Revenue Streams: Existing, Expanded and New

As part of this project, we have cataloged the revenue streams available to US-based musicians, composers and performers based on the contours of copyright law and business practice. On this page, we take this same list of revenue streams and organize them into three categories.

Click on the (+) sign for details. Prefix key.


Revenue streams or rights that have been in existence for more than 15 years.

C. Publisher Advance
Bulk payment to songwriter/composer as part of a publishing deal.Paid to songwriter/composer by publishing company.
C. Commissions
Typically a request from an ensemble, presenter, orchestra or other entity for a composer to create an original work for them.
C. Composing Original Works for Broadcast
Typically a commercial request to compose an original jingle, soundtrack, score, or other musical work for a film, TV or cable show, or an ad agency. Paid to songwriter/composer by agency requesting the work.
C. Sheet Music Sales
Revenue generated by the sale of songs/compositions as sheet music. Paid to songwriter/composer by publisher, or directly from purchasers if you are selling it on your website or at performances.
C. ASCAPLUS Awards Program
Awarded by ASCAP to writer members of any genre whose performances are primarily in venues outside of broadcast media.
C. Publisher Settlement
Payment from publishers to writers for litigation settlements.
P. Salary as Member of Orchestra or Ensemble
Income earned as a salaried member of an orchestra or ensemble.
P. Shows/Performance Fees
Revenue generated from playing in a live setting (for non-salaried players).
R. Record Label Advance
Paid to artist as part of signing a deal.
R. Record Label Support
Money from label for recording or tour support.
R. Sales at Shows
Revenue generated from selling recordings of music at shows/live performances. Paid to artist/performer directly by fans.
R. AFM/Secondary Markets Fund
Paid to performers on recordings used in film, TV and other secondary uses by the Film Musicians’ Secondary Markets Fund.
R. AFM/Sound Recording Special Payments
Paid to performers for the sales of recorded music by the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund.
R. AFTRA Contingent Scale
Payments paid to performers when a recording hits certain sales plateaus.
S. Session Musician/Sideman Fees for Studio Work
Revenue paid to you for playing in a studio. Paid by label, producer or artist, depending on situation.
S. Session Musician/Sideman Fees for Live Work
Revenue paid to you for playing in a live setting. Paid by label, producer or artist, depending on situation.
K. Music Teacher
Revenue generated from teaching your musical craft.
K. Producer
Money from producing another artists’ work in the studio or in a live setting.
K. Honoraria or Speakers Fees
B. Merchandise Sales
Revenue generated from selling branded merchandise (t-shirts, hoodies, posters, etc.). Paid to artist/performer by fans.
B. Fan Club
Money directly from fans who are subscribing to your fan club.
B. Persona Licensing
Payments from a brand that is licensing your name or likeness (video games, comic books, etc).
B. Product Endorsements
Payments or free goods from a brand for you endorsing or using their product.
B. Acting
In television, movies, commercials.
B. Sponsorship
Corporate support for a tour, or for your band/ensemble.
B. Grants
From foundations, state or federal agencies.
O. Arts Administrator
Money paid to you specifically for managing the administrative aspects of a group that you are a member of.

Existing revenue streams or rights that have expanded or now include new uses, usually because of digital platforms or services.

C. Mechanical Royalties
Royalties generated through the licensed reproduction of recordings of your songs. Paid to songwriter/composer by publisher, label, Harry Fox, or digital aggregator like CD Baby or Tunecore. *Expanded: Mechanicals are also generated on digital sales through stores like Amazon or iTunes.
C. Public Performance (PRO) Royalties
Revenue generated when your songs are played on radio, TV, in clubs, restaurants on streamed online. Paid to songwriter/composer/publisher by ASCAP/BMI/SESAC. *Expanded: There are many new platforms on which compositions are now performed, including satellite radio, webcasts, and interactive streaming services.
C+R. Synch Licenses
Typically involves licensing an existing work for use in a movie, documentary, TV, video games, internet, or a commercial. Paid to songwriters/composers either via publisher or record label, or via a direct licensing deal with the licensee (movie studio, ad agency, etc) if you are self-published. *Expanded: Not only are there a lot more opportunities for synchs to occur because of platform growth, there are also new rights including the digital synchronization license (YouTube, Vimeo).
C. Lyric Display
Revenue generated by the display of your lyrics on a website. Paid to songwriter/composer by publisher. *Expanded: while the right for composers to earn money based on the display of their lyrics is not new, the number of opportunities has exploded thanks to the internet and the growth of licensed lyric aggregation sites like LyricFind.
R. Retail Sales
Revenue generated from selling physical music in retail stores or via mailorder. Paid to artist/performer by your label, or services like CD Baby or Bandcamp that help musicians sell physical product. *Expanded: The internet and various services have greatly expanded the number of opportunities to sell physical product (Amazon, CD Baby, Bandcamp).
R. Neighboring Rights Royalties
Collected for the foreign performance of your recordings. *Expanded: SoundExchange has reciprocal agreements with a handful of foreign performing rights societies, which now allows for the flow of these monies back to US-based performers.

Revenue steams or rights that have been created in the past 15 or so years, usually because of the emergence of digital platforms and technologies.

C. Streaming Mechanical Royalties
Generated when compositions are performed on interactive digital services like Spotify or Rhapsody. Paid to songwriter/composer via your publisher, your label or Harry Fox.
C. Mechanical Royalties for Cloud Storage, Lockers, Limited Uses
An April 2012 agreement between the NMPA and services set percent-of-revenue payments for the use of compositions in various cloud and locker storage situations. Paid to songwriter/composer via your publisher, your label or Harry Fox.
C+R. Ringtones Revenue
Generated from licensing your songs/compositions for use as ringtones. Paid to songwriter/composer via your publisher, your label or Harry Fox.
R. Digital Sales
Revenue generated from selling music digitally/online. Paid to artist/performer by your label, or digital aggregators like CD Baby or Tunecore, or directly from fans via services like Bandcamp.
R. Cloud Storage Payments
Revenue generated from services that charge customers to store their music catalogs in the cloud. Paid to artist/performer by your label, or digital aggregators like CD Baby or Tunecore.
R. Interactive Service Payments
Revenue generated when your music is streamed on on-demand services (Rhapsody, Spotify, Rdio). Paid to performer by your label, or digital aggregator like CD Baby or Tunecore.
R. Digital Performance Royalties
Revenue generated when your sound recordings are played on internet radio, Sirius XM, Pandora. Paid to performers by SoundExchange.
R. AARC Royalties
Collected for digital recording of your songs, foreign private copying levies, and foreign record rental royalties, distributed to US artists by AARC.
R. Label Settlements
Payments from labels to recording artists for litigation settlements (, Limewire).
R. AFM/AFTRA Payments
Payments from the AFM/AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, which distributes recording and performance royalties to non-featured artists.
B. YouTube Partner Program
Shared advertising revenue, paid to partners by YouTube.
B. Ad Revenue
Or other miscellaneous income from your website properties (click-thrus, commissions on Amazon sales, etc.)
B. Fan Funding
Money directly from fans to support an upcoming recording project or tour (Kickstarter, Pledge Music, IndieGogo).

Prefix Key
C: songwriter or composer-related income
P: performer-related income
R: sound recording or recording artist-related income
S: session or freelancer income
K: teacher or knowledge of craft
B: branding or merchandise
O: other