Let's Talk Music

Complete the form and comply - it does pay off!


Many people are familiar with the concept of a creator of artistic works, and perhaps the rights that accompany that creation. Think of copyright, publishing rights, and so on.

It’s one thing to have all these rights, it’s quite another to enforce them and make them real. Fortunately in South Africa we do have various systems to ensure the protection and enjoyment of these rights. It’s the responsibility of event organisers, road managers and artists though to comply.

We believe strongly that compliance with the system will go a long way to bring benefits to all parties involved, especially to the creators of original music, so today to take a look at the issue of performance royalties.

As you know, T-Musicman is a leading live music producer and promoter, so it matters very much to us that all value generated by musical performances is realised and made good to all who should receive a benefit – especially the composers, lyricists and publishers - who are sadly short changed if other people don’t do their bit.

We are also very passionate about the creation of original material, especially within the context of the developing South Africa that we are. In this regard we believe composers, writers of artistic works and publishers should reap the rewards of their work.

We comply with the system provided for by the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), and we believe all of us should comply too. For instance many a time we request performing artists and the road managers to complete a playlist or repertoire form backstage at an event. Sadly we sometimes get badly completed forms and this impacts negatively on the rights owners of the performed material. Compliance levels from road managers must improve – it’s only fair that they do their bit to ensure that the creator of the music gets his or her share.

To give you more information on the subject we visited our friends at SAMRO and asked them a few questions. Their key objective is; “to protect the intellectual property of composers and authors, as well as to ensure that composers and authors talents are adequately credited both locally and internationally for music usage”.

So if you use music to entertain people – as an event/party organiser, run a restaurant or club, play music in a shop, mall or other public space – we urge you to familiarise yourself with the work that SAMRO does; to learn and to comply. It is through the seemingly small things that we build and accumulate value that benefits artistic works in South Africa and the world.

Question 1
What are music royalties, according to SAMRO?

A music royalty is a fee earned by the creators and publishers of original music when their works are performed in public, broadcast, or transmitted via a diffusion service (such as in a shopping mall).

SAMRO collects licence fees from users of musical works, such as broadcasters, restaurants, nightclubs and other businesses that play music. These fees are then distributed to the rights holders in the form of royalty payments.

SAMRO represents more than 12,000 composers, lyricists and publishers – and, to a lesser degree, recording artists – in administering three types of rights:

  • Performing Rights royalties are the royalties earned by music composers, lyricists and publishers when their musical works are performed or used in public – for example, on radio or TV, in a business environment or at a concert. This is currently the main revenue stream of most SAMRO members.

  • Mechanical Rights royalties refer to the royalties earned by composers, lyricists and publishers when their musical works are physically reproduced on a CD, DVD, tape, video, MP3, or computer hard drives; as cell phone ringtones, etc.

  • Needletime Rights royalties are the royalties earned by recording artists (such as musicians, singers or backing vocalists, and studio producers, who do not necessarily have to be the authors of the work) when one of their recorded performances is played or performed in public, for example, on a radio station.

Question 2
Does SAMRO educate artists about their Intellectual Property, and royalties earned from music being played?

SAMRO has several initiatives in place to educate and communicate with its members, and notifies them of workshops, events, bursary opportunities and payment schedules through the following means:

  • Written correspondence
  • Quarterly member magazine – SAMRO Notes
  • Monthly e-newsletters
  • Annual financial report – available to all members and published on the SAMRO website
  • Annual General Meeting (including a pre-AGM session to discuss the annual financial statements in detail) – both open to all members
  • Face-to-face and telephonic interaction with SAMRO consultants - SAMRO’s doors are always open
  • The SAMRO website – www.samro.org.za
  • Brochures and pamphlets
  • Social media interactions (Twitter and Facebook
  • Traditional media – through regular interviews, articles and advertising

SAMRO also regularly interacts with members through workshops, roadshows and its participation in major industry events such as the annual Moshito Music Conference and Exhibition, of which it is a founding member.

In early 2012, SAMRO launched an exciting new initiative called SAMRO 24/7. SAMRO 24/7 is a new 24-hour communications hub that will enable the organisation to attend to members’ queries and provide feedback more speedily. They can now get hold of SAMRO day or night, on the toll-free telephone line, or via email, SMS or fax.

