Do I have to register with SAMRO, CAPASSO, RiSA and SAMPRA?
Hi. I’ve been doing a bit of digging into rights organisations and how they relate to the bigger picture. Naturally, I was led down a long path of google articles and various books. Although I wasn’t able to write a more extensive piece, I’ve tried to condense the most important parts into the next few paragraphs.
We all know that it’s in our best interest to register with rights organisations, but I often get asked which companies are the best and whether there are international alternatives that people can try. Before I talk about the various organizations, its important to drive home the concept of copyright. I want to see if I can do it in the simplest way possible.
Music copyright exists in two parts; the composition (which includes the idea of the beat and the vocals) and the master recording (that thing you make when you’re in studio). I’m not going to go into who owns what or how it should be split here. That’s a discussion for another day. What’s important to understand is that in South Africa, SAMRO and CAPASSO collect on your composition (performance and mechanical royalties respectively) and SAMPRA collects on the master recording (Needletime/neighboring rights).
First off are performance rights organisations. Do you need one? Definitely! Does it have to be SAMRO or IMPRA? Not necessarily. There are international options such as BMI and ASCAP in the USA. I personally don’t use them as I’ve had enough joy with SAMRO and where I need to, I’m able to make a direct call. Although you may view admin in USA based companies to be better, there’s always the fact that you’ll only ever be able to email. Calls aren’t always an option in this case and sometimes it’s great to be able to talk to someone to build context. What’s weird about what I just said is that people in South Africa complain that SAMRO doesn’t help them yet they’ve never picked up a phone to call them. If you haven’t heard back from SAMRO or they haven’t assisted you with your request, call them and inquire! We phone SAMRO daily and it’s not that difficult to get through to them. Write your questions down before you call so that you articulate yourself well over the phone. Be clear and get to the point of what you’d like to ask and I guarantee that you will get the answers that you need.
Secondly are mechanical rights. In South Africa these are collected by CAPASSO. In the US they’re collected primarily by the Harry Fox Agency. Should you find that your music is attached to any medium (music added to a video, computer game, movie, advert) then these companies can collect royalties for you. CAPASSO’s system of communication needs to be commended here as they generally reply to our queries within a day. I have no experience with Harry Fox, but I gather from international reviews that they do a good job.
Thirdly is needletime royalties. In South Africa, SAMPRA collects these royalties. This one is a bit tricky overseas though as these aren’t collected in the US for analog radio. What they recommend people do is to register with Sound Exchange which will collect on online radio. This sort of misses the mark in my opinion, but I can’t say much as SAMPRA hasn’t done much for us back home. When we solve our South African problems, I may have more words about the system in the US.
After going through this, please have a look online for yourself on how you’d like your system of royalty collection to run. There are even more systems that I’ve seen being used. Songtrust, for example, is a platform that collects performance and mechanical royalties for $100. They also collect micro-sync royalties (another conversation for another write-up I shall do). Do your homework and select accordingly.
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