Half of EDM Tracks Played on the Radio Don’t Receive Any Royalties, Research Says

DJs and the makers of the music they play need to get their act together and register their music with collection societies, so they can get paid.  A PRS for Music analysis has concluded that, though “electronic music” made up 15% of BBC Radio 1’s broadcasting hours in 2011, it had been impossible to pay the songwriters behind 50% of these songs.  The collection society says this is because it has incomplete track information for the tracks.

Not only are EDM writers lax when it comes to registering their own tracks properly – many of them don’t even know there is a collection society that needs the information in order to pay them.

Note that getting played on Radio 1 in the UK is the equivalent of hitting the marketing jackpot.  Reaching over 11 million listeners a week (that’s more than a sixth of a population of 62.6 million), it’s the way to break into the mainstream.  So if those who are driven enough to make it onto its play list don’t know or care to register their music correctly, one can only imagine how much of the music being played on smaller stations isn’t being properly remunerated.

But the problems don’t end there.  DJs are also less likely than performing acts to submit set lists.  Only 35% of set lists were completed at UK dance festival Creamfields 2011, and 15% at Glade.  Compare this to the predominantly guitar-based Reading Festival, for which 90% of set lists were completed.

The per-play rate at these festivals is not huge.  It’s based on the number of people attending the event, and PRS collects a smaller percentage of the ticket price on behalf of songwriters than the credit card companies get for processing it.  But it can add up.  An average set list for festivals such as Creamfields and Glade can be worth £250 ($378) per set, according to PRS.  With about 171 DJ sets being played across each festival, that’s a potential £85,500 ($129,300) that’s not being paid to the correct writers from these two events alone.

To remedy the situation PRS has launched the electronic music initiative Amplify.  It will create a committee including industry veteran John Truelove (the man behind “You Got the Love”, which was famously covered by Florence & the Machine), Hospital Records, Defected Records and Reverb Music, as well as the Association of Independent Music (AIM).

To deal with the lack of proper reporting of set lists, they’ll be working with DJ technology specialists to find a way to report them automatically from clubs, radio and live performances. They’ll also work more closely with music right societies around the world to make sure they collect and distribute the royalties correctly.

And, on a most basic level, they’ll work to make sure that emerging electronic music writers are aware that they need to join PRS to be able to earn money when their tracks are played in public.  It’s a one-off fee of £30 to join, and anyone who is serious about his or her career could surely afford that.  Besides, they’d make that back in no time.

Disclosure: Helienne Lindvall is not a member of PRS. She’s a writer of electronic music, and a member of STIM, the Swedish collection society for songwriters.

Written while listening to, funnily enough, Disclosure’s track “White Noise” (feat. AlunaGeorge).  Image:Steve Snodgrass, licensed under CC 2.0.

9 Responses

  1. Just Another Voice

    this is not just a problem with EDM artists. I consult several dozen DIY artists a year. 90% of them don’t know enough to register with BMI or SoundExchange. Nearly every radio station I know of today streams their content – so it’s necessary to be registered with SoundExchange, ever if you’re ON a record. You may not make much, but if you’re a TOP tier DIY doing this thing full time you’d better know how to get paid.

  2. Jeff Robinson

    I see the necessity to register with Nielsen these days. Mediabase and BDS were the norm, but a giant chunk of tracking is done by Nielsen/Soundscan. I poured Ortega Taco Sauce on my tacos last night and saw Nielsen’s ad on that bottle and Ortega boasting it’s America’s #1 Taco Sauce according to Nielsen.
    As for the music industry, why doesn’t Nielsen simply report to the PRO’s if that’s what’s to happen? If a radio station can use RBDS to stream embedded track information over the air to a car radio, why can’t that same system be both mandatory and used by EVERY radio for tracking purposes?
    Is this a case of an entity like the RIAA not getting involved to standardize it?
    It’s archaic to think this can be tracked and it isn’t.

  3. Adam Smith

    I’ve known this was a problem, and I’m glad it’s being paid more attention.

  4. Manager

    Do you think it is more likely that because so many EDM tracks contain uncleared samples, it is actually a liability for artists to register with the PROs and PPL / Sound Exchange Etc?

  5. Jonathan Jaeger

    thefuture.fm is trying to solve this problem on their platform, and hopefully their business model will sustain itself! Great quality content and paying royalties and keeping the business going would be a win for the industry.

  6. danwriter

    I agree with Manager’s comment about the inclusion of uncleared samples being a possible issue in why EDM tracks are underreported. The genre’s own culture may also be responsible — like much of the indie music cohort a decade ago that had no idea what mastering a record meant — and sending out CDs straight from the mix — it’s populated with many young participants who have not been exposed to best practices like song registration. And, on a purely subjective note, this asks the question, what is a song? Much of EDM is more of a technical construction of sonic elements than a composition of lyrics and melody.

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