Rights for Musicians – Part Three, the MCPS.

Duncan McCrone ends his three part series for Moneysucks with a look at the MSPS and the collection of royalties for the recording, copying and distribution of your music. He includes contact details if you need to get in touch with him about anything he’s written about here over the last few weeks.

“MCPS is like PRS in many ways, but it collects royalties for a different type of music use. Where PRS collect for the performance and broadcast of your music – from broadcasts, public performances, festivals, gigs etc. – MCPS (The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society – part of the MPA group) is the organisation that collects royalties for the recording, copying and distribution of it. Unlike PRS, MCPS will not take an assignment of these ‘mechanical’ rights (the term is a historical one, dating back to when music was copied mechanically on piano rolls, music boxes, wax cylinders etc) but acts as an agent for the copyright owner. That’s an important point, as the copyright owner will often be a music publisher – the MCPS royalties go to whoever actually owns the copyright, so if you’re published, you shouldn’t need to join MCPS – you’ll get your share from the publisher providing they are members of MCPS. As with PRS, MCPS is a not-for-profit organisation, funded by deducting a small commission from the royalties it collects, before distributing the remaining balance back to its members.

In a nutshell, mechanical royalties are due whenever copyright music is commercially copied by any means – pressing CDs and vinyl, dubbing music onto TV, film, ads, downloading and streaming, even loading music into birthday cards, toys, and so on. Although downloads and streaming are rapidly increasing in popularity, one of the biggest source of mechanicals is still from the manufacture and sale of CDs and vinyl records. The royalties are calculated differently according to the type of recorded use, but as a rule of thumb on a physical album, the music copyright owner gets 8.5% of the ‘dealer price’ (the price the retailer buys it from the distributor). Dealer prices vary depending on the type of release, but typically the owner of the song – whether it’s the songwriter or his/her publisher gets somewhere around 60p from each CD. Even over a few hundred CDs, it’s a worthwhile income stream, and remember it can be further boosted by downloads, streaming, TV & film synchronizations and myriad other uses.

If you’re a songwriter/composer/arranger of public domain works and are unpublished (i.e. you own your copyrights) and you can provide evidence that someone other than yourself is commercially reproducing your work, membership of MCPS could make sense. Like PRS, there’s a one-off registration fee.

So there you are – if you create music, you need to be part of PRS for Music to make sure you get properly paid when others use your music for their own commercial purposes – if you don’t take time to protect and maximise your royalty income, you’ll be less likely to be able to make a full-time career out of your music. For further information about both societies, the website www.prsformusic.com provides a good deal of additional background.

Please don’t be daunted by copyright – it’s really not all that complicated, despite what some folk say. I look after the PRS for Music Scottish Office, which is based in Glasgow city centre, and I’m always happy to meet anyone working in the Scottish music scene, so whether you’re a songwriter, artist, manager, record company, producer or involved in any way with music, you can contact me by email at duncan.mccrone@mcps.co.uk or by phone on 0141 333 1158 to arrange a time to come in – the advice is always free!”

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