What are they?
Mechanical royalties are earned per-unit when a song is sold on a “mechanically reproduced” physical medium (i.e. vinyl or physical CDs). Nowadays, this includes digital downloads and internet streaming as well. “Mechanical” can sound confusing in the digital age. The word “mechanical” stems from the early days of the music industry when compositions were physically, or mechanically, manufactured and reproduced onto physical products for public consumption.
Who collects them?
Mechanical royalties are collected from mechanical collection societies. Each major world territory has a mechanical collection society.
How do I know if I’m earning them?
You’re earning mechanical royalties when your song is:
- Manufactured and sold on physical CDs or vinyl products
- Reproduced and sold as ringtones
- Streamed through interactive streaming services (Spotify, Rdio, Beats, etc.)
- Sold in digital retailers for digital downloads (iTunes, Beatport, Amazon, etc.) outside of the USA
In the USA, the mechanical royalty share goes straight from iTunes to the distributor to the label. In countries outside of the USA, your mechanical royalty is picked up from iTunes and thrown elsewhere.
If you are distributing your music to stores and streaming platforms worldwide using a digital music distributor like Symphonic Distribution, and if you are seeing sales and streams result, then you are definitely earning mechanical royalties.
How can I collect them?
Mechanical collection societies make it unreasonably difficult for independent songwriters who are not signed with a publisher to collect their mechanical royalties. Many of these agencies, including the Harry Fox Agency in the USA, don’t let unsigned songwriters collect their mechanical royalties. Yep. Again, in order to collect the maximum mechanical royalties you deserve from these agencies, you need to affiliate yourself as a writer and register your compositions with every single mechanical collection agency in the territories you’re generating high download sales and streams.