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Royalties...who gets what?


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With the use of a many obscure Northern  tracks being used everywhere from Farm Adverts to TV Programmes, who if anyone gets royalties?

Can tracks be used with no traceable ownership? If so is there a default benefactor?


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Doesn't it depend upon the copyright laws in each nation, and when art items become public domain (50 or 75 years or if the artist and children of the artist are all deceased before then)?

Are you asking about UK rights (which now may or may not be different from European rights), or USA rights?

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Whoever own the rights will get the royalties, usually the large conglomerates like BMG, Sony etc.  Highly unlikely the artist gets anything, unless of course they own the rights outright which is doubtful. 

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Ok, so for example, the snake, do I love you, moonlight music and you, come on train, have all featured in recent years.

Would royalties only go to the copyright owners, or would some filter down to the artist?

I'd seen a few old British pop stars on TV interviews indicating they get a monthly cheque from royalties of old songs being played on the radio, TV, film scores etc.


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Unless anything has changed,

the record company owns the rights to the recording for the term of the contract after which it defers to the artist. This is the owner if you want to license tracks for  release.

music played for instance in an ad is publishing royalties which go to the publisher of the song for the life of their contract and after that go to the songwriter.

Cheers Sutty


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I'm guessing then that from this source of income, the majority of singers get sweet fa, and the song writers not much more!

Its been so great that a few of the artists have been at least made aware that their work is cherished and in many cases put on a stage to get some belated recognition.



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38 minutes ago, tomangoes said:

and the song writers not much more!


They trot these sort of statistics out every Christmas don't they.

If true I find it astonishing that this sort of money finds its way back to the writers. This was a 2016 article.


Merry Christmas Everybody is revealed as the bestselling festive hit, earning Noddy Holder £1 MILLION a year in royalties (with Mariah Carey not too far behind)

All I want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey £400,000
Last Christmas by Wham £300,000
Stay Another Day by East 17 £100,000

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So, to expand on the songwriter part, if a songwriter had not signed a publishing deal or its expired then the song is ‘copyright control’. This relies on the writer registering their song with every local royalty collection agency worldwide (UK PRS, USA ASCAP or BMI, etc).

All royalties are initially paid to that local agency, and from there passed on to the songwriter (cop cont) or collected by the publisher who takes a % as a fee. The reason an artists signs to a publisher is to obtain an advance in royalties, and if the publisher is any good they register the song with local royalty collection agencies worldwide so the artists doesn’t have to. Anyone with a song that gets decent plays is highly likely to get more money via a publisher as if they don’t collect every royalty they can they are losing money as well.

So when you are talking about a 50 year old song, assuming it’s still in copyright, written by someone unpublished and who has not kept their contact details up to date, plus licensing a recording from a company owner where the company no longer exists, then all those personal disputes that go on about who owns what, the lines on the right people getting paid can get very blurry, so yes lots of artists never get paid a penny. None of which excuses bootlegging.

cheers Sutty

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JB - I'm sure it was very nice for you to recoup some of the money you made when the CD came out.

EJ- It was a little bit, it wasn't very much. It was like 2700, but after I paid some people some bills it was gone. We get royalties twice a year so maybe something will come up, I have got a few debts which doesn't feel to good, but I hope they are people that trust and believe that when I get some money I will try to pay them.


the above from an interview 2004 with Ernie Johnson (Eddie and Ernie)



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