How to make money from music: The royalties every musician needs to know about

Ditto Music's Mark Haldon lets us in on how songwriters and performers can make money from their music...


It’s surprising how often musicians aren’t aware of the different types of royalties they could be collecting for their music and the opportunities out there to earn more money doing what they love.

Whether making music is your side hustle or you’re trying to turn it into a full-time career, read on to learn more about some of the key potential royalty sources you need to know about.


Before we get into the types of royalties you can claim and the different way to make money from your music, it’s important to understand the two main types of copyright you need to know about; the copyright and phonographic copyright.

Copyright (in terms of music) refers to the copyright in the lyrics and melody.

Phonographic copyright refers to the copyright of the sound recording.

So, who owns these copyrights depends on who commissioned the work.

If you’re an unsigned artist without the backing of a label, you’ll own all the copyright to your music. However, if you’re signed, these copyrights are usually owned by your label or publisher, depending on the deal you have."

Mechanical royalties

Perhaps the best-known form of music royalties, mechanical royalties are paid out every time your copyright protected music is sold or streamed, whether that’s as a physical CD, vinyl or digital download, or streamed on platforms like Spotify or Apple Music.

It’s incredibly easy to sell your music online as an independent artist and start collecting mechanical royalties every time it’s streamed. Just upload it through a music distributor like Ditto Music.

Performance royalties

Did you know you could be collecting royalties from PRS every time you perform live? PRS pays out royalties for several types of live performances, from tours and one-off gigs, to DJ sets and even busking sessions in certain areas.

Live performance royalties are a great reason to sign up for PRS. Different venues will bring in different levels of royalties, from small payouts for pubs and intimate spots shows, to larger earnings from festivals and large venues.

You can also claim royalties whenever your music is broadcast, whether that’s on TV or radio, or in pubs, clubs and other venues. PPL is responsible for the licensing of recorded music in the UK, so make sure you’re registered with both PPL and PRS to claim for all the performance royalties you’re owed.

Sync royalties

Synchronisation licensing (or sync) can be a lucrative source of income for musicians who manage to land the right deal.

There are sync agencies and music publishing companies out there whose sole purpose is to match music with TV shows, films or advertising and, of course, collect and pay the royalties earned from these mediums.

Signing up and working with a music publisher takes care of all the admin and leverages their existing relationships, but some publishing deals may be exclusive, which means if the deal doesn’t work out for you, you could end up stuck in a contract.

If you’d rather not work with a music publisher, you can place your tracks in music libraries yourself. Once you’ve set up your tracks in music libraries, the income you get from these platforms is passive, so once you’ve placed your tracks there’s no extra work. Just make sure any library you place your tracks in works under non-exclusive deals, so you can upload your catalogue in multiple libraries.

There are many music libraries of varying quality, which can make it difficult to know where to start. This list from PRS offers a good place to start looking, but it’s important to do your research and make sure the library is the right fit for your tracks.

Start earning

It’s never been easier for upcoming, independent musicians to bring in extra money with their music. The important thing is to leave no stone unturned and make sure you are collecting every penny you’re owed from every possible source... 

Visit for more information.  

Read our previous article for Ditto Music on how to get a blog premiere for a song

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by Mark Haldon, Ditto Music
September 12, 2018
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