How to Protect Your Music and Receive Royalties

How to Protect Your Music and Receive Royalties

You’ve mastered your song, designed the cover art, and want to share it with the world (as you should). Before you release it, we want to make sure you have the information and tools you need to protect your music, properly send it to stores, and receive fair compensation for streams and downloads.

How to Copyright your song (s)

Your work is copyright protected the moment it is created. However, you can register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office for extended protection in the case of infringement.

Master vs. Composition Copyright

The master refers to the final sound recording of the song. Typically, the master copyright belongs to the performing artist and record label (if signed).

The composition copyright belongs to songwriters, composers, and music publishers. It is split into two categories of rights: the writer’s share and the publisher’s share. As a songwriter, you own both shares, unless you’ve signed a publishing deal with another company. The royalty split should always be 50/50 between the writer and publisher (if you’re acting in both roles, you receive 100%).

How to receive Royalties

Music royalties refer to the compensation you receive whenever your song is streamed, downloaded, played on the radio, etc. There are two ways your music royalties are collected: through distribution and being affiliated with a performance rights association, otherwise known as a PRO.

What is the difference between a distributor and a PRO?

The distributor uploads your song to stores such as Spotify, Itunes, Apple Music, etc, then collects and pays out the master royalties of the song. In order to do so, you need to go through a music distribution company. If you sign your song to a record label, whether it is indie or major, it will upload your track through their own distributor. However, if you are releasing independently, you will need to sign up with a distribution service!

Top two music distributors independent artists are using in 2022:


Distrokid is the most affordable route, as you can upload unlimited songs and albums for just $19.99 a year. Plus, you keep 100% of your earnings. Some perks include: a pre-generated , customizable Spotify pre-save page for each release, the ability to add songwriter and producer credits, synchronized lyrics in the store apps, and monthly royalty payouts.


Used by Ed Sheeran, Sam SMith, and Clairo, Ditto is a reputable, global music distribution where you can keep 100% of your earnings, access insights, and use a free smart-link for each release. Starting at $19 a year, you can release unlimited music, submit to playlists, access major label promotional tools, protect your music copyrights, and much more. Unlike other distributors, you can earn publishing royalties through Ditto as well.

A PRO tracks where and when a song is used to make sure the songwriter, composer, and publisher get paid. Each agency offers different benefits, pay-out schedules and licensing programs, so it is important to research which is best for you!

Top two organizations independent and professional songwriters and publishers trust to protect their music:


BMI is the largest music rights association in the United States, representing over 18.7 million musical works and 1.2 million songwriters, music publishers, and composers. Membership for songwriters and composers are free, while independent publishers have a one time fee of $150.


Ascap is the second largest music rights association in the United States, representing more than 850,000 music creators across all genres and licensing over 16 million songs and scores. For a one time $100 application fee, creators can sign up as both a writer and music publisher.

*Disclaimer: It is important to note that a number of these distribution companies and PROs are only available to creators living in the United States. Please make sure the organizations you select are based in your country or global before becoming a member.

Use a Split-Sheet

When working with a co-writer or producer, the topic of how to split royalties can be an uncomfortable one. We suggest you always discuss the percentage share of ownership before starting the project, and having a written agreement, also known as a split-sheet, to keep track of what each creator has contributed.

Download our split sheet below to take into your next session.

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