The term Royalty Free music was introduced by some very canny production music libraries to create a music product that sounded like you, the licensee, was getting something for free.  You’re not. The library is. The Broadcaster still pays performance royalties, but the library has negotiated a commercial relationship with the writer where he gets paid a one-off fee for his composition and master and the Royalty Free library collects the rest.

Here at soundlounge we hear a lot of ideas about what is Royalty Free Music. Most of them are flawed and misleading. So what is Royalty Free Music and why should you care? First of all a few home truths….

Home Truth One: There are always Performance Royalties due to the originator of music when this music is broadcast, whether it is a film, TV programme, advertisement or game, whatever the type of music and whatever the source.

Home Truth Two: Royalty Free Music libraries pay the writer a one-off fee and he waives his right to performance royalties.

Home Truth Three: The Performance Royalty is paid by the broadcaster to each Performing Rights Organisation (PROs) in the territory of broadcast and in direct relation to the number of times it is broadcast and when. They pay this money to the PROs whether the writer is being paid or not. The money is collected by the PRO and is distributed to the Library, who should distribute it to the writer.

Home Truth Four: You, the licensee, never pays royalties. It is not your responsibility to even understand the complexity of the music industry’s commercial accounting system. The question is, should you have a moral responsibility to choose ethically, ensuring that some of the commercial benefits you and your clients gain from the use of a piece of music go to the originator of the music?

Home Truth Five: Some royalty-free libraries…well, more next time – watch this space.