WARNING… this is a long blog but HIGHLY recommended if you’re a self-releasing CD artist….
If you’re self-releasing an album, and you’ve finished mixing it, you’ll soon realise it’s very easy to get overcome with the amount of abbreviations you have to deal with…. PPL, ISRC, EAN, PRS, MCPS AP2.
For those of you’ve who’ve been through it before I can feel your stress levels rising at even the mention of those!
So this blog is an attempt to explain what these are, and why you need to know about them. This really is from a UK point of view. In other countries you’ll have different agencies that deal with them.
When you record and release your own album there is money to be made from royalties. Royalties are amazing. It kind of feels like free money when you get them, because you’ve already done the hard work when writing, arranging and playing on the album.
You can make £ from royalties when your album is playing on TV, radio or the material from it is played at a gig. But you have to be able to trace your track/piece of music, so that’s where our first abbreviation comes in PPL.
PPL and ISRC
PPL is the organization that licenses music to be played in public. If you are a rights holder (that’s you as a self-releasing artist) you can make money from this, as can the people who played on your album. It’s related to the actual recording, not the written piece of music.
You’ll first encounter PPL as a self-releasing artist when you’re mastering your album. Your master engineer will need to “Stamp” on an ISRC code onto each track he’s mastering. This is like a tracking device, so the PPL can tell when your album is played.
In order to get your ISRC code you need to register your record company with PPL. This is really easy to do. You can do it on their website http://www.ppluk.com/ or even over the phone. They will ask you for your catalogue number for your album. This is the wee code that you see down the spine of a cd. You can make this up. My record company is March Hair Records, so my catalogue no. is MHRCD001 for my 1st album, then MHRDCD002 for my 2nd album etc.
They will then give you your ISRC code (more info here http://www.ppluk.com/I-Make-Music/Why-Should-I-Become-A-Member/What-is-an-ISRC/).
This is a 12-character code with 4 parts:
1 – Country code (for us GB)
2 – your unique registrant code
3 – the current year
4 – the track code
You alter your ISRC code for every track you ever record, so that each track has a different code. 1 and 2 stay the same, 3 changes depending on the year you a releasing that track and 4 is the unique number you give to that track… totally up to you that number.
Your mastering engineer then stamps it onto the album.
However, you must then register every track you record that has an ISRC code, with PPL on their website. This is a responsibility you hold as a record company owner.
PPL split their royalties between the rights holder and the people that play on the track, so you need to be sure you also join as a PPL performer as you’ll get additional royalties for that.
When you register the track you say whom the rights holder is (you), who played on the tracks and give PPL the ISRC number.
You should encourage those who performed on your tracks to also join PPL. All those who are members (rights holders and performers) will have a membership number and this is how they work out who gets paid. If they don’t join you won’t get more £, so it’s no loss to you if they do
It’s a good idea to have a barcode on your cd design so that shops can sell your album easily. There are two types of barcodes, EAN (for selling in Europe) and UPC (selling in USA/Canada). I’ve only ever used EAN.
I buy mine from barcodestalk.com as it was only 5euros for one, and it came with the actual graphic.
MCPS is the organisation that manages mechanical royalties. Mechanical royalties are royalties when a track that you have composed/written is mechanically reproduced. 15 years ago mechanical royalties were largely given when tracks were physically reproduced at the CD pressing plant on to cds.
Nowadays however, this includes physical reproducing because of Internet track downloads such as iTunes and amazon.
You can also get paid royalties from MPCS if your track is used as part of the soundtrack to a TV or radio show.
It can be quite tricky to join MCPS, but it’s advisable if you think other people will be recording your tunes and also if you will be selling your music on iTunes Duncan McCrone is the Scottish MCPS guy, and he is extremely helpful. Email him via their website and he’ll help you out.
When you are physically making a cd of your album you need an AP2 license from the MCPS. This license takes a while to fill in online, but is a LEGAL REQUIREMENT THAT YOU MUST DO BEFORE PRESSING YOUR ALBUM , as it means that if you have recorded a song/tune written by someone else they get paid for it.
When you have filled in all the details for your album tracks and tunes, MCPS will then send you an invoice telling you if you need to pay for any of the tracks. If you only have trad. tracks this will be £0 but if you’ve recorded tunes by someone else you will need to pay some £.
The person who wrote the tune will eventually get the £ from MCPS.
PRS is the organisation that manages royalties for tunes/songs you have written and gives you money for them whenever they are played on radio, TV and at gigs if one of the green PRS forms has been filled in (many of you will have seen those).
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you join PRS is you are writing any kind of tune. Every time you write a tune, you should then register it asap on their website. When you do this if it is your tune, you say the share for MCPS and PRS is 100% yours. If you’ve written it with someone else, you add them in as a writer (there’s an option for this, every PRS member has their own CAE membership number), and then split the 100% between the two of you.
You can also make a small amount of £ when playing trad tunes and listing them as your arrangement (more in the next section on that).
Because you have registered your tune on the PRS website you will then get royalty £ when the tune you’ve written that is on your new album is played on the radio (well I say every time, not every station reports every track to PRS, but the BBC stations certainly do).
If you have filled out a PRS form at a gig and you’ve listed that tune, you will eventually get £ for it too. The same goes if anyone else has played your tune and listed it on the PRS form at a gig.
DEALING WITH PRS AS A BAND
As a trio, if we are playing a traditional tune or song, we split the arrangement fee 3/3/3, in the percentage split section in PRS. When you register the tune, there is the option to add another writer. Add in your band members there (everyone has a unique CAE membership number) and list them like you as arrangers. Trad actually has it’s own CAE number, but list that contribution as 0%. You’ll see there’s a % split option for MCPS and it’s best to do the same there.
Now as a band, for my tunes, I write the melodies, but as a band we arrange the chords and groove for the them as a group. It’s only right then that my band get a share of my royalties. In the past I’ve listed them as getting a share on my PRS, but under advice from Stuart Fleming (like Duncan of MCPS, Scottish PRS person Stuart is very approachable for advice), I’m now listing it as always 100% to me, but when I am actually paid, I then give them a percentage share. I of course keep a paperwork trail and give them a written remittance, so it keeps the tax man happy.
It’s only fair to do this. When we’re talking royalties from my album Jenn and Cammy put a heck of a lot of work into the arrangements, so deserve to be rewarded for it. However, it might be that someone else takes the melody and give it a totally different arrangement, so that way I will receive 100% for PRS royalties if that ever comes through. But, if they copy our arrangement and chords, I’ll make sure that Jenn and Cammy will still get rewarded when the £ comes through.
So, get your band musicians to sign up to PPL and PRS too, so they can get rewarded for playing on your album (through PPL) and for being part of the trad arrangements (PRS) and hopefully the arrangements of your tunes.
Doing all of this is a major admin headache, but I cannot stress how important it is to try and understand it and take the time to register all your music properly with both PPL and PRS (prs tell mcps the info so they can trace mcps royalties).
It is incredibly rewarding once you’ve done it as you can potentially make lots of £!!! You can’t get much of a better reason to spend the time doing it!