I'm an indie artist performing as Ten Summersets. My album Greatest Hits has not sold a single physical CD. I don’t even have any available. I have never performed the songs live. My Facebook page has 66 likes. I have 325 twitter followers (I'm following 799). I have 584 Youtube views and my website has had approximately only 321 total visitors since June 2013. Yet, I've managed to get my music played over 157,000 times in 2013. And for that, I've received $1,290.31 in royalties. So naturally, when I read the article about Bette Midler’s scanty Pandora royalties, I was intrigued.
I did the math. If you take $1,290.31 and divide it by 157,747 (the exact number of plays) you get $0.008 (rounded). That’s how much I was paid per song. Per her tweet, Bette Midler said her songs have been played 4,175,149 times on Pandora and made $114.11. That comes to $0.000027 (rounded). That’s not even one hundredth of a cent per play! I can see why she was disgruntled. Little did she know that this indie artist (that I’m sure she has never heard of) is making 296 times more than she is per song!
The Big Question
How did I do it? ...two words: Soundreef.
Okay, that’s two words put together to make one word. Actually, it’s the name of a company so I guess that officially makes it one word. Anyway, the company is Soundreef and I believe they have the right idea when it comes to performance royalties for music: Pay the rights holders as much as you can and pay them directly.
Soundreef provides background music for businesses worldwide. Any artist can go to www.soundreef.com and upload music to which they own the rights. Soundreef screens the music for quality and appropriateness. I assume they only want to use music that enhances a customer's shopping experience whether it be in a retail clothing store or a restaurant or wherever. Since my stuff is happy indie pop rock, it's a good fit. Soundreef is a competitor to ASCAP, BMI and all the other Performance Rights Organizations (PRO) everywhere outside of US and Canada. I am a member of ASCAP so I had to waive my rights to have them collect royalties on my behalf in the countries where Soundreef collects (I'll explain why I chose to do that in a minute). What I like about Soundreef is that they are detailed, efficient and fast. 15 days after the quarter ends, I get a royalty payment through PayPal for the previous 6 months and I know exactly which songs were played, where they were played, how many times they were played at each location and how much was paid for those plays (so far it seems that all my action is happening in Spain and Italy).
Government Is NOT The Answer
So much energy is being spent trying to get governments to legislate higher minimum rates from companies that obviously don’t see the value in music. Be that as it may, it appears Soundreef has spent that same energy forming business relationships with companies that do see the positive impact that music has in the marketplace. This makes for an ideal situation for an unknown independent artist like myself or a small independent label that is just getting started. We end up on the bottom of the sophisticated algorithms that PRO’s use to determine royalty distribution. I have my music on Spotify but it doesn't pay the bills. It doesn't even pay for lunch. This is not new information. The Trichordist has had plenty to say about this. But with Soundreef, it's simple. If your music is played, you get paid, but you get paid way more than Pandora, Spotify, Youtube, Grooveshark or anywhere that I'm aware of. And you get paid directly.
Now, I need to make one thing clear. I am very pleased with ASCAP because they provide so much more than just royalty collections. In addition, I support the Songwriter Equity Act and would love to see things changed for the better. I don't, in any way, think that PRO's are the problem. Nor do I think they are unfair in their royalty distributions. However, I am not on ASCAP's radar right now. Why should I be (see stats in the first paragraph)? I really have nothing to lose at this point by waiving my rights to have my royalties collected by them. With a major artist, like the amazing Bette Midler, the decision may not be that simple.
But... 4,175,149 plays multiplied by $0.008 is $33,401.19.
For me, that would certainly be something to tweet about.