Music Industry News Network [09-26-2004]

SoundExchange: Digital Rights Organization Announces Nationwide Search For Musical Performers Who Are Owed Royalties


SoundExchange, the first performance rights organization designated by the U.S. government to collect royalties on behalf of recording artists and record labels, is conducting a nationwide search for featured recording artists in order to disburse royalties owed. For the first time, performers stand to gain from non-interactive digital airplay—satellite radio, Internet radio and cable/direct TV radio—in the United States. If artists or their heirs do not come forward and register with SoundExchange by December 31, 2004, they will lose their share of the first royalties collected during the newly established organizations first distribution cycle- between 1996 and 2000.

Unlike ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, SoundExchange is the first institution to pay the actual featured performers for the public performance of sound recordings on which they appear, rather than songwriters, including many recording artists who have previously not been compensated. SoundExchange has already paid out almost $16 million covering over 200 million digital plays for approximately 6,000 members since its establishment in 2000. Based in Washington, D.C., SoundExchange is a nonprofit organization governed by a board of artist and label representatives.

Among the 38,000 artists who have not yet claimed their funds are such diverse acts as The Shangri-Las (1960's girl group who sang the hit "Leader of the Pack"), Black Sheep (1990's rap duo best know for "The Choice is Yours") and The Count Five (garage rock band who influenced many with "Psychotic Reaction").

SoundExchange will pay anywhere between $10 and approximately $6,000 depending on airplay. Every genre is represented including music in foreign languages.

"I am very pleased that SoundExchange has signed up thousands of artists. Our search, however, has made us realize how many thousands more we still must find. Today we are launching our most aggressive effort to locate and pay the deserving artists who are either unaware of their new right or who have not come forward to claim their earnings," said SoundExchange Executive Director John Simson.

Featured artists—those listed on the cover of an album—get 90% of the artists' share of royalties. An additional 10% of the artists share goes to the backup musicians and backup vocalists, via an independent trust fund administered by the, AFM and AFTRA. (For more info on this fund, go to In addition to these new U.S. digital royalties, featured artists who become official SoundExchange members by signing a Designation & Authorization letter are also eligible to receive valuable membership benefits such as the payment of foreign royalties. These royalties, collected on behalf of U.S. recording artists, are from both digital and terrestrial performances that SoundExchange has repatriated from certain foreign performance royalty organizations. Artists or their heirs, who sign up prior to December 31st, will receive both their past and current royalties in the first quarter of 2005.


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