Published Jun 03, 2010In today's music industry climate, it's a wonder any recording artists wouldn't claim royalties owed to them, but millions of dollars are left unclaimed every year. A new partnership between the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and SoundExchange, a non-profit group that collects royalties on behalf of artists, hopes to get some of that unclaimed booty into the hands of its rightful owners.
In a press release issued Wednesday (June 2), the two groups announced a partnership that would see AFTRA officially notifying its more than 6,000 recording artists that SoundExchange has royalties waiting for them from online streaming by various digital music services. According to the press release, AFTRA will send letters, email notices and, in some cases, make phone calls to their member recording artists informing them that they have royalty money owed to them.
As directed by U.S. copyright law, SoundExchange collects royalties when recordings are played on satellite radio, Internet radio or digital cable services. Since 2001, SoundExchange has paid out more than $400 million in digital royalties, with approximately $40 million more currently unclaimed.
"SoundExchange is constantly reaching out to notify artists about their unclaimed royalties, yet it can be difficult to get them to register," said SoundExchange executive director John Simson in a statement. "Many don't know about the law that entitled them to these royalties, or believe it's too good to be true. That's why partners like AFTRA are essential: they understand the value of our work and have existing relationships with those artists who can most benefit from registering. AFTRA is a great resource to artists, and hearing about SoundExchange from such a trusted organization helps reassure artists that these royalties are both real and theirs."
AFTRA and SoundExchange are committed to locating unregistered recording artists to distribute payments to them as well, according to the statement. A list of artists that are owed unclaimed royalties between 1996-2000 is listed here, and the 2001 to current list will be posted soon. Recording artists can register with SoundExchange for free, and new registrants can claim any back royalties collected on their behalf. Those who choose to join AFTRA pay union membership dues.
The moral of this story? Collect your monies, yo.