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Music Beat

February 15, 2014

Copyright royalties can make you smile


6. The right to perform a sound recording digitally. If you own your own sound recording of your own song, you can collect performance royalties for all performances of that recording on the Internet.

Mechanical royalties may be paid by record companies who record your song.

Performance royalties that may be paid for live or broadcast performance of the song.

Synchronization royalties or fees may be paid by people or companies to whom you give a license to synchronize, or use your song with a visual work, for example, as part of a commercial or movie.

Print royalties may be paid if your song is made available to the public in print format. 

The songwriter may agree to license the song for special purposes such as using the song in a musical greeting card, or for toys, ringtone, or other special use.

The songwriter may receive royalties if the song is performed or played on a jukebox.

The song will earn royalties if it is used as part of a theatrical production.

The song may also earn royalties if it is performed or recorded in foreign countries.

Famous songwriters and their heirs rely on continued income from their music, even if their income as performing musicians dwindles.

The Sting song, “Every breath you take,” has earned more than $20 million since it was written in 1983.

Irving Berlin’s song, “White Christmas” has estimated earnings of more than $36 million and the heirs of the Hill sisters, who are credited with writing the song that became “Happy Birthday,” have earned more than $50 million.

Dolly Parton’s song, “I Will Always Love You,” has been earning these royalties for more than 40 years although she does not perform it anymore. She has good reason to smile. 

Dr. Janet Nepkie is a member of the music industry faculty in the music department of the State University College at Oneonta. Her columns can be found at




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