Curious about Songtrust and what they do for artists? Learn exactly how they can be of use to you in our Songtrust review below!
While virtually all musicians these days can quickly and easily distribute their releases online, many hit a stumbling block when it comes to getting paid for their music.
There’s certainly money to be made by selling your music through your own website or through various distribution platforms like DistroKid or TuneCore.
However it often takes a partnership with a publishing administrator and a performance rights organization (PRO) to track your sales while pursuing prompt and accurate payment of your royalties.
(Note: If you live in the US, they’re called PROs, and outside the US they’re referred to as CMOs (collective management organizations) or you can refer to them collectively as collection societies)
The hard truth is, distribution alone only gives musicians the ability to get their music in front of fans and collect royalties earned for ownership on the master recording.
Publishing administration on the other hand, helps bridge the gap between your distribution efforts and the remaining 50% of the royalties you’re due from the use of your composition, which is a different royalty payment from the master recording.
The combination of these elements, if leveraged correctly, give musicians greater insights into sales figures, play counts, licensing information and access to actual payments for royalties.
Traditionally, PROs like ASCAP, BMI or SOCAN have handled the tracking and collecting process, but as the Internet came to dominate the listening landscape through streaming, artists needed a way to keep up in order to be paid for their work.
Furthermore, a PRO tends to only focus on public broadcasts or performance royalties that are owed to you, but only handle royalty tracking in their respective country/territories, leaving a gaping revenue hole for musicians who need to get paid for their plays…Enter Songtrust.
What is Songtrust?
Songtrust is a publishing administrator that focuses on the proper registration of your works at a global scale to ensure you’re not leaving any money on the table.
As a publishing administrator, they ensure that your songs are registered with collection societies around the world allowing you to collect your composition royalties from wherever your songs are used.
On top of this, Songtrust plays a pivotal role in collecting your mechanical royalties, as they partner with mechanical agencies worldwide which is something you won’t get from your PRO, or might not have access to as an independent creator.
In and of itself, Songtrust is not classified as a performance rights organization, but instead, they work with traditional performance rights organizations to help get you paid.
Songtrust is not considered a traditional music publisher because it does not take partial ownership of a song’s copyright or pitch placements for the music, but the company does work with both artists and music publishers who need a partner that can streamline the publishing administration process and get them paid.
How Does Songtrust Work?
In a nutshell, Songtrust allows songwriters to connect and register songs for international royalty tracking on their musical compositions.
When you upload a song with your distributor, it’s assigned an ISRC code that can be tracked across the streaming platforms that Songtrust partners with.
According to the company, this equates to more than 50 performance rights organizations and digital services that cover over 150 territories, so far. When a qualified play is recorded, Songtrust tracks this and payouts its users on a quarterly basis.
Once again, Songtrust is not a traditional publisher, so it does not handle the business of actually getting your music listed for sale anywhere online or placed on mediums like TV or film.
However they do connect creators, publishers and performance rights organizations to serve as a one-stop shop for tracking your registered works around the world and getting you your royalty payments.
So Why Should You Sign Up With Songtrust?
The obvious benefit of Songtrust is that it saves you valuable time and helps you to get paid more frequently.
If you’re an independent artist trying to track and measure every royalty owed to you, you’ll more than likely shave a couple years off your life. Not to mention the fact that this won’t leave you much time to focus on your music.
If you have a team behind you then it doesn’t hurt to let them do all the grunt work on your behalf but even then Songtrust has proven to be the go-to publishing administrator, not only for creators with large teams but for publishers as well.
Even if you are Tony Soprano, roughing up every platform or society out there that owes you money is certainly not your best use of time, nor is this even realistically possible for a DIY creator.
Outside of the time factor, Songtrust takes care of the administration and registration of your songs through their easy-to-use platform.
This platform also provides you with a number of tracking tools to help you monitor the collection of your digital income and royalties alike.
These two performance indicators are incredibly helpful in giving you a good picture of how your music is performing around the world, allowing you to make better business decisions.
Get That YouTube Money!
YouTube reporting is also a huge factor for me because the video streaming platform can be a goldmine for musicians.
Yes, you can upload your music to your own channel and let fans stream tracks directly, but I also like to look for additional monetization opportunities by pitching music to channels with a large following.
Whether a track of mine is featured in the background, an intro, a voiceover segment or anything in between, there is definitely money to be made if you can get your music streaming to a large audience.
Songtrust partners with YouTube to claim and monitor registered works, allowing for each stream to get reported toward your royalty payments.
If your music ends up being used in a video that receives millions of views, you could end up with a sizeable chunk of change.
Transparency and Resources
Another thing I really like about Songtrust is that artists receive transparency regarding policies and payouts along with a range of industry resources.
Songtrust offers things like a calculator to estimate royalties and a template to determine collaboration splits, but the company also gives creators access to e-books, checklists and other helpful organizational and educational tools.
