music really well.