Most people nowadays are using royalty free music as background for their multimedia projects. Have you ever wondered what royalties are? In this serie of blog posts about the more serious business side of the music industry I try to explain some of the terms and concepts used. This is surely of interest if you are a beginning artist or some kind of field player (label, publisher, online music entrepreneur) making his or her way in the business.
The term Royalty explained
Before we talk about royalty free music I’ll start with the first word “royalty”. So what are royalties ? When you create an immaterial product you are the owner of it. You have what is called the intellectual property over the product. To give a few ideas of immaterial products: music, software, computer games, design, recipes, manuscripts, perfumes, patented inventions,… It’s important to mention that the actual person that invents the product is not always the owner: if you work as an employee for a company it is common that the company has the intellectual property on the product. When someone uses the intellectual property he usely has to pay a fee to the creator. The royalties are thus the income for the inventor.
The term Royalty Percentage in music
How does it relate to music? A musical piece can exist under different forms: a song with vocals, instrumental music or background music. In any of these cases the music is made by one or more of the following people that add immaterial value: the composer of the music, the arranger, the lyricist, the singer, the background singers, the musicians, the producer, the manager and the publisher. In the old days of huge hit productions in huge studios with tons of equipment all these different tasks where done by different people. Everyone needed to be paid so it was agreed with the record company that everyone would receive a small percentage of the revenues of the record sales, called a royalty percentage or royalties.
The term Royalty Free Music
Not all parties were always paid through royalties. Session musicians and backing vocalsits often were paid by the hour for their work. They agreed on a contract that stated that they would not recieve a royalty percentage on the sales of the record. They were working royalty free. This does not suggest they were not paid for the creative job they did, it only means they were paid a flat fee without any possible bonuses afterwards. Music can be completely or partly royalty free, when only certain parties involved are working on a royalty free basis. Hopefully you wonder yourself now “What does that affect the user of the music ?” Very good question! I explain that in a near future post.
In the meanwhile,
Royalty Free Music