The unfortunate truth is that there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the modern music industry, and it seems like there’s always someone seeking to take advantage of new artists.
The fact that Songtrust shares its knowledge and resources not only goes a long way in protecting the interests of all creators, but it also gives you peace of mind, knowing that you’re working with a company that has integrity and a dedication to songwriter support at its core.
Who Can Benefit From Songtrust?
While I truly believe that any musician can benefit from Songtrust’s services, the truth is, some will certainly benefit more than others.
If you haven’t distributed any of your music yet, a case could be made that you really wouldn’t need their services.
With that said, If you haven’t released any music and are just doing the odd show locally, then I’m quite surprised that you’re even reading this article.
If you are serious about your music career however, getting your music setup and ready to go, even when the royalties are small in the beginning is never a bad idea. After all it is just a one-time setup fee which you probably spend at the bar in one night out anyways.
The amazing thing about technology and how music distribution works today, is that the playing field for artists is now wide open and on a global scale. Granted you may not land super stardom overnight or throughout your entire career for that matter.
However, in this day and age, you could very well have a fanbase in some small town in Europe that you didn’t even know existed. Even if the royalties Songtrust finds over there are $10, $100 or $1,000 I’m sure you’d want to know about it and at that point, the service essentially pays for itself.
If you’re a more established artist who has some touring under their belt or aspires to, then this is really a sound solution. Unless you have publishing offers lining up at your door, a publishing administrator like Songtrust is a great option.
More and more artists are becoming privy to the fact that while solid distribution and having a strong online presence is great, if you can’t monetize and profit from it, you’re essentially engaged in an expensive hobby.
Songtrust helps creators to turn a corner and embrace the complicated world of publishing and licensing with little to no effort on your behalf, bridging the gap between the other areas of your music career.
With Songtrust, you obtain a partner who specializes in what they do and are able to work more efficiently than the artists trying to go it alone. While working hard is something to be admired, true value comes from working smart and getting results.
Pricing and Contract Terms
When I looked at Songtrust’s pricing and contract details, I was pleasantly surprised. One of the biggest pieces of advice I give to musicians is to never sign away the rights to your music, and as far as I can tell, Songtrust adheres to this way of thinking, making sure you retain 100% of your ownership.
I’ve listed the highlights below, but in a nutshell, Songtrust does not retain any ownership of registered works, and creators are only required to commit to their service for one year.
Keep in mind they do have to put in the work to get you setup and start knocking down doors for your royalties, so for you to just pull the plug after they’ve put in some groundwork isn’t exactly fair to them and most publishing admins will have something similar in place to guard against this.
With that said, artists are paid four times per year, and Songtrust takes a 15% commission from each artist’s royalty payments.
Now, I will say that 15% isn’t too bad, but you also need to factor in additional costs.
Did you have to pay someone to include your music in a YouTube video? Is your music registered with a performance rights organization that also takes a fee or commission? Are you splitting the royalty payments with other artists or publishers?
These costs can all add up, and then you’re throwing Songtrust’s 15% on top of all of that, so make sure the math works out for you.
Songtrust Pricing Details
Commission fee: 15% royalty commission
Deal Length: One year without penalty, can cancel service after term expires
Payment frequency: Four payments per year, paid quarterly, minimum $5 payout
Copyright ownership: Creator retain 100% of their copyright
Sync rights and fees: Creator controls his or her sync rights and retains 100% of negotiated sync payout.
*However, Songtrust can negotiate sync terms for its clients and in that case, it takes a 15% cut.
Pros and Cons of Songtrust
No service is perfect, and Songtrust is no exception. Below, I’ve detailed some of the pros and cons of working with Songtrust, but keep in mind that each artist’s situation and needs are unique, so what may be an issue for me may not be for you.
One of the advantages to partnering with Songtrust is that songwriters receive payment four times a year as opposed to the typical two payments made when you’re part of a performance rights organization only. Extra payments mean you get your money faster, and that’s always good in my book.
Collect the royalties your PRO can’t
As mentioned before, simply distributing your music to streaming platforms and registering with a PRO is just not enough. Songtrust helps you to cover your basis and ensure the collection of the royalties missed by your PRO.
Only a one-time fee
In the day and age of the subscription model, it is a breath of fresh air that you can sign up, pay once for this service and not have to worry about a recurring monthly or annual fee.
Yes they do take a 15% cut after the fact so perceive this as you may but in my opinion, if you’re not profiting from your music nor should someone else.
The one time fee essentially pays for itself over time and the commission is fair considering the value of the service being provided.
Direct Licensing and affiliations
Connected with over 50 performance rights organizations and digital services that cover over 150 countries and territories. I get a headache just thinking about having to create the relationships and deal with these entities on your own but luckily Songtrust means you spend less on Advil.
Creators Are Protected
I also love that Songtrust places such a strong emphasis on creators retaining copyright. As mentioned earlier, there are so many companies that end up trying to take advantage of musicians, especially in the early days, that it’s really refreshing to see Songtrust make it a point to clearly state that it does not claim any ownership of its clients’ work. Again, always keep your copyright!
