Seven Types of Music Royalties Malawian Artists Leave on the Table

For emerging music creatives eager to navigate the intricate landscape of royalties and revenue generation, especially here in Malawi, here is a quick guide which can serve as a compass, shedding light on the 7 types of royalties you could be unlocking on your musical journey.

#1 Mechanical Royalties: The Backbone of Recordings

Mechanical royalties come into play when your music is reproduced or distributed, be it through physical copies like CDs or vinyl or digital downloads. As an emerging artist, understanding how mechanical royalties work is crucial, especially in a landscape dominated by digital platforms.

The rise of digital platforms presents an opportunity. The Malawian audience is now embracing streaming culture; therefore, as an artist you should focus on distributing your music through digital channels and physical channels.

Just make sure you are properly registered with Cosoma or any other performing rights organisation to receive your mechanical royalties. When you go to Cosoma, ask to know more about signing up for digital finger-printing service and how it works!

#2 Performance Royalties: The Stage’s Resonance

When your music graces the airwaves, public spaces, or streaming platforms, performance royalties come into play. These royalties are earned whenever your music is performed publicly, emphasizing the importance of registering your work with performance rights organizations (PROs) like Cosoma, despite whatever reservations you might have about their efficiency.

#3 Synchronization (Sync) Royalties: The Cinematic Symphony

When your music is used to enhance visuals such as a movie scene or TV commercial, sync royalties come into play. Our slowly budding local content creation and film industry scenes have the potential to unlock this type of royalties for local artists. Emerging artists can explore licensing their music for visual media, unlocking a realm of creative and financial opportunities.

With sync royalties, whether you are an emerging or established artists, you stand a chance of having your music featured in movies or different types of visual media. Apart from receiving sync royalties, you should also negotiate for an upfront fee unless you have reached a different type of agreement with the other party. Be sure to sign contracts and consult a lawyer when dealing with a sync opportunity.

The sync industry you can tap into is not limited to Malawi, you can also land sync opportunities in other countries around the world which would result in higher royalties for you when converted to the local currency. So, don’t box yourself in!

The global sync industry is always looking for unique sounds to accompany soundtracks and visuals on the global stage, you never know who comes across your style of music and decides to feature it in their work.

Even though the Malawian sync industry hasn’t fully blossomed and remains an untapped source of income for Malawian creatives, Malawian artists should actively seek local licensing opportunities for their music in visual media and collaborate with local filmmakers and advertisers.

#4 Print Music Royalties: The Written Score

For those artists who dabble in sheet music or scores, print music royalties come to the forefront. Any time your written compositions are reproduced in print or digital form, you stand to earn royalties for your creative notation.

While print music may not be as dominant in Malawi, artists who create sheet music or scores could explore partnerships with educational institutions and music schools. Collaborations with local music educators could also create a demand for printed music.

#5 Digital Performance Royalties: Streaming in the Digital Dawn

In the age of streaming, digital performance royalties take center stage. Artists earn revenue when their music is played on digital platforms, emphasizing the significance of making your mark on streaming services.

As it stands, streaming numbers for a Malawian artist are more of an indicator of reaching a wider audience, depending on what the analytics reveal about the major sources of audiences in the backend, than they are about getting paid.

As streaming platforms gain popularity across Africa, Malawian artists should continue to leverage these platforms to maximize their digital performance royalties. Focus on creating a strong online presence and engaging with digital platforms to ensure proper monetization of your music.

#6 Broadcast Royalties: Airwaves Echoing Success

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When your music graces the airwaves on traditional radio or digital radio platforms, you’re entitled to broadcast royalties. As an emerging artist, understanding the nuances of radio play can be pivotal to your financial landscape.

The existing radio play system in Malawi lacks clarity in its operational mechanisms, at least from our understanding. Although Malawian radio stations showcase a diverse array of local music, there’s a discernible need for more expansive programming.

The industry would greatly benefit from diversified major radio programs that actively feature alternative and unconventional genres of Malawian music, contributing to the overall growth and vibrancy of the music landscape.

The radio industry should work on improving reporting mechanisms to ensure accurate royalty distribution for artists.

#7 Foreign Royalties: A Global Overture

For artists with international appeal, foreign royalties come into play when your music is performed or sold outside your home country. Navigating the complexities of global royalties can significantly broaden your revenue streams.

Ask Cosoma about any foreign royalties you know of from specific countries you know your music is being performed or sold. As your PRO, one of their functions is collect those royalties on your behalf.

Malawian artists can tap into foreign markets through collaborations, international distribution, and participation in global events. Establishing connections with foreign PROs and understanding international copyright laws can facilitate the collection of foreign royalties.

Alternatively, there are other platforms such as SongTrust, which you would have to pay for, who can collect different types of royalties on your behalf. As you embark on your music career, aim to understand the diverse avenues of royalties that can empower you as an emerging artist.

Registering your work with relevant organizations, such as Cosoma, is a good first step, followed by exploring licensing opportunities (locally and globally), and staying informed about the ever-evolving music industry landscape, are ways to help position you for success in the world of royalties.

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