What are neighboring rights royalties? Learn about neighboring rights and how to collect royalties generated internationally from your music.

WHAT ARE NEIGHBORING RIGHTS?

Neighboring rights royalties are one of the fastest growing revenue streams in music. Neighboring rights refer to the legal right to perform or broadcast recorded music in public.

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Musicians and sound recording owners receive these royalties when their recording is performed or broadcasted on radio, streaming services, new media, TV, in a public place such as a club or restaurant. The rights do not generate royalties for selling music.

WHO CAN CLAIM NEIGHBORING RIGHTS ROYALTIES?

Royalties generated from neighboring rights go to the owner of the master recording and the performing artists. The master recording rights owner is typically a record label. And, the performing artists include anyone who made an audible contribution to the recording. For example, singers, instrumentalists, and music producers.

Ownership of the master recording is also typically split 50/50 between the master owner and the performers. However, the performers share gets divided between the featured performer and non-featured performer.

Independent musicians can also collect royalties if they are the master rights owner. There are neighboring rights companies such as Collins Connect that provide royalty administration services.

WHO COLLECTS NEIGHBORING RIGHTS ROYALTIES?

Neighboring rights collection societies collect neighboring rights royalties. However, neighboring rights laws differ around the world.

Collect royalties due by registering your master recording with collection societies. Register with your local collection society and the territories where the recording is getting performed or broadcasted in public. It’s also important to register your artist name and music, so collection societies know who to pay.

Currently, the United States does not recognize neighboring rights. For example, U.S. terrestrial radio does not pay royalties on behalf of the master recording. Only recordings created outside of the U.S. are eligible to collect royalties for terrestrial radio. However, services like SoundExchange collect digital performance royalties from platforms like Pandora, Sirius XM, TV music channels, and other streaming services.

AM I EARNING NEIGHBORING RIGHTS ROYALTIES?

The master recording owner and performing artists earn royalties whenever that recording is publicly performed or broadcasted on the media sources below:

  • Pandora (or any internet radio platform)
  • Sirius XM (or any satellite radio platform)
  • Terrestrial radio outside of the USA
  • Cable TV music channels
  • Live in clubs (or any performance venues)
  • Businesses and retailers as background music (restaurants, shops, hotels, etc.)
  • Various new online media as digital music technology changes and develops

Royalties collected in many countries may not reach you. The reason being, neighboring rights laws are different throughout the world. In addition, the processes and distribution are complex, making it difficult to collect them.

If you’re a performing artist on a recording, talk to the record label that released the music getting radio airplay. Ensure the label is collecting these royalties for you! Or, research a trusted neighboring rights administration company.

NEIGHBORING RIGHTS VS. PERFORMANCE RIGHTS

Neighboring rights are similar to performance rights in music publishing. The reason being, both generate royalties through public performances and broadcasts of music. However, there are differences.

Neighboring rights generate royalties from the master sound recording. The master owner and performing artists own the rights to the master recording. Also, collection societies collect these royalties.

Performance rights generate royalties from the musical composition. Publishers and composers/songwriters own the rights to the composition. Also, Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) collect these royalties.

CONCLUSION

Collecting neighboring rights royalties can be difficult. However, they provide valuable income for musicians and record labels. Do some research and don’t dismiss this worthwhile revenue stream.

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WHAT IS A LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY?

A Limited Liability Company (“LLC”) is the most simple kind of business entity. Your label may want to consider registering as a formal business entity (or “incorporating”) in the state where you live to use certain tax advantages and to avoid personal liabilities, should your label ever be sued.

WHY SET UP AN LLC?

1) Protection

One of the primary benefits of forming an LLC is that label owners’ personal assets (home, car, etc.) would not be placed at risk in the event that your label or member of label  finds itself in some kind of legal trouble. In most cases, if an LLC gets sued and loses, the financial responsibility does not lie on your life outside of the label. Having corporate protection prevents you having having to take individual responsibility—which could potentially affect other people in your life who are not your label mates.

