Registering my Music – PRS & PPL

Written by Geoff Pearce |

Why Register Your Music?

Your music is Intellectual Property and as such carries a copyright. You own it, like you might own a mobile phone or a car. You own the copyright or the right to ‘copy’ or ‘use’ it. As such it is protected in law, just as physical possessions are. You can make your music available to others but by law, unless you grant permission otherwise, they have to pay you. 

By registering your music your benefits are essentially two fold:

  • You establish and register the ownership of your music and 

  • You engender the collection of royalties for your music.

How do I Copyright my Music?

You don’t have to. Copyright is automatic. It’s not a patent for a gadget or invention that you apply for and wait to be granted. Copyright exists when the music is created.

What Copyright are we talking here?

Essentially, we’re talking two key Copyrights:

  • The Song Copyright and

  • The Recording Copyright

The Song Copyright is the copyright in the composition of the song – the melody, the words, the structure.  

The Recording Copyright is when you make a recording. This might be just vocals and keys or guitar or it may be a whole orchestra. It may be a rough demo or it may be a mixed, mastered final version.

What if you Record someone else’s song, a cover?

If you record a ‘cover’ you own the Recording Copyright but the original songwriter owns the Song Copyright. You can earn royalties from the Recording Copyright but the original songwriter must be credited and they will own the royalties on the Song Copyright.

Can more than one person own a Copyright?

Yes. With a Song Copyright there is often more than one writer. There have been many famous partners who wrote successfully together:

But three or four or even more writers of a song have not been uncommon. As long as the parties involved agree on the percentage split of the royalties then it’s fine. There is no ruling on this. It is down to the individuals to come to an agreement.

Recording Copyright

Recording Copyright, it is owned, on the one hand, by whoever made the recording possible and paid for the studio or production costs and on the other hand by the musicians who played on the recording. Traditionally it is a Record Label who pay the studio, the producer and they will pay session fees to the musicians in return for a signed MU/BPI consent form. The Record Label will have a long-term contract or ‘deal’ with the featured artist, the singer or band, and then they will own the recording 100%. 

However, if you make your own recording on your own equipment, play all the instruments and sing then you will own 100% of the Recording Copyright.

OK How do I Get My Royalties?

This is back to Registering! You get them via Collection Societies.

PRS For Music

If you are a Songwriter, you should become a member of PRS for Music:

PRS For Music collect the royalties for your song compositions wherever they are played. Whether on the internet via streaming sites like Spotify or YouTube or on Radio or TV or in live venues, Clubs and bars, Arenas and Festivals. In fact, anywhere songs are played whether live or recorded including shops and offices, Hotels and Restaurants. 

They are partnered with MCPS – Mechanical Copyright Protection Society. MCPS collect royalties when recordings of your songs are sold in any ‘mechanical’ device such as a CD, download or vinyl record.

Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL)

This is the Collection Society that will collect your royalties for the Recording Copyright: Phonographic Performance Ltd – PPL

You should join PPL if you make and/or own recordings or if you play or sing on recordings. PPL collect royalties for the playing of recorded tracks in a similar way the PRS collect royalties for the playing of compositions – from radio and TV and the internet and from clubs and bars and shops if they play recorded music.

If you produce your own recordings and play and sing on them, whether programming drums or laying down keyboard tracks or guitars, you should register with the PPL. In fact, you need to register with them twice! Once as the rights holder of the recordings and then for your performances on the tracks.

Registering your music is so important and something that many simply do not do right. Parallel Tribes offer a one on one service for musicians who wish to register tracks or check that they are, indeed, registered correctly. Please email for more info.

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