South African copyright law outlines Performing Rights as three distinct rights in a musical work: the right to perform a work in public, the right to broadcast a work and the right to transmit a work through a diffusion service.
So, whenever an original song is broadcast, played or performed in public, the rights holders in that work should earn royalty income. The owners of the Performing Rights in a musical work are the composers, lyricists and music publishers.
A very important point: if someone sings or plays a musical instrument on a song, but hasn’t written any part of that song, they will NOT earn Performing Rights royalties from it. Singers/instrumentalists who are not composers may well earn a performance fee when they perform live at a venue or festival, as well as revenue from CD sales or downloads via their record company, but they will not earn Performing Rights royalties from SAMRO.
Here’s how it works: you, as a songwriter, assign the Performing Rights in a particular song to SAMRO to administer. You have to stipulate who wrote the music and the words, and who published the work. You’ll also need to outline each rights holder’s percentage share in each musical work. For example, if you’re in a band and a song was a collaborative effort, you need to indicate how the royalties should be split.
SAMRO then licenses businesses, individuals and broadcasters to use any of the millions of works in its global repertoire. From radio, television and internet stations to restaurants, nightclubs, music festivals, shopping malls, car washes and spaza shops that play music in public they all have to pay licence fees to SAMRO based on a sliding scale of tariffs. They also have to keep track of the music they play and submit detailed usage returns to SAMRO.
Based on the playlists and usage returns received from its licensees, SAMRO will then calculate the royalties owing to the composers, lyricists and publishers of a particular musical work, and will deposit the money into your account during its annual royalty distribution cycles.
So, that’s Performing Rights in a nutshell! SAMRO also administers Mechanical Rights and, through its subsidiary, the Performers’ Organisation of SA (POSA) Trust, Needletime Rights, which we’ll touch on in future editions of THE BEAT BULLETIN.