Whether you’re an independent artist or signed to a label, you should be receiving some sort of accounting for streams, sales and other kinds of exploitation of your material. Independent artists will get sales reports from their distributor (Tunecore, CD Baby, etc.) while signed artists will receive royalty statements from their record label (for the purpose of this article, all forms of reporting will be referred to as “statements”). But some things fall through the cracks and it never hurts to check. Here a few things to look out for:
- Are all your tracks being reported?
If your track has been released and exploited, then it should be reported somewhere.
- Have you received statements for each accounting period?
Make sure your statements account for sales/streams in all 12 months in the year. Look out for any gaps and if you note any, inquire about them.
- Are there any territories where you know your music is being distributed that don’t appear in your statements?
We’ve probably all seen “Searching For Sugarman” at this point, but that was 40 years ago. Nowadays, you can get a ton of data on your fans via social media, YouTube, etc. So for example, if you have a considerable fanbase in Canada, it would seem likely that a portion of your streams and sales should originate in Canada.
- Are there any DSPs distributing your music that don’t appear in your statements?
For instance, if your track is available on Spotify, then Spotify should appear as one of the streaming sources in your statements. Conversely, if you haven’t authorized your track to be uploaded to a specific platform, it shouldn’t be available there.
- Are you being charged for expenses that aren’t yours?
Labels will typically recoup expenses from royalties due to the artist. If you’re signed, take a look at the expenses listed on your statements. You don’t want to be charged for somebody else’s studio time.
- Just like when you check your monthly bank statements, do the closing and opening balances agree?
The closing balance on a statement for a given period should match the opening balance on the statement for the following period. If it doesn’t, something happened in between and you should find out what.
- Did you actually receive the money?
This sounds obvious, yet still happens, especially when you go paperless. You might have seen the statement but not the payment. Make sure your mailing address and bank information are up to date. People tend not to chase you to pay you.
If you feel like there are more errors in your reporting, you might want to speak to an independent auditor about a royalty examination, which is a much more in-depth analysis that may include (but is not limited to) conducting fieldwork at the label, publisher, or distributor; discussions with various parties including attorneys, managers, and accountants; extensive data gathering; performing various reconciliations and analyses; and interpretation of your contracts and/or copyright law.