Telephone: 0800 247 247 (toll-free from Telkom landlines and for 8ta subscribers)
SMS: 45141 @ R1 per SMS
E-fax: 086 688 3616
Email: 24-7@samro.org.za
International callers: : +27 11 712 8039

Question 3
On the live music scene, what must organisers (show promoters, club owners, etc) and artists do to ensure artists get their fair share of royalties?

Firstly, a business that plays live or recorded music (including mobile DJs) on its premises must obtain the correct licence from SAMRO. This also applies to the organisers or promoters of live music events such as concerts and festivals. SAMRO will calculate different tariffs based on the nature and size of the venue and event.

It is also important for the licensee (the business or event organiser) to submit a complete and accurate playlist or usage return to SAMRO after the event. This helps SAMRO to calculate the royalties that are payable to the rights holders in each song (i.e. who wrote the music and lyrics, and the record company that published the work).

Information that needs to be provided to SAMRO by music users (e.g. broadcasters, venue owners or promoters of live music) includes:

  • The title of the musical work played/used,
  • The artist’s name and the composer’s and author’s names,
  • The frequency of performance (how many times the song was performed) and
  • The duration of each performance (how long the song was played for).

When it comes to foreign music, SAMRO has agreements with societies in 200 other countries, and its repertoire covers their members too.

Question 4
How do artists or musicians go about claiming their Performance royalties from SAMRO?

Performing rights royalties, as outlined above, are royalties owing to the creators and publishers of a music work that is used or performed in public – and these authors are not necessarily the performers of that work.

First of all, music composers and lyricists/songwriters need to apply to become a SAMRO member, together with the necessary documents such as proof of identity and a copy of the commercial recording or sheet music.

In order for the SAMRO Board to grant provisional membership status, the works notified by the author/composer must be active. In other words, they must have been commercially recorded, broadcast on TV or radio, or performed in public.

Members need to ensure that each of their original works is correctly notified with SAMRO.

Important information that must be provided in notifications by members:

  • Title of the musical work,
  • Duration of the musical work,
  • Names of the composer/s, lyricist/s and publisher, and
  • Share splits, i.e. who owns what share or proportion in the work.

This information is critical so that when SAMRO receives music usage returns from its licensees, such as radio stations and businesses that play music, it can ascertain what music was used and calculate the royalties accordingly.

Once this information has been received and processed, SAMRO will then pay royalties into each member’s royalty account during the annual distribution cycle according to the share splits. There is also a payment of non-royalty revenue (NRR) at the end of each year, derived from additional income (such as interest) earned on revenue before it is distributed.

SAMRO members should also be vigilant as to where and when their original music is played, and submit playlists and monitor usage returns where possible.

Question 5
What are you doing to help artists that have registered with SAMRO but have never been paid?

Again, SAMRO mainly represents composers and lyricists of musical works, who are not necessarily the same artists that perform or record those works.

The issue of non-payment of royalties generally arises when rights holders do not notify their works with SAMRO, or notify them incorrectly. These are referred to as Undocumented Works, which means that SAMRO has no record of them and is therefore unable to make any royalty payments to their creators.

Members are advised to get in touch with a SAMRO representative to see if there are any of their works that fall into this category. The problem could be as simple as a spelling mistake in a notification, which is easily rectified.

All royalties earned by Undocumented Works are held in a suspense account for a period of three years. If no one has made a claim on those royalties during that time, or if SAMRO has not managed to track down the rights holders, the money is added to the general distribution pool for that year.

Question 6
Why is it important for musicians’ road managers to fill the SAMRO playlist or repertoire forms at the festivals and other live events?

While the organisers/promoters of live music events have an obligation to capture and submit this information, SAMRO members should also take the responsibility of ensuring that any venue or event at which their music is played is licensed with SAMRO. In this way, SAMRO can protect the musician’s creation from abuse and being used illegally.

When a SAMRO member performs at any venue, he/she should provide SAMRO with the playlist of songs performed and the venue’s name. This enables SAMRO to double-check with the venue, and royalties can then be paid out based on the information supplied.

If the work is not notified and the playlist/repertoire is not submitted to SAMRO, the funds will end up in SAMRO’s Undocumented Works pool. It is therefore also critical for SAMRO members to ensure that all their works are correctly notified with SAMRO – in other words, that all the relevant information pertaining to the title of the work, the rights holders, the share splits and the publisher has been logged.


2012/03/15 08:27:41 AM
Complete the form and comply - it does pay off!

© T-Musicman 2012