The RIAA is at it again, this time acting in the best interest of the recording artists. What’s happening now is that, on one side the RIAA is teaming up with the Music First Coalition saying that artists should get a performance royalty for radio play, while on the other side, they are saying that the current mechanical royalty rate of 9.1 cents per song paid out to songwriters against album sales, is much too high. The coalition of record labels wants to lower rates to as little as 5 cents per song per album sold, a rate that hasn’t been seen since the 80s.
According the Copyright Office the mechanical royalty rate was fixed at 2 cents per song sold from 1909 until 1977! That’s almost 70 years of the price of albums and tapes (even 8-tracks!) going up, but the payment to the songwriter staying the same.
The important thing to note is that this rate is paid to the people that write the songs, not the performers, and many times not the “artist.” so, for example, Britney Spears puts out a record, she gets a recording advance against record sales of several hundred thousand dollars, plus she gets paid 10-20% of album sales (depending upon the negotiated rate in her contract). That’s between $1-2 per album sold, while the songwriter gets their 9.1 cents per song per album. It is often the case with band’s like Atomic Brother, where the songwriter is the artist, so we would get the songwriter royalty and a percentage of album sales. Also, the songwriter usually splits their royalty 50/50 with a publishing company, which in many cases is the record company. So that 9.1 cent rate is halved to about 4.5 cents.
What does the record company get? All the rest! That’s a big hunk of pie leftover that they are crying about. What do you think is fair? Are the songwriters being burned? Is this really in the best interest of the artist?