Getting paid by SAMRO
We're always told stories of how SAMRO is failing its members. There are countless opinion posts stating that royalties aren't being paid out. It's true that there is a backlog in payments and that SAMRO has a lot of tracks that have been documented incorrectly, there are still many members that are receiving payments from SAMRO so before you jump ship and join BMI or ASCAP, consider the following.
1. Are you registered and are your works notified?
The registration at SAMRO can be an arduous one and I always encourage creators to get their SAMRO paperwork in order long before they intend on releasing. This gives the creator enough time to iron out any problems they may have before they start sending songs out. SAMRO have made it easy to download their documents. As the online submission isn't a sure-fire method for registering, you'll want to print and complete the documents by hand. You can scan your documents using a cellphone app like tiny scanner and then email them back with your supporting documents. This is when the waiting game begins. After 8 weeks have passed, give them a call and let them know you're following up on your application for membership. They may ask you for which email you used to send the forms in so keep this information on hand. Once you're registered you'll get a member number (relation number) and IPI number. These are your musical ID numbers so you should have them on hand at all times. You will be able to log into the SAMRO portal and notify new songs online. If you prefer to handle this process at their offices in person then you're welcome to. I've never set foot into the SAMRO offices and most of my paperwork is in order.
2. Have you set your agreements on your songs?
Once your songs have been recorded, you will need to notify them with SAMRO. Before notifying, speak to your collaborators so that you can agree on splits. You don't want there to be hold ups when it's time for payouts just because you thought you were getting 45% but the other person thought you were getting 40%. SAMRO views this as a dispute and they will withhold royalties until these get sorted out.
3. Are you aware of how and when royalties are paid out?
SAMRO pays its members according to a predifined schedule. Based on when your music played and what medium it played on, you can take a guess as to which payments will apply to you. My first few payments were dominated by TV ad placements and shows that my music was used in. Over the years the payments diversified and are now spread between foreign payments, internet radio, traditional radio and other various performances. It's important to note that royalties are a long-term source of money. They generally start out slow and grow to sizeable amounts if you take it seriously. It's also important to note that if your music gets played in a television program today, you will see your performance royalty next March/April as that's when the TV sequencing payment is usually done. It pays to be patient and to continuously seek out new avenues to get your music played.
4. Plan your money
Royalty money acn be short-lived or long-term. My placements with artists tend to be short term. The song remains on rotation for a few months before it slowly dies down. I get this money the following year. These songs can continue to generate Rands but at a smaller amount over the next couple years. Placements in television programs may be very short but if that show goes into syndication or is played multiple times a week, I can earn for years off of a few songs. The general idea is to create massive amounts of high quality music that can be used in programming, adverts, games etc and get them placed in a diverse set of mediums. I stress that your music needs to sound good and be of a high quality. Pay for mixing and mastering if you can't do it yourself.
5. Monitor and follow up
If you're independent like me you'll know the struggle of being a one person operation. If you don't have a music publisher ensuring you get what's owed to you then you'll need to come up with ways to monitor usage. A platform like Radiomonitor is great for tracking radio plays. You can also post your music to social media platforms. Your followers will generally let you know when they hear your song playing. Ask them to make video recordings so that you can post them. This is a great way of creating content while keeping track of what's playing where. If you own your own music publishing company, this is where you may want to outsource some of your work so that you spend less time at your desk calling stations up and more time in the studio making great music.
Be mindful of what part you want SAMRO and performance royalties to play in your music career. Even if you plan on making money elsewhere, it's always nice getting a boost now and again from an unexpected royalty payment.
For questions, please leave a comment below. If you know any musicians you care about, please tag them and let them know they can contact me with questions.
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Regards SB +27 74 605 7360