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How to make sure you receive the radio royalties you're owed

A radio - image accompanies article about radio royalties for bands

A radio - image accompanies article about radio royalties for bands

With touring so expensive and streaming royalties so low, it’s become harder than ever to make money out of music. One area where it is still possible to generate decent revenue however is through getting radio airplay; but often, bands concentrate so hard on getting this airplay that they forget to take the necessary steps to ensure are getting paid for it - thus missing out on income that can in some cases be quite significant. So in this post we’re going to share a few pointers on how to ensure you definitely get the dosh that is due to you from that long sought-after BBC Radio 1 (ok, Hospital Radio) spin.

But first, let’s start with a question that many bands ask: how much does each UK radio station pay you per play?

How much do UK radio stations pay per play?

Well actually, radio stations don’t pay YOU per play, they pay two royalty-collection organisations:

These two organisations then dish this income out to you (or your representatives) in various instalments. And it’s worth noting that the amount of money the radio stations pay per play isn’t static - it boils down to the size of each radio station’s listenership, which of course varies year by year.

PRS per-play payment examples

PRS members can log in to the PRS site and view a very detailed set of figures from the PRS regarding how much each station is currently paying per the PRS play - there’s a few PRS examples below for the big music stations (July 2016):

  • BBC Radio 1: £13.63 per minute
  • BBC Radio 2: £24.27 per minute
  • BBC 6 Music: £5.25 per minute

PPL per-play payment examples

Obtaining ‘per-play’ data from the PPL is a lot harder - despite several trawls of the PPL website, I can’t find a simple overview of royalty rates per station. (I’ve fired off an email to them however asking for data - I will update this post with relevant info when I hear back).

In the meantime the I’ve sourced some pay-per-play examples from publishing company Sentric Music’s blog:

  • BBC Radio 1: £37.76 per minute
  • BBC Radio 2: £82.07 per minute
  • BBC 6 Music: £8.06 per minute

(Note that this data is from 2013, so a little out of date).

The PRS and PPL also collect ‘per-play’ royalties from thousands of other radio stations across the country (not to mention TV stations too, and many other sources).

It’s easy to see why getting your hands on these royalties matter…

Even the top-line figures above give you a clear idea of why getting your ducks in a row when it comes to radio royalties matters.

For the sake of argument, suppose you are fortunate to get a 4 minute track playlisted on Radio 2, obtaining 15 plays over the space of a fortnight. Combining the PRS and PPL figures gives you a total-pay-per-play figure of £106.34 per minute. Multiply that by your total number of minutes played - 60 - and you'd end up generating £6830.40 in royalties in just two weeks. And that’s just from one station - getting playlisted on Radio 2 often leads to playlisting on many other stations across the country too, which will further increase your radio royalty revenues.

Of course, deductions will need to be made from any income generated by radio play - depending on your situation, managers, labels and publishers will all be taking their slice of pie, but it’s a sizeable sum to kick things off with.

How to ensure you don’t leave your radio money on the table

So, now that we’re all drooling at the prospect of Radio 2 playlisting and making nearly £7k in a fortnight, it’s time to look at how you avoid leaving that sort of money on the table. Thankfully, this is relatively straightforward (if a bit time-consuming).

  • First, ensure that you become a member of PPL and the PRS. Without this membership, it is next to impossible to get paid royalties for radio play.
  • Second, obtain ISRC codes from the PPL for the tracks you intend to send to radio. These allow radio stations to identify you as the owner of the track.
  • Third, encode these ISRC codes on your CDs and MP3. Generally a mastering engineer or CD manufacturer can help you with the former, and you can use software like KID3 to add them to MP3s.
  • Fourth, register the individual tracks with PPL and the PRS. (Where PPL is concerned, you’ll need to have a list of all the performers on the tracks to hand, along with their PPL numbers).

Finally, you may find it beneficial to involve a publisher or a publishing administrator in proceedings, as they will be familiar with the whole process and may be able to speed things up, highlight any errors or suggest ways that you can squeeze a bit more revenue out of proceedings. As a starting point though, the above steps will offer some important protection against missing out on radio royalties.

