Mechanical royalties are a royalty owed to songwriters every time one of their compositions is reproduced, whether in a physical format or digital format (including both downloads and streaming). If you are distributing a recording of a song that has been written by someone else, or you have multiple co-writers on your work, then mechanical payments to the songwriter or publisher will be owed.
How mechanicals are paid and who is responsible for paying them varies on the type of digital music service, as well as the territory:
Streaming Services (Worldwide): Interactive streaming services, like Spotify and Apple Music, will handle the payment of mechanical royalties to the relevant publisher(s), songwriter(s), and/or collection societies worldwide on your behalf. The royalties you’ll see in your statements from these digital music services are generally already going to exclude mechanical royalties as the services will have paid out for you.
Note: If you are purchasing a mechanical license for a recording, in most cases a license does not need to be purchased for streams.
Download Sales Ex-United States, Pakistan and India: For downloads (i.e. iTunes, Amazon, etc.) sold in territories globally, except the United States, Pakistan and India, the digital music services will pay the mechanical royalties owed to the publisher, songwriter, and/or local collections societies on your behalf. The royalties on your statement for digital downloads outside of the United States, Pakistan and India should therefore already exclude mechanicals.
Download Sales Within the United States: AWAL payments will include mechanical royalties for any downloads within the United States, and these royalties will be noted in the ‘Mechanicals Included’ column of the CSV versions of your statements. It will be your responsibility for paying these mechanical royalties to the relevant songwriter or publisher who owns the copyright of the composition. The statutory mechanical royalty rate for permanent digital downloads is the greater of 0.0175 cents per minute or 9.1 cents per song.
If you’re planning on making a release available for download in the United States and you do not own the copyright to the underlying composition, such as a cover song, a mechanical license will be necessary. Mechanical licenses can be obtained for cover songs in the United States through services like the Harry Fox Agency’s Songfile. Please be advised Songfile is only used for songs represented by the Harry Fox Agency in America. For songs not represented by Harry Fox, which Songfile will note, you’ll need to reach out to the relevant publisher(s) or writer(s) directly to obtain a mechanical license.
Download Sales Within Pakistan and India: Obtaining licenses in other territories like Pakistan and India will likely require varying processes depending on the territory. The best practice is to contact the relevant music rights society or the rights holder of the original composition.
If you make physical music then this should be licensed with the local PRO/MRO for your territory, for example:
- MCPS (United Kingdom)
- CMRRA (Canada)
- AMCOS (Australia)
- HFA (United States)
Looking to register your music with PROs & collection societies? Check out this article on the Knowledge Base.