do bands get royalties each time their song is played on the radio?

ive heard that somewhere but dont know if its true…

Chief’s Domain -

I don’t think so.
How would they keep track?

Somehow they have some way of keeping track how much each song gets played compared to the others. They must sample stations to get a rough number. It gets trickier to collect abroad. Some countries have separate systems for domestic/foreign artists.

Bands get paid, according to hubby who knows this kinda thing ( I know everything else except sports and building stuff) every time their song/album is bought. If it is played alot on the radio by request, then it must be what all the teenie boppers are buying and ergo, the band gets paid.

I’ve wondered about this question for a long time and this answer is the best ( if slightly unsatisfactory) I’ve received.

I think (and I’m guessing here from hearing snatches and piecing them together) that it happens in reverse.

Record companies negotiate with Radio Stations how frequently a song is allowed to be played on the Station during a given period, and the Radio pays for that.

SO it’s not like they look through the days playlist and pay 25c per song to each Record Company, it’s more that they pay $1000 for the privelege of playing a song fifteen times a week for 6 weeks.

Or something like that.

Popularity of a song can’t be anticipated (in theory, though I suspect there are exceptions), so it’s most likely an ongoing negotiation, always in flux.

“Waheeey! ‘Duck!’ Get it?”
“Errr… No…”
“Duck! Sounds almost exactly like fu-”

Licensing of music occurs between radio stations and ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Performers.

The details of radio licensing can be found here:

ASCAP Radio Licensing


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

On the band’s end, ASCAP pays fees to the songwriters, not the entire band. One reason why all songs by the Doors were credited to “The Door” was so Manzarek and Densmore could share in the money (Kreiger and Morrison wrote most of the music). OTOH, one reason why Steely Dan kept losing members was because only Becker and Fagin were getting royalties, and they didn’t want to tour (which would have brought in income for the rest of the band members).

I don’t know how the amounts are determined, but radio stations keep logs of all the songs they play. ASCAP goes over these to determine what’s being played and how often, probably by sampling.

Pardon me, that should be American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, not Performers, but then, you knew that…


“Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it.” --Andre Gide

Well, music license is not my area of expertise, but the recording of
airplay is, as I work for a radio
trade paper. A large part of what we
print are playlists and charts of
spins – how many times a song is played. So yes, we do know exactly what songs are played by the stations that report to us, which are mostly
in the top 250 markets.

Up until a few months ago this was
done by hand, with stations calling
in their playlists with spins, added songs, and dropped songs. Since
June, most of the reporting stations
are monitored. There’s a research
company we work with that has thousands of people sit by
radios entering into computers what
songs are played and when. There are
other companies that monitor stations electronically, going by audio
“footprints,” but that is not nearly as reliable as just having people listen, since mix shows, different edits and the practice some stations have of speeding up records (see, you’re not imagining it!) screw up the data.


One summmer I worked for ASCAP spying on resturants and hotels that didn’t have licences or the correct licence per customer. Great money, free food, and we got cussed out a lot.

ASCAP takes their business seriously.

I went through the whole ASCAP/BMI thing when I installed a PBX in our company’s offices and wanted to install music-on-hold. They even have special bulk licensing fees for companies that provide music on hold. If you put a tape player or a radio on your MOH circuit without paying a license fee, you’re operating illegally.

Artists get paid a royalty every time their song is played on a radio station. I’ve been the ASCAP invoice for a guy who wrote some novelty songs, and it listed something like 220 plays, along with a cheque for a few bucks.

There are also royalty scales for ‘performance’ if someone plays your song as a cover in a concert, or uses the song in a movie, or publishes it on a collection of other songs or whatever.

How long would anyone want that job?

Many are part-timers and/or working from home. But it does seem a remarkably tedious occupation.

But now we know that those people you think play the same damn song 100 times a week actually do.

You know, I was just going to ask pretty much the same thing. Only, I want to know how much I would get paid per spin, if I wrote a hit. I’ve heard that Dolly Parton has made upwards of one MIIIIILLLION dollars for “I Will Always Love You,” which was a hit three times.

So, you know-it-alls, how much?

In the old days BMI would send your radio station several pounds of legal sized listing sheets and some big return envelopes to get those sheets back to them. Every jock would have a listing sheet in a typewriter by the control board and would type in the song title and writer each time they spun a tune.
This exercise would last one week.
Want to hear a collective groan from a group of disc jockeys? Start the jock meeting with the announcement “We’re being BMI’d starting next week.”
You participate in this because it’s part of your agreement with them.
ASCAP started borrowing the BMI listings about 20 years ago.
These days, with computerized playlists we just send in the final playsheet printouts.

Hang on! This didn’t answer chief’s question.
ASCAP, BMI and SESAC payments are made to the songwriter(s) not to the people who perform their songs. It’s up to the performers to work out their own deals with the club owners or record labels they work for.

Catrandom came up with the most accurate answers.

A coupld of misconceptions I got from this post I’d like to clear up.

First of all, publishing is paid not just for radio airplay. Theoretically, anyplace that has music is supposed to pay the performing rights associations for disbursement to the artists. This includes, but is not limited to, music in movies, TV commercials, piped into restaurants and bars, and even clubs. A big debate is brewling about getting bands paid for internet play and how to implement it, though one of the organizations supposedly already has this worked out.

Second of all, yes, it is not a perfect science how this is monitored, and each of the associations (BMI, ASCAP and SESAC) does things a little differently to determine this. Much like quarterback ratings, SOMEONE knows this, but they are complicated…

Thirdly, the songwriter does not necessarily get the money, whomever has the publishing rights to that music gets paid. For example, Michael Jackson owns a lot of the Beatle publishing. When you hear a Beatles song get played, Waco Jaco gets a cut.

Also, you might want to know that anyone in a band can hook up with any of the above mentioned organizations - even unsigned bands. If you are thinking of pressing your own CD up and sending it even to college radio, it’s a good idea.

That said, while all of the organizations try and help the artists anyway they can - with showcases, compilation CDs in the hands of important people, etc. - they are NOT there to push your song to be in Dawson’s Creek. That is the job of a publishing company, which an artists used for this puropse.

The artist will give up some or all of their publishing for (usually) an advance and having someone else working to make them money and/or increase their exposure.

Please buy The Business of Music for more details. Cecil himself recomended this fine book, and I cannot agree with the guy more.

Yer pal,

THIS Business of Music.
by M. William Krasilovsky and Sidney Shemel