How much does Led Zeppelin make in radio based royalties?
February 12, 2007 3:25 PM   Subscribe

How much money does a given band (say Led Zep) make each and every time a song of theirs is played on the radio?

I don't expect anyone to be privvy to the actual details of Zep's professional set-up, but does anyone have any insight as to what they (or any other staple of classic rock stations) might make every single time a song is played on any radio station in the USA - i.e., I've always imagined money continuously trickling into a Scrooge McDuck style vault.
1/10th of a penny, a penny, a nickel, five bucks? Any educated guesses?

Or perhaps they might receive a flat yearly fee for unlimited play?
posted by asparagus_berlin to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's a bit murky. For over-the-air radio, ie FM and AM, the station only has to pay songwriters and music publishers. The band and band's label get nothing in return for the "free exposure". With sat and internet radio, all 3 groups must be paid. Depending on the band's contract negotiations, songwriting and publishing revenues to the band-members may be minimal.

As you theorized, there isn't a per-song accounting going on, it's all yearly payments to the clearinghouse groups (RIAA for artists & labels, Harry Fox for most publishers, etc...), which then divide the funds up based on popularity formulas.
posted by nomisxid at 3:41 PM on February 12, 2007

You might enjoy reading this article -- How Music Royalties Work.
posted by ericb at 4:21 PM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Off-topic, but related -- Bands From '70s Seek More Digital Music Royalties.
posted by ericb at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2007

OT, but possibly useful.
posted by The_Auditor at 5:13 PM on February 12, 2007

From what I understand, stations do not pay artists directly. This is what artist rights associations are for - ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and so forth. Here's how it works:

An artist is releasing an album, so they decide to sign a deal with an artist rights association. Let's just say that they sign with ASCAP, for the sake of example.

ASCAP has what are called "blanket licenses." There are different types of licenses for different venues (i.e. clubs, stadiums, radio stations, T.V. stations, etc.), and ASCAP will make sure that venues that are playing their artists' music are keeping licenses active by paying their dues.

The venues (radio stations, in this case) pay a monthly or yearly fee to each of the rights organizations in exchange for being able to legally use ALL of their artists' recordings.

ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC (the major rights organizations) each have their own methods for determining which artists get paid, and how much. Basically, they do surveys of the license holders. For instance, ASCAP may survey a certain number of radio stations each day. They may ask the stations for a playlist with all of the songs on it that were played in that day.

Using some sort of complex mathematical formula too far advanced for us mere mortals to comprehend, they then determine, based on their small sample of a certain number of radio stations' daily playlists over a given time, how much certain artists are being played across the entire country. They use this to calculate the amount of royalties to pay out.

They split up the license payments amongst the artists based on how much play they believe the artists are getting nationwide. It's sort of like exit polling - a small number of people will tell exit pollsters who/what they voted for, and the pollsters are then able to extrapolate from that small sample what the national trends are by rule of averages, or something like that.

For special occasions, such as T.V. commercials or background music in soap operas/movies, special measure must be taken by the artist, the organization using the music, and the rights organization in order to assure that the artist is paid special royalties for that use. It generally involved an agent, who generally gets a nice piece of the pie, but that is usually all separate from run-of-the-mill radio play, as far as I understand.

I hope this helps.
posted by gaiamark at 3:32 AM on February 13, 2007

Let's see... when my ridiculously small profile Hungarian based Klezmer band gets played on the radio someplace, then that radio station includes us on an official play list that eventually goes to their country's Artists Rights beaureau. That company pays the German recording rights offfice GEMA, who then send a payment to my small German record label in Berlin. (I use a German record label because the Hungarian rights organization Artisijus is notorious for not really ever paying out any royalties to musicians.)

The actual amount comes to between US$ 500- $1000 a year, which I usually apply to paying for the artist-rate CDs that we buy to sell at band concerts. Like a lot of "world music" bands, we sell under ten thousand of each Cd we make, and there are five of us in the band, so we really never see any cash at all from royalties. Basically, untill a band is selling over 50,000 CDs a year and getting huge airplay, royalties don't add up to lunch money.
posted by zaelic at 6:45 AM on February 13, 2007

Colin Murray had The Brakes on his show last week, and they spent a fair while joking around about how much the band got in royalties every time he played one of their six second songs. Apparently they were getting £76 per play, which is about $150 USD.
posted by Kreiger at 8:56 AM on February 13, 2007

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