When making an album, I needed to find out how to license the music for the CD from MCPS/PRS who administrate the mechanical royalties for the copyright holders and composers of the songs.
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I visited the MCPS/PRS website and managed to find the relevant pages (which were not immediately obvious), so I thought I’d write about the process to help other musicians. I, like many of you, don’t have a record company to take care of the details.
If you write your own material then you need to register that you own the songs and then you can exempt yourself from having to pay a license fee. Their website explains
“MCPS songwriter, composer and publisher members have the right to set up an exclusion of their own record company from royalty collection arrangements.”
If you record songs that you haven’t written and are still in copyright, like I have, then you have to pay a percentage of the price which you intend to sell the CDs. This is payable at the point of manufacture.
The good news is that on the first run they allow you to make 250 in a run of 1000 units as ‘promotional’ items which excludes those units from the license fee. This is great news because the reality is that you need to send out as many copies as possible to reviewers and venues to try and promote yourself. The website explains:
“You are entitled to a promotional quantity in order to promote the record. The allowance for promotional copies is 25% of the first manufacture. You will be allowed to manufacture this quantity royalty free. The allowance will be available where 500 or more copies of the product are being manufactured. The maximum is 400 units per format for a single and 250 per format for albums. If you wish to benefit from this option, you should tick the appropriate box on your application for Licence (AFL). If this option is chosen, the record’s packaging must be prominently marked ‘PROMOTIONAL COPY – NOT FOR SALE’. Promotional copies which go over your allowance must be licensed under the AP4 licensing scheme.”
I had been told that you had to obtain the license before a company would manufacture your CDs but when I started to fill in the form, I didn’t get very far as I needed to know these things:
- The catalogue number
- The bar code
- The manufacturer’s name and address
- Exact track length
- The song publishers for each title
So, it seemed you needed to choose a manufacturer first and answer those points.
Fortunately for me, Andrew Cleyndert (who has his own record company Trio records) was at the end of a phone call to advise me. I realise that we don’t all have that help, so when I get home from tour, I will call up a CD manufacturers to see if it is possible for a civilian to get that information before applying for an MCPS/PRS license.
If you’re not a record company you need to apply for an MP2 License.
The website states in it’s FAQs that the process is as follows:
1. Customer fills in application form.
2. They send an invoice (within 10 days of receipt of application)
3. Customer pays invoice (within 28 days)
4. Manufacture of product can begin
So the website seems clear that the License must be obtained before manufacture but I found that you couldn’t fill in the form without information only obtainable from a manufacturer. Confusing!
MCPS say “You will need to issue your releases with a catalogue number for identification purposes. This can be whatever you want it to be, however we do advise you to try to make it unique to you e.g. MNPCD1 as opposed to CD1 as it will be easier to find.”
I am a member of PPLUK, which is an organization that collects revenue from radio play and distributes the money back to the musicians who have registered as playing on particular recordings. Andy advised me that I could set myself up a record company on my member profile. Once I had that information then the manufacturers can generate a catalogue number for the CD and I can put that on the MCPS/PRS form.
This is all a bit more tricky than I first thought!
I’m on tour with the Monteverdi Choir at the moment, writing this on the bus from Groningen to Schiphol airport in Holland where we fly to the Pisa Music festival in Italy.
It seems I need to make a few phone calls to get to the next step. I’ll keep you posted with my progress……..
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