By Ken Foote, Director of Programming KTVT - KTXA

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Ever wonder how much money singers, songwriters, actors, actresses, writers, directors, and producers make on performance royalties of their work on radio and TV?

It’s a wide range and depending on one’s status, the amount can staggering or just a pittance.

Radio station with music formats pay monthly music license fees to performance societies like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Most music played on radio is BMI (which stands for Broadcast Music, Inc.) but a lot is covered under ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Artists, and Publishers).  Some music is covered by SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors & Composers ).   BMI was founded in 1939, ASCAP in 1914,  and SESAC in 1930. Members of these companies include writers and publishers of music that is subject to a performance fee when their music is either broadcast or performed publicly especially in a public venue where there is an admission charge.

For radio stations that have all-news/news-talk formats, they pay rights to use music composed by individual artists that are designed for those types of stations. If you listen to WCBS Newsradio 880 or 1010 WINS, both very successful all- news radio stations in New York (owned by CBS Radio, the copyright holder of this article), you will hear what we call “music beds” underneath the announcer’s voice…” From the CBS Radio  Hudson Square Broadcast Center in New York City…….THIS…….is W-C-B-S Newsradio 8-80!!”

TV stations also pay music royalties for music performed over their facilities. Some stations opt for paying on a “per play” basis (meaning paying only for what they use) or they pay a “blanket” fee which permits them to use anything that’s covered under a valid license.

The other type of royalty paid is for those individuals covered under collective bargaining. If you work in Hollywood as an actor, most likely you are a member of SAG/AFTRA, which is the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. And if you are a main star or even a guest star, each time an episode airs with you in it, whether it be network television, local syndication, or cable, you will get a royalty or “residual” check.  In the early days of television, residuals were only paid on the network airings and then the first six airings in syndication. For example, shows like The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy have residuals fully paid but yet are still sold in syndication some 50-60 years after they aired originally on CBS. Some shows have episodes never been seen since their original network run such as the black and white hour long Gunsmoke’s and Have Gun Will Travel. Some shows like Murder She Wrote aired on cable only because it was the only way to cover the residual costs driven by high profile guest stars. Other people covered under other collective bargaining agreements such as the WGA (Writers Guild) also receive performance royalties.

Hopefully, if you are lucky enough to be in a hit TV series and it is sold into syndication for multiple cycles, you’ll get some money for many years!!

See you next time.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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