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The Value of Internet Radio to Independent Artists (Part 2)

Show me the money!

Or maybe not

I often hear independent artists proclaim their love of music is the real drive behind their artistic passion. I say "hogwash". Not that I really use that word, but the word of choice I don't think I should say in this forum. Truth is, every singer, songwriter, producer, and publisher wants to make money from their craft. It's the ultimate reward. And the truth is......


....unless you are a songwriter or publisher you will make 0 cents from airplay in the United States.

You see, in this country, airplay royalties do not benefit the artist....there is no three-way split by the three major performance rights organizations (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC). If you are lucky enough to write, perform and publish your own songs, then the whole pot belongs to you. However, if your works are registered with SoundExchange you are entitled to a royalty as an artist. The problem with SoundExchange is that the smaller independent artists are often left out in the cold because independent radio stations cannot afford the exorbitant licensing fees (usually $1,000 annually). So many will require the artists to sign royalty waiver agreements.

Many artists who sign with labels soon realize that without residual royalties, they may not see any money from their works. If the label is kind enough to extend a publishing agreement, it will be partial. So, the split may be very small.

The lesson learned? Write, publish and perform your own songs to improve your chances of seeing any money from airplay. Of course, you know that, right?

So geniuses, how much are you entitled to receive from airplay?

I will admit, before I became a radio station owner, I had a very distorted understanding of how royalties are distributed by the Performing Rights Organizations (PROS).

The truth is this……..

……..the royalty rate you are paid by the Pros is based on the cumulative fees paid by the stations that play your music. That’s it in a nutshell.

So, if your music is played on a bunch of stations that pay the minimum licensing fees, be prepared to receive very little. Oh, and make sure to set up direct deposit or your royalties may only pay out once a year. And, don’t expect that any station is going to tell you how much they pay in licensing fees. You’ll need to be satisfied with what you get cause the Pros don’t offer much customer service to low earners.

Sucks right?

Well, the good news is that you can help to impact the change needed to make internet radio work better for you and other independent artists.


Well for starters, encourage your followers, your fans, people who like your pages, to actually listen to the stations that play your music. The only way stations can increase their value, is to increase their listenership, paving the way for better and more frequent purchase of airtime by advertisers. Publish links to these stations on your Facebook page and on Twitter.

Two, build a consortium of stations in your area that can actually point people to your live local shows and other local events. Venues love artists that can put people in the seats while providing broader exposure over the airways.

And lastly, during your shows, give a shout out to the local stations that regularly spin your music. The DJs and stations usually provide their services to you for free. In the world of independent music, promotion works both ways.

In a nutshell, internet radio stations that do not have adequate financial support, will not be able to afford to pay the licensing fees that enable them to play your music. Some may even be forced to change their format to play only royalty free music. Some may start to charge a fee for airplay. Some may go off the air altogether.

Many believe that internet radio stations are under attack by the licensing organizations because they stream content essentially for free, a direct challenge to the streaming services that must charge subscriptions to stay afloat.

Whatever the case may be, Independent Artists must become FANS of Independent Music if it is to survive

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1 Comment

dwight miller
dwight miller
Sep 14, 2021

Great point because radio is so commercial there’s no place for independent artist in any genre. The internet could level the field some if musicians do what you say in this post. As importantly is managing gits and having a tool to capture fan info. We will be beta testing an app that allows artist to capture audience information at shows so they can be easily reached.

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