It sounds so simple. You are a record label. You own some recordings, meaning, you have a contract that proves that you own the master rights to some recordings. You send — or have a representative like The Orchard send — your metadata to SoundExchange (SX) to register your sound recordings. You get paid from SX (or from SX via The Orchard) when your recordings get played on Pandora, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, etc.
What could go wrong with this process? A lot, unfortunately.
- SX may be getting garbage reporting (no ISRCs, no UPCs) from the services that report to them, thus making it difficult for them to match reported tracks to their database, which may result in a mis-allocation of the funds received.
- SX may receive good reporting from the streaming services, but may not know how to match those royalties to the correct rightsholder. This is because SX’s database is full of multiple instances of THE SAME SONG. That’s right. Was your song on a compilation? Do many versions of the recording exist? All of those recordings were likely registered in SX’s database, increasing the odds that SX will match the ACTUAL recording played to the wrong rightsholder.
- Another company has laid claim to your recording.
Registering recordings for thousands of clients at performance and neighboring rights societies around the world, I see #3 occurring the most often and being the primary reason royalties fall into the wrong hands. But at SoundExchange, there is tool that everyone can use and provides a window into who is claiming your recordings: The PLAYS Search Engine.
I encourage anyone and everyone who owns master recordings to check it out. If you do not see your recording in this database, it means SoundExchange has not received any plays associated with your track (sorry). If you see your recording but the “Rights Owner” field is empty, this means that SX has received plays and no one has yet claimed the track. And finally, if you see your recording and another party is listed as the rights owner, you are missing out on performance income that is rightfully yours.
We all know that in the music industry, money often flows into the wrong hands, and SoundExchange is not immune to the data quality issues that are prevalent across this industry. With the PLAYS Search Engine, at least, they have provided a small window for the public to actually see where some of that money is flowing, and a means to correct it if it is wrong. So take a peek, you may be surprised by what you find!