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Why you NEED to be on Youtube - even if you don't have a video

Youtube

Okay, so you lucked out and somehow managed to slip one past Geoff Smith and got a spot play on Radio 2. Millions of listeners all over the UK have just heard your 3 minutes of radio-friendly-two-tone-emo-shoe-gazing-nu-metal-folk-soul. Which means you’re now going to sell a load of singles, yeah?

As is ever the case with these articles, dear reader, the answer is no (and sorry about that). What will probably happen is this: around 0.01% of the people who heard Jeremy Vine interrupt calls from inane members of the public to play your song might be interested in hearing the tune again - but for free. And if they like it enough, then they might consider paying to download the track (or, since it’s Radio 2 listeners we’re talking about, see if they can find a 78 in an antiques shop in Rye). Either way, when they've got a little more acquainted with your music they may, heaven forbid, finally take the plunge and purchase your whole album. The main thing is: they've got to be able to hear that radio-friendly song again.

Now, they probably won’t hear it again on Radio 2, because there is an awful lot of James Blunt to play and you really used up all your luck by nicking that 3 minutes off him in the first place (heavens, his mummy will be ringing in to complain next). But, James Blunt aside, 0.01% of 8 million people is still quite a lot of listeners – 80,000 in fact – so you’ve got to make it as easy as possible for those half-interested people to find that catchy little ditty of yours.

Obviously some of them will go looking for the song on Spotify – a good reason to have singles up there, even if you’re reluctant to let people stream your whole album for free – but not everybody uses Spotify, and it's unavailable in a truckload of countries anyway. Put Spotify to one side, because there is an arguably far more important streaming site which bands often overlook: Youtube.

The reason Youtube is often ignored by bands is because they simply don’t have the budget, time or ability to make videos for their songs. Rather understandably, they therefore think Youtube, because it is a video hosting site, is irrelevant. Big, big mistake.

Here’s why: Youtube has, in internet terms, been around for ages and is so famous that even Radio 2 listeners have heard of it, and – gosh – use it extensively. They use it for two reasons: (a) to look at videos of cute cats and (b) to access the biggest repository of free pop music ever known to mankind. Let’s momentarily ignore the cats and ram point (b) home: Youtube is synonymous with pop music, and even in the Spotify era, people simply expect to find any song they have even half-heard of on Youtube. As such, your radio-friendly-two-tone-emo-shoe-gazing-nu-metal-folk-soul effort needs to be there.

BUT WE DON’T HAVE A VIDEO FOR IT, I hear you scream (in capitals, obviously). WE CAN’T AFFORD A VIDEO, you shout. WE READ YOUR LAST BLOG POST AND YOU TOLD US NOT TO MAKE A VIDEO IF WE WEREN’T MARTIN SCORSESE. Well, so what. Look up any Beatles song on Youtube. The biggest band in the history of rock didn’t really make videos – thank god, or the mullet would have arrived 15 to 20 years earlier – but nonetheless, you’ll find any Beatles track, no matter how obscure, on there. You'll no doubt encounter a video of Polythene Pam made by a mad bearded fan: the song will play to a home-made photo montage of images involving said mad fan sporting latex and covered in cream. All for the delight of you, dear reader. And yes, it will have been seen by 656,234 people.

Latex aside, if you don’t have a video, you can – and should - do something similar with that song of yours. Get some tasteful pictures of your act together, do a little montage using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, and upload the opus to Youtube. If you’re too broke to have even done a photoshoot with the band, you could think about accompanying your song with some stock footage from iStock; using random-but-arty lo-fi video footage you shot on your phone; as a last resort, just whack something up containing some text against a black background (the song lyrics perhaps). Or a picture of Cliff Richard at Wimbledon.

The key thing is: get your music on Youtube in some shape or form. It’s still a major go-to point for potential fans, and at the end of the day, if you do get any airplay, there will be an expectation amongst the people who heard your music that you will be on there. And if you’re not, that 0.01% of Radio 2 listeners are going to just shrug their shoulders and go back to Blunty.

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