Page 1

This is one of three Creative Growth Project guides focussing on the music industry. It explains copyright and the types of income that musicians and music businesses, particularly songwriters and publishers, can make from through collection societies, music publishing and synchronisation deals. Music and copyright Collection societies (PRS, MCPS, PPL) Music Publishing Synchronisation (TV, film, advertising, & games)


Music and copyright Copyright is a form of ‘intellectual property’ which means that creative ideas have owners who must be compensated for the use of their work. The most recent piece of legislation in the UK, the 1988 Copyright, Designs & Patents Act describes copyright as a ‘property right’ that exists in nine different categories.


The 9 categories of copyright are •

Musical works (songs)

Original literary works (lyrics, novels)

Sound recordings (the recording of songs)

Dramatic works (plays)

Artistic works (paintings)


Broadcasts (radio or TV)

Cable programmes

Typographical arrangement of published works


Copyright in a musical work exists as soon as it is recorded in writing or any other material form. You do not need to do anything else to own the work, but you may

need to prove that the work was created on a particular date if a dispute over ownership arises.


The best way to this is to: •

Send a copy of the work to yourself by registered delivery and leave the envelope unopened with your signature across the

seal. •

Deposit a copy with a solicitor or bank manager and obtain a receipt.

The Musicians’ Union (MU) has a Works Registration Service available to its members. 5/18

When copyright ends varies around the world but in the UK: •

Copyright in musical and literary works lasts for 70 years after the death of the composer or author, e.g. The Beatles’ songs will

enter the public domain 70 years after McCartney dies. •

Copyright in sound recordings lasts 70 years after the date of the original recording, e.g. the copyright in The Beatles’ early recordings is due to expire at the end of 2033.


The Copyright Act gives a copyright owner exclusive rights over their creative works, including the following; 1. to copy the work; 2. to issue copies of the work to the public; These are called the ‘mechanical rights’. (The phrase dates back

to when recordings of songs had to be mechanically reproduced by wax cylinders.)


3. to perform, show or play the work in public; 4. to broadcast the work and include it in a cable programme service; These are what as known as the ‘performing rights’. A primary infringement of copyright is committed if any of these four

‘restricted acts’ occur without the permission of the owner.


Collection societies There are specific agencies, known as collection societies, involved in the licensing and collection of revenue related to mechanical and performing rights. Songwriters, performers, music publishers and record labels register with one or more of these societies in order to collect royalty payments for the use, (i.e. performance or mechanical copying), of music they own.


PRS for Music consists of two collection societies MCPS and PRS. Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) acts as an agent on behalf of songwriters and music publishers to collect money for use of their works on a variety of recorded formats. These include CDs, DVDs, downloads, mobile phone ring-tones and television and radio programmes. Performing Rights Society (PRS) acts on behalf of songwriters and music publishers to collect royalties for the public performance of their work. A PRS licence is needed by all television and radio broadcasters

as well as concert venues, clubs, pubs, hotels and shops.


Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) acts on behalf of record labels and performers to collect royalties for the public performance of their recordings. A PPL license is needed by all television and radio broadcasters as well as clubs, pubs, hotels and shops.


PRS gigs and clubs scheme •

Any musician or band that is performing their own songs at gigs in small venues such as pubs, clubs, bars, community centres and hotels should join PRS.

They can submit a set list online to PRS and they'll receive roughly £6 in royalties for each gig they play, (if they are the only artists on the bill claiming royalties).

More information is available at


Assigning rights •

The songwriter is not always the copyright owner.

It is common for songwriters to sign agreements with music publishers who become the owners of the copyright.

It is then their job to collect royalties for the use of the work, prevent any unauthorised uses, and exploit the copyrights.

PRS for music membership agreements assign rights to the collecting society.


Music publishing Music publishing was originally based on sales of sheet music and hit records. “A century of technological innovation and evolution…turned an

industry that once created and marketed products into a copyright industry that primarily licenses others to utilize its properties.” Geoffrey Hull, ‘The Recording Industry’, Routledge 2004

Licensing music to be used within film, TV, video, advertising, games (synchronisation) is another income stream for publishers, alongside the rights revenue collected by the collecting societies. 14/18

“the income stream from music publishing is more stable and longer term than the income stream from the hit recording that produced the hit song.” Geoffrey Hull, ‘The Recording Industry’, Routledge 2004 Income for music publishers includes; •

MCPS: CD, DVDs, downloads, TV, Radio, CD covermounts.

PRS: Public performance, TV, Radio, live music, streaming.

Synchronisation licences: selling the rights to use music in timed relation to images e.g. in film, TV, video, advertising, games.

• •

Overseas royalties from sub-publishers, societies, synchronisations. 15/18

Retailers: sheet music sales

Synchronisation If used in a film, the value of a synchronisation license will depend on: • The budget for the film and its music. Is it a Hollywood blockbuster or an independent art house flick?

• The importance of the song to the film. Is it prominent or just in the background, for example? • The amount of the song that is used. Is it the whole song or just a few seconds? • The recognisability of the song. Is it a well-known hit or a song by an unsigned band? 16/18

If you wish to license your music through synchronisation deals ensure: • You sign the correct PRS for Music membership agreement to maintain the management of your rights • You get legal advice for any contract deal


Next steps Please refer to the other two music guides from the Interreg ICV Creative Growth Project:

Making Live Music Pay DIY Record Labels


Cultural Enterprise Office would like to thank Paul Harkins, Edinburgh Napier University and the Interreg ICV Creative Growth Project for use of this content.

Disclaimer: Cultural Enterprise Office is not responsible for any advice or information provided by any external organisation referenced in this document.

Making Music: Managing Rights Guide  

A Cultural Enterprise Office guide to copyright and the types of income musicians, songwriters and publishers can make through its managment...