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Tonya Rae's Contribution to 'Charting a Career Path'
Excerpt from Tag It's Songwriters in the New Millennium
By MusicDish
(more articles from this author)
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Tonya Rae
Independent Artist & Author, Indie's Guide To Music Success and Contact Info

QUESTION #8: Do you feel that you have been adequately compensated for the use of your work?

My next and my last point on the survey is this. Only 15% of those responding to the survey believed that they were being adequately compensated for their work. I am not sure where the writers believe they aren't being fairly compensated for their work.

QUESTION #12: Has Napster had an impact on your songwriting career?

However, only 5% said that Napster has had a negative impact on their career. I think Napster has its pros and cons, and I am not necessarily against Napster or those who use its services. But here are the pros and cons for me, in simple form: Pro being that people who can't afford and can't find the music they want on CD are able to get it. Freedom of Information act and all that. The Cons are that writers and performers aren't getting their cut and as a performer, I can tell you from an artist's standpoint, that that cut is very slim to begin with.

So, the statistical conflict between questions #8 and #12 confuses me. Don't get me wrong. I pay all of my writers up front, in cash, as soon as I press my CDs, even if they don't ask me too. I want the writers to get their money! But let's look at numbers.

A writer gets 7.55 cents in royalties per song under 5 minutes and an additional 1.45 cents for every minute or fraction of a minute thereafter. The typical indie artist presses 1000 CDs. The standard procedure is submission of the packing slip from the pressing plant to the Harry Fox Agency or a similar agency that collects mechanical royalties. The artist is then charged by Harry Fox Agency for writer royalties according to how many CDs were pressed (this is of course after you have applied for a mechanical license). So for 1000 CDs, the writer will be paid $75.50 in mechanical royalties by the Harry Fox Agency or its equivalent. In addition to that, the writers will also get royalties from radio airplay and karaoke sales, which are performance royalties. These royalties are collected by the Performing Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.

In most cases, the writer did not pay for the production, marketing, distribution, and advertising costs of the CD their songs are on, so eventually this will be money in the bank, after the writer recoups the costs of the initial demo he or she created to pitch to the artist or label. That's the writer's side. Now lets look at the artist's side. Artists, except in the United Kingdom, do not get paid for the performance of a song on the radio as the writers do. We artists must pay to get your songs and ourselves promoted. A typical CD recorded in a master recording studio, with pressing, royalties and promotion costs, will be around $14,000.00. How does an artist recoup that amount? By touring and CD sales, right? Sure they do.

If an artists gets booked into a venue and makes $500 in CD sales and $500 for the venue, that gives the artist a $1000 right? I won't do the math for you here, there is a lot more detail in my book, Indie's Guide To Music Success and Contact Info, but out of the $1000, the booking agent gets 10%, the manager gets 10%, the IRS gets 33 1/3 %, the venue gets a percentage, and the artist still must pay for the promotion and marketing costs as well as staff. All of those people take it off the top, meaning out of the $1000. Their percentages are based on the gross amount from the CD sales and the performance. After the artist pays everyone their share, the artist is then left with the negative amount of $53.33. At this point, the artist hasn't even paid for the band members, the travel expenses or food costs, let alone paid a salary to himself or herself, and the artist is already in the hole for the amount of $53.33. Meanwhile, the songwriter has $75.50 in the bank for each song on my CD!

So what am I trying to say? That the writers should be happy they aren't the artists (unless of course they are artists also)! No really, what I am trying to show the writers is that artists don't make as much money as the writers do, even at the low rate the writers get per song. And that of course, the grass is always greener on the other side.

For the complete contribution by Tonya Rae, download
"Songwriters in the New Millennium: Charting a Career Path"

The authors of the report use the survey to identify what songwriters are and are not doing to further their career and discuss important points that songwriters should consider when mapping out their career.

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