LLC-Advantages

2) Structure

Most states consider a group of people who get together for a shared business purpose a “partnership.” As a partnership, the group can be held individually or collectively responsible for any legal liabilities incurred by the partnership as a whole. If your group is not incorporated, the default rule in most states is that a group of people that gets together for a common business purpose is a partnership. Also, most states have sections of their state legal codes that automatically apply to partners in a partnership. Relying on these default rules can be dangerous and may have unanticipated consequences. Establishing an LLC allows the group to customize their rights and responsibilities as the LLC would have an “Operating Agreement” that can differ from the state law default rules that would otherwise apply to the label as an unincorporated partnership.

Most labels do not consider the value of having a band agreement, covering all artists’ activities and members, present and future. For many groups, this is not a problem until a label member leaves the label, or if the label starts generating significant amounts of money and conflicts arise due to misunderstandings or unclear label policies. Many problems can be avoided by drafting an agreement, or, as described below, creating an Label Operating Agreement that covers all label members’ rights, responsibilities and expectations. LLCs have members; there can also be “managing members” who run the LLC business, or the LLC can be member-managed, with all members can be actively involved in the day-to-day management and operations of the LLC.

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3) Convenience

Another good reason to establish an LLC is that groups can run all of their music business revenue through the LLC, taking relevant deductions of expenses and, in certain circumstances, availing themselves of tax benefits, such as limiting or avoiding self-employment taxes on income. One LLC can be a publishing company or record company, and can process revenue from all sources including music publishing, sales of sound recordings, public performance revenue from SoundExchange, public performance revenue via ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, merchandise sales, touring and live performance income, endorsement payments, asset licensing income, etc. Consolidating all of these income streams and carefully tracking group income and expenses can help avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. At the end of the LLC’s tax year, each member is furnished with an IRS Form K-1, detailing the overall income or loss that each individual group member would declare on their personal tax filings.

4) Tax assistance

LLC’s, as with all formal business entities, will have what is called an Employer Identification Number (“EIN”) which functions like a social security number for the LLC. Instead of, say, live performance checks payable to one label member, the check would be payable to the label LLC and the LLC’s EIN would be used on W-9 Forms for income reporting to the label LLC. This way labels can avoid the problem of payments being made to one person, whom, in the eyes of the IRS, would be on the hook for reporting all of that income and personally paying any taxes due on that amount.

Before becoming an LLC, you should discuss your intentions with a tax-preparer, accountant and/or qualified attorney to see if an LLC is right for you, and see if there are some tax considerations that would inform your decision-making about setting up an LLC and/or electing a special tax status for the LLC, such as seeking to have your LLC taxed like an IRS Subchapter S Corporation.

HOW TO SET UP AN LLC

LLCs are registered through the Corporation Division in every state. This process can usually be done online and will involve a filing fee. Filing fees, tax laws and other restrictions may apply, so do obtain all necessary information about this process from an authority in whatever state in which you wish to file. Generally, your group must have a physical mailing address in that state: PO Boxes may not be sufficient for this purposes.

The LLC must also designate a “registered agent” for the purpose of receiving notices from the state and/or formal legal notices from third parties. Note: even if your group is registered in your home state, if you perform services or sell products in other states, notably, California, you may be required to register as a “foreign LLC,” and pay taxes, in their states.

OPERATING AGREEMENTS; POINTS TO CONSIDER.

An LLC Operating Agreement is essentially a formal, written “partnership” agreement between all LLC members. The Operating Agreement will list of all LLC Members and their LLC ownership interests and will cover all of the life events in the life of an LLC: The initial organization of the entity; the names and addresses of all members and the ownership shares and responsibilities of each Member; rules for voting on major issues, such as when a new member joins, or a member leaves; and rules regarding the dissolution or wrapping-up of the LLC and its business operations. Other issues and questions to consider include the following:

● What will each label member’s share of the LLC ownership be? One or more label member may have larger shares of ownership than others. This may be reflected in both the ownership voting rights and in the distribution of net income.

