Zoe Keating tries to make sense of the Performance Royalty System

By Zoe Keating, from Hypebot:

As a DIY artist it’s up to me to educate myself about the music business. I do my best, but some elements of it seem exceedingly opaque, in particular, performance royalties as handled by the performing rights societies such as ASCAP and BMI. The royalty “system” for radio and television is confusing enough, but I didn’t really know anything about live performance royalties. Here’s what I’ve recently learned.

A little over a year ago I got a booking agent, Mark Lourie of Skyline Music. He and the entire agency are wonderful and they’ve made a huge difference to my career. Not only does my agent get me great gigs, but he also makes sure I get the best possible deal and have a contract.

After a concert, there is this thing called “doing the settlement”. This is where the artist or their representative meets with the promoter, goes over the financial outcome of the night in relation to their contract…and gets paid.

Sometimes the contract is for a percentage of the gross revenues, but more often for me, I get a guarantee and maybe a percentage of “net” if it was a positive number. The line item deductions that go into the calculation of net are things like sound & lights, staff, venue rental, advertising, insurance, etc. There tend to be many things in the calculation of “net” and I can’t help but notice that one of them is ASCAP.

For example, at one concert I played last month the gross ticket sales for the night were $9336. Of the many expenses deducted, one of the items was $86 to ASCAP.

What is this? This is the nightly portion of a license fee that the hall pays to ASCAP for the permission to perform music by ASCAP artists in their venue. My compositions are registered with ASCAP, so I should get this money eventually, right?

Wrong.

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