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SongTrust: “We need more people to pay attention to their publishing”

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Songtrust is a music publishing organization that helps indie artists and working songwriters register their songs with agencies around the world while collecting royalties for radio play, television play, online play and other sources.

For a flat yearly fee of $50 for a solo act and $100 for a band, Songtrust will register 15 songs, create exposure for sync licensing opportunities, collect on U.S. and Canada royalties, while the artists keeps 100% of their copyrights and royalties. I first heard about Songtrust a few weeks ago, as I started to notice that they are doing some pretty heavy online campaigning with banners on just about every music related website on the web. So, curious me decided to reach out to them via email and I was able to have a brief interview with Songtrust’s Marketing Manager James Aviaz.

What were the issues within the current royalty system that prompted you guys to create Songtrust?

Songtrust was built to help independent songwriters and bands get their fair share of the $6 billion in royalties generated each year. Prior to Songtrust, writers would normally require the services of a traditional publisher to administer their works. Typically, this publisher would take a cut of somewhere between 15-40% as an administration fee and could require the writer to give up a percentage of their copyrights. With Songtrust, songwriters get paid 100% of all royalties we collect for them and keep 100% of their rights.

How does Songtrust make sure that writers and producers are properly compensated?

Songtrust was built by Downtown Music Publishing – they look after the publishing of stars like Motley Crue and Santigold. Their knowledge and relationships in the publishing industry mean that indie writers can now get expertise normally reserved for hit makers.

What are the differences between SongTrust and a traditional organization like ASCAP or BMI?

ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are the three performing rights organizations in the United States. Virtually every established songwriter in America is affiliated with one of these organizations. In addition to assisting songwriters with affiliating with ASCAP or BMI (SESAC is invite only), we also manage all song registrations, claims and day-to-day administration on their behalf. Beyond public performance income, which is collected by ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, Songtrust registers our clients songs with other collection societies around the world that are only open to publisher members, such as HFA and Music Reports, who distribute mechanical and interactive streaming royalties from Spotify, YouTube, Rdio and thousands of other sources.

How much revenue do artists lose yearly due to unpaid digital royalties?

So many indie artists find publishing overly confusing, so they’d prefer to ignore it rather than deal with the headache of registering songs with multiple collection agencies. Resultantly, you’ve got millions of songwriters who are potentially missing out on royalties – not just digital royalties.

How do you feel about the current compensation for indie artists on streaming music services?

We’re really excited about this! Both Spotify and YouTube signed agreements with HFA (Harry Fox Agency) in mid/late 2011, which means indie publishers and writers will start to see more royalties in the coming months. As streaming becomes the mainstream consumption method in years to come, this will only grow.

What are some of the challenges that Songtrust is currently facing?

We need more people to pay attention to their publishing! There are real revenue opportunities available to artists through sync licensing (for use of music in film / TV / advertising / video games) and the back-end royalties generated by those uses – and we want artists to get those dollars!

Where would you like to see Songtrust at in the next five years?

We’d like to be a part of a revolution in independent music to get artists paid more – and more often!