Experts and specialized teams
I am a strong believer that in order to be successful in the music industry, you have to have a strong team of competent people behind you. These individuals can be hard to find, especially early in your career which is why leveraging the services of experts in a specific field makes all the sense in the world.
Easy to use and saves you time
This is a no brainer but essentially a relatable example is your cars need for an oil change. You can certainly try to do the work yourself but if you’re not an expert in the field, and chances are you’re not, you could cause more problems while wasting a lot of time in the process.
You could also avoid getting it done all together but this will also cost you more time and money to fix problems down the road. After all, the real reason we pay to get our oil changed at a mechanic is all about convenience.
Convenience which allows you more time to enjoy driving your car and gives you peace of mind that you’ve avoided bigger problems down the road. Songtrust and your music career are no different and their services allow you to focus more on your music, instead of endless paperwork, headaches and missed opportunities.
You Have to Commit to a Year
As far as the downsides go, I do have my reservations about the year long commitment. On the one hand, it’s only a year, but on the other, if I want to register my works and get paid through a different tracking and reporting service, I’m locked in.
This means I could potentially be missing out on a better deal and more money while I wait things out or risk a penalty by ending things early.
Although, it’s very important to mention that you’re not completely locked in for a year as Songtrust will let you leave early for a fee, and will help transfer information over to your new deal for a smooth transition.
Fees May Cut Into Revenue
The other thing that may be a problem for some artists is the 15% admin fee taken by Songtrust. Now, keep in mind that the company is providing a service, so they need to get paid too, and 15% isn’t a huge amount to ask for what you receive in return; however, depending on your situation, you may end up losing money as a result.
An example may be where you’re already a member of a performance rights organization that tracks and collects royalties in the United States for performances of your music.
Now, with the work registered through Songtrust, you forfeit 15% off the top of your royalties, which may not have been taken out if you had just relied solely on your PRO. Also keep in mind that a PRO does not have the ability to collect some of the royalties that Songtrust has access to.
Not a publisher so they do not help you land placements
While this may seem like a bad thing, the fact is, there are so many factors that go into an artist actually landing placements in things like TV, Film, Commercials, etc.
While you may see other companies proudly showcasing the placements their artists have received, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the artist would not have received that placement regardless of who they were working with.
More times than not, if you have enough pull as an artist, placements will come naturally. However, if you’re a fairly new artist looking for a publishing administrator that deals with thousands of artists to land you significant placements, this simply isn’t realistic as publishing administrators don’t help you land placements
Alternatives and Similar Services
It should also be noted that there are alternatives and similar companies to Songtrust out there.
I’m not going to go into detail about each one, but companies like CD Baby and Tunecore both give musicians the power to distribute their music independently and offer publishing administration services.
That said, companies like Sentric provide ways to manage royalty tracking, providing a very similar service to Songtrust.
I would advise you to do your own research as well prior to making any type of partnership decision, especially if it involves publishing or copyright.
Songtrust Review: The Final Verdict
At the end of the day, it is my belief that streaming and terrestrial forms of music distribution will continue to grow and play a larger role in music sales and revenue generation.
Just as we’ve seen with traditional cassettes and CDs, physical media sales are on the decline, and as broadband providers continue to open up larger pipelines of data to users, you can bet that streaming content is going to be the rule rather than the exception in time.
All of this means that musicians are going to need a way to ensure that they are paid for their hard work and talent, even if that means a few pennies per stream.
While we continue to experience growing pains as the market tries to settle on acceptable rates for streaming royalties, the hope is that one day we arrive at something that is more favourable to artists.
In the meantime, I feel like not getting involved with a company like Songtrust or a similar service would be a mistake.
Songtrust’s reach is already massive, giving artists the ability to track streams 24 hours a day across the world, which is something that can’t be found through traditional performance rights organizations as of yet.
So even if you’re already represented by BMI, ASCAP, SOCAN or another organization, having a partnership with Songtrust is pretty much a necessity at this point if you plan to monetize your music effectively.
Once again, just remember that traditional PROs already offer similar benefits to Songtrust but do not cover all the bases, which means you’re leaving money on the table.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to where you want to go with your music and how you plan to generate revenue.
Right now, it’s easier than ever to get your music heard by potentially millions of people with the click of a mouse and the right placement, especially through YouTube.
You don’t want to wake up one day and find out that your music was used in a worldwide viral hit that is getting plays all over the place and you’re not seeing a dime from it because you didn’t have each song registered and accounted for.
Having an additional partner watching over your music and keeping track of plays is never a bad thing, and as long as the terms work out for you, I think any musician could benefit from partnering with Songtrust.
I’d also like to hear what you think. If you’ve worked with Songtrust, what was your experience like? Do you have any advice for artists considering Songtrust? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts!