Music Business

How Songwriters Get Paid: The 5 Minute Overview Of Songwriting Income Streams

by Marty Dodson
Jun 21, 2022

Several people have asked about the different ways songwriters get paid. So, here’s the 5 minute overview:

Publishing Draws for Songwriters.

This is a monthly amount a publisher pays to a writer that is on a staff publishing deal. These are really advances on royalties that have to be repaid out of incoming royalties. Once your catalog is recouped, the publisher pays you semi-annual royalty checks for money they have collected.

Sync Royalties.

These are fees paid by TV and movies to use your song. There are a million different ways these work and they can be very small ($50) or huge (hundreds of thousands).

Mechanical Royalties.

Generally, these are royalties on something that someone purchased. A downloaded song, a CD, a Vinyl Record, etc.

Songwriting Income Streams - SongTown

Songwriting Income Streams From Performance Royalties.

These are royalties from radio and TV airplay. The sync fee is a licensing fee to use the song and the performance royalty is fee for the song per play or per time played on radio or TV. This is one of the top songwriting income streams.

Harry Fox Agency

Collects mechanical royalties and pays them to you.


These performing rights organizations collect performance royalties and pay you quarterly, or in SESAC’s case, monthly. Perhaps the most important organizations when it comes to songwriting income streams.

So, as a writer, I get a regular monthly check from my publishing advance. I get quarterly checks from BMI. I get semi-annual checks from two publishers because I have two catalogs that have recouped. It’s a crazy system and very unpredictable, but that is how it works. Basically the only stable income for a writer is the publishing draw. That’s the only one you can predict from check to check. Hope that answers any questions you might have!

Write on! MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


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