A Path through the Jungle of Collective Rights Management

You’re a composer who’s created a piece of music? Or you’ve written the words to one? It goes without saying that you’ll be happy if it gets performed by an orchestra, a radio station, or a band. But how can you be sure of getting paid what you deserve?
That’s what collecting societies are for! There are different collecting societies that take care of people depending on what roles they play – roles like composer, lyricist, musician, music producer, etc.

So if you compose but also write lyrics, you should be a member of both the AKM (Authors, Composers, & Music Publishers) and the AUME (Austro Mechana). Because in essence, anyone who publicly performs or otherwise publicly uses works by members of these collecting societies (composers/lyricists) must pay a fee to the responsible organisation(s). These organisations then distribute the collected royalties among their members according to specific ratios.

Now how does it look if a record label wants to duplicate and publish recordings of your composition?

Here’s where Austro Mechana comes into play. The various collecting societies worldwide generally have contracts with each another, meaning that – with very few exceptions – Austrian organisations license the entire world repertoire in Austria while the entire Austrian repertoire can, in turn, be licensed everywhere else in the world. An example of this would be if a German radio station plays a piece of music by you: the money paid by that broadcaster would then be transferred to Austria’s AKM/AUME via GEMA, their sister-organisation in Germany. AKM and/or AUME would then pay you the corresponding royalties. If you’re a performer, you also have a right to compensation if recordings on which you’re heard are broadcast or otherwise played in public. This applies above all to radio and television – where the responsible collecting society LSG (in charge of exercising ancillary copyrights) documents the material used by major broadcasters. But venues like restaurants, bars and clubs likewise have to pay when your music is played there. For live performances, your fee is typically paid directly by the concert organiser – but you’ll receive extra income from royalties if the concert is recorded and broadcast live on the radio. The LSG can, of course, only pay out on a recording if that recording’s producer (!) has listed both it and you (as a participating musician) with them. So you should always make sure that the recordings you make get registered correctly. If in doubt, just ask the producer!

Finally, one more thing that’s good to know: copyright law protects all works for up to 70 years after their last living creators have passed away.

This series of articles, an initiative of the U30 Network of the Austrian Music Council (ÖMR) in cooperation with mica and the mdw, aims to provide help to young artists as they launch their careers. You can find the entire series at: www.mdw.ac.at/mdwclub/diplom-in-der-tasche

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