An Intro: Needletime Royalties

The establishment of an appropriate formula at which to levy royalties on the broadcast by commercial radio stations of recorded music is a vexed question – And for good reason. What I will do here is assess the issues, and present an overview of the way it works in various territories. Remember, as a recording artist, this affects you!

What are needletime royalties? Another way of referring to it is “pay-for-play” – radio, radio, you play my song, you pay. That seems simple enough, but remember (we are talking about broadcast rights, and) there are three copyrights involved in a given piece of recorded music:-

• the composition – a “musical work”, in terms of copyright legislation;

• the actual performance captured on the recording; and

• the recording itself – the one which captures that performance of that composition.

Generally speaking, radio stations have always paid a royalty for the compositional rights, i.e. in respect of the musical work. This is because each time the song is played on air, the musical work is reproduced. Reproducing a work in which there is copyright requires the permission of the copyright owner. I mean, it is ‘copy right’ duh?

To address obvious practical problems, from the broadcasting perspective, blanket licences are set up between the music rights organizations for each territory and the broadcasters.