Songwriters get an online royalty collection service — where’s ours?

Once your work goes online, keeping tabs on it can be a full-time job. If it pops up on an unfamiliar site, without your permission, what are your chances of getting paid? As we’ve heard on Story Board previously, it’s more likely you’ll see the work removed from the site than see any cash.

TuneCore, a digital music and video distributor, is offering an online royalty collection service for songwriters whose work was streamed or downloaded in any country, including original performances of their songs and cover versions. Songwriters have to pay a one-time setup fee of $49.99, and TuneCore keeps 10 per cent of the money it collects on their behalf.

TuneCore expanded into Canada just last month. Right now its Songwriter Service is only available to artists who distribute their work through TuneCore, but soon the company plans to offer the service to all rights holders, reports

From its website, here is what TuneCore’s Songwriter Service promises to do:

1. Get your existing “found” money back into your possession before it is given to someone else.
2. Register your songs with organizations that use and track your copyrights so they know you exist, what songs are yours and what money belongs to you.
3. Fight on your behalf to assure you are getting every penny of your money.
4. Issue any licenses needed and handle any requests for the use of your songs in TV shows, movies, commercials and other media, and negotiate any licenses with our in-house Film & Visual Media department in an attempt to get you the best possible terms, as well as collect your money and get it back to you.
5. Police the world on your behalf to find anyone who is using your song illegally or violating your copyrights and either make them stop or pay you.

In a promotional video on the Songwriter Service site (embedded above), TuneCore founder and CEO Jeff Price says that “in the past two years, TuneCore artists have sold over 100 million units of music and generated over $174 million. It turns out there’s another $100-150 million owed to them out in the world right now.” And that’s what TuneCore plans to collect before it goes to “third-party organization” who will “sit on it” and pass it on to the likes of Sony, Universal, EMI and the like, according to their market share.

It seems TuneCore is discovering the limits of its service, having run into trouble in its relationship with Amazon in the U.K. and the EU. After arguing over royalties that TuneCore felt Amazon owed its artists, their agreement lapsed and Amazon has removed all music distributed by TuneCore from its MP3 store in those regions.

Could a similar service for other writers work? Would it run up against the same tactics from publishing behemoths? We suspect it might and, of course, distribution models for music and written work differ. But, if it could work, the prospect of an online fee-collection service open to all freelance writers — who are short on time and can only do so much to track the spread of their work — is enticing.

Posted on February 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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