● What is the group’s songwriting policy as far as who will own musical composition copyright and publishing rights to songs that the artist writes, records and performs?

● Who will own and control band intellectual property assets, including copyrights (sound recordings, musical compositions, album and merchandise artwork, etc.), trademarks, service marks, logos, etc.? There should be attached to the Operating Agreement a list of all artist’ sound recordings and song compositions: Who owns them, and in what percentages?

● How will LLC assets be distributed if the LLC is dissolved?

● What are the ownership and voting rights? How and when will LLC member meetings occur and how will decisions get made, in terms of label member voting rights? Will the majority rule or must some, or all, decisions be unanimous?

● What if the label buys a van or other gear? Who will effectively “own” equipment purchases?

● Will there be mandatory contributions to a common label fund for future touring or recording expenses?

● Who will be Managing Members, if applicable. Who will be signers on the LLC Bank account?

● What are the expectations and rules, if any, as to label member conduct, professionalism, etc.

● What rights will departing or replacement label members have? Will they have any ownership or control over collective LLC band assets such as sound recordings (and related income), musical compositions (and related income), merchandise, label intellectual property assets such as copyrights, trademarks, artwork, logos and the like?

In sum, LLCs provide many benefits to labels seeking to avoid personal liability, organize their finances, and operate in a more professional manner. A well-crafted LLC Operating Agreement can act as a partnership agreement, clearly outlining each label member’s rights and responsibilities.

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR FOR HELP SETTING UP YOUR LLC PLEASE CALL OR EMIAIL CANDACE COLLINS 214) 686-8079/collinsconnect@gmail.com

Distribution is the way that recorded music gets in the hands of consumers. Traditionally, distribution companies sign deals with record labels which give them the right to sell that label’s products. The distributor takes a cut of income from each unit sold and then pays the label the remaining balance. Most distributors expect record labels to provide them with finished, ready-to-market, products, but sometimes distributors offer “M&D” deals.
M&D stands for manufacturing and distribution. With this set up, the distributor pays the manufacturing costs of an album up front and keeps all the income from album sales until that initial investment is paid off.

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Music Distribution Basics
In the 20th century, distribution companies were the links between record labels and retail outlets, which included music-only stores, big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, and bookstores. It is helpful to think of music distributors as wholesalers to better understand their role in the music industry.

Record labels signed — and still sign — contracts with music artists. They oversaw music recording, marketing and promotion. Consumers bought their favorite music on vinyl records, cassette tapes and CDs and, in most cases, it was the record labels that paid to have these products manufactured. To get album copies in the hands of fans, record labels signed deals with distribution companies that in turn signed deals with retail stores to sell the albums.

Some distributors bought albums from record labels outright, while others distributed albums on consignment. Retailers did the same thing — some bought albums outright and others agreed to put the products on their shelves on consignment.

Radical Industry Changes
Downloading brought radical changes to the music industry at the turn of 21st century.
Before crackdowns, fans downloaded millions of tracks from a wide range of artists at no charge through companies such as Napster. Although consumers now pay to download music legally from outlets such as iTunes and Amazon, sales of vinyl records, cassette tapes and CDs have plummeted, and the music industry has lost billions of dollars. Subscription services such as Pandora and Spotify have further decreased music industry revenue. With hundreds of music distributor businesses folding, only a few affiliated with the largest record labels remained. Sony, Capitol, Universal Music Group and Warner own the largest music distribution companies.

The Future of Music Distribution
There is still a role for music distributors in the digital age, even in the face of radical industry changes. After all, not every record label and musician wants to take on the task of distributing their work. For this reason, the music distributors that remain still work closely with record labels to bring music to fans; some retail stores continue to sell physical album copies.

They also distribute music to digital download outlets, even though such businesses also offer distribution deals directly to artists.

Opportunities for growth remain for music distributors that specialize in certain types of music such as classical, Latin and jazz. Some distributors have found success by focusing on certain regions and distributing music locally.