Collection Agencies explained

Last week we gave you our top 5 self management tips, leading on from this we thought we’d explain the world of royalties and have a look at the key collection agencies. So first up, what are collection agencies and how do they benefit you, the unsigned artist?

Collection agencies are organisations within the music industry that simply collect your Royalties. Every time your music is played on Radio, used on TV, Played in a pub or club, Performed Live, or sold, you are entitled to money. Without these agencies, collecting all the money that’s owed you would be an impossible task. There are three main agencies that will benefit you at this stage in your career. They are PRS (Performing Rights society), PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited) and MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) although PRS and MCPS have merged to become PRS for Music. These agencies collect money based on performing rights and mechanical rights.

Performing rights entitle you to receive royalties whenever a song is played or performed in public, for example:

• When your music is played on TV or Radio
• When your music is Listened to online or downloaded
• When your music is played Live
• When your music is played in a club, bar or shop

Mechanical Rights entitle you to receive royalties whenever your music is reproduced. This includes:

• When your music is sold on a CD or vinyl
• When your music is downloaded online
• When your music is sold on a music video


What does each company do?

PRS for Music

This collection agency works on the behalf of songwriters and composers and collects royalties based on your performing rights and mechanical rights. If a Radio Station, Business (which includes bars and shops) or a company producing physical products (CD’s etc) wants to play or sell music, they must buy a licence from PRS for Music. These institutions will then supply PRS for Music with their playlists so that PRS can fairly distribute the incoming royalties. If an artist covers your song, PRS will ensure that you receive all the royalties you are owed as the creator. You will be paid your royalties in instalments four times a year. The PRS works with other collection agencies abroad to collect the royalties which you are due from outside the UK. It is free to join PRS for Music. Zimbalam has a partnership with PRS meaning any PRS customers get a discount of £5 off our service.


Whereas PRS for music collects money on the behalf of songwriters, PPL collects money for performers. This means that if you have played on a record but not been part of writing it, PPL will still collect money for you. Much like with PRS, any Radio Stations or businesses looking to broadcast or play music in Public must purchase a licence from the PPL. The income generated is then distributed fairly amongst its members. PPL also compiles sales figures in order to put the music charts together. If you’re music is not registered with the PPL it will be unable to enter the charts. It is free to join the PPL.


The Musicians Union (MU)

There are over thirty thousand musicians in the UK represented by The Musicians Union. The MU can negotiate on the behalf of musicians with all the major employers in the industry. The MU also offers support for its members with copyright issues, contractual issues or unpaid fees. The MU campaigns for better rights for musicians. One example of this is their campaign to support small music venues in order to give grassroots unsigned artists a better opportunity to play live. If you become a member of the MU, their legal professionals will look over any contract you get offered and endeavour to get you the best deal. You will also automatically have public liability insurance so if any accidents happen during one of your performances, you won’t have to worry about being sued. Joining the MU is expensive (about £160 a year if you earn less that £13,000 from music), but if you are earning enough money from your music to justify that amount, becoming a member has definite benefits.


This post was written by Robert Hurst @rob_hurst, adapted by Hannah Donovan Zimbalam UK Manager @hannahbarracuda

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