Music Business

Quick Song Biz Tip: Songwriting Mechanical Royalties 101

by Clay Mills
Jan 29, 2022

What Are Songwriting Mechanical Royalties?

Every time a song you’ve written is manufactured (CD, Vinyl, etc) or downloaded on a digital music retail site, or streamed through services like Spotify; songwriting mechanical royalties are paid to you.

Mechanical rates are set by the Copyright Royalty Tribunal as part of the Copyright Act of 1976. The current rate for digital and physical sales is 9.1 cents. Unless your song is longer than five minutes long and then it increases to 1.75 cents per minute.

As a songwriter/publisher, you are owed a royalty every time your composition is reproduced (on vinyl, tape, CD, MP3, etc).

A record does not have to be sold, simply manufactured. If an artist records your song and manufactures 1,000 CD’s, then they owe you $91. If they sell 10,000 mp3’s on iTunes then you are owed $910. You get the picture. Songwriting mechanical royalties are paid per item manufactured. On services selling digital downloads the rate is much much lower and varies. 

If you record a song co-written or written by someone else on your own record, then you will owe that writer.

Therefore, if you are putting out your own indie record and have recorded songs you’ve co-written with other writers, then you will need to pay the mechanical royalties to those co-writers as well.

songwriting mechanical royalties

In addition, mechanical royalties are split between writers and publishers, so if you publish yourself make sure you are registered as a publisher to collect this amount. 

Write On! ~Clay

Clay Mills

Clay Mills

Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He is the co-founder of SongTown and has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay is also the co-author of Mastering Melody Writing and The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing.


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