How Can Artists Collect Foreign Radio Income Right Now?

You have money sitting in bank accounts in European and Canadian rights organizations. Why are you not trying to get it? The following is a sample chapter/excerpt from the revolutionary tell-all book by music business veteran, MOSES AVALON, called 100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business. Enjoy.

Moses Avalon

What money? My money is in a foreign bank? Oh yeah—a lot of it. In fact, while you could wait years for royalty checks from US labels, there are foreign agencies (and yes, Canada is a foreign country) that have cash for you now, if you know how to get it.

Unlike the US, just about every other country pays both the record company and the artist when their recording is played on radio and TV. In the US we only pay the songwriters. (This will change when we are able to pass the Performing Rights Act. But in the meantime…) the key to getting this sound recording money comes in understanding a term called “Neighboring Rights.” As the term implies, this is money for rights that neighboring countries owe to authors of phonorecords and is collected by Neighboring Rights Organizations (NROs). They are like ASCAP,BMI and SESAC, except they collect money for the sound recording instead of the composition.

So if a German artist has records playing on French radio, the French NRO collects the money from the French radio stations and pays the German NRO the performance fees. The German NRO in turn, pays the artist/label in their territory.

These warm and friendly rights are a creation of an international treaty called the Rome Convention, which was adopted in 1961. It protects artists and producers of sound recordings against unauthorized reproduction. It also covers certain “secondary uses” of music recordings, such as broadcasting.

This simply means that it creates a revenue stream that must be paid to the producers, labels and artists of sound recordings when they are played on the radio. Sounds great, right? How come I haven’t heard of this and where can I get some? Well, there’s just one problem. Two actually. 1) The US hasn’t passed the Performing Rights Act yet so we still don’t pay artists like the rest of the world, and 2) the real depressing news… The US didn’t opt into the Rome Convention.

Who else isn’t in the pay the artist club: China, North Korea, Iran and Rwanda. Great company.

So, the term “neighboring rights” means nothing in the US. We don’t pay Canada squat, and they don’t pay us either. And since we don’t pay European artists for this right when their music is performed here, guess what?— they don’t like to pay us either.

Instead, we pay digital performing rights for US artists when their music is performed on satellite radio and webcasts with a “digital royalty” that is collected by SoundExchange ( Meanwhile, the European money, which is collected for US based artists, stays over there. And here is where it gets interesting…

Artist and labels only have a limited window to collect their money before it “disappears” into the NRO “black box” bank accounts!


Sounds like a hopeless situation, right? Wrong. There is a workaround. More and more American artists are qualifying for overseas performance monies and a whole subculture of companies called “royalty recovery agents” has sprung up in recent years that specialize in finding and exploiting these qualifications. These firms can be expensive, often charging rates of 30% and a few grand in upfront fees. But the good news is, you don’t need them if you’re persistent and have some time on your hands.

One simple action you can do for yourself is to sign up as a US Artist in Residency with each NRO. Those that are familiar with US PRO’s will say “Wait a minute… you can’t do that and still belong to ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC!” Those individuals would be wrong. This is not ASCAP/BMI money, it’s a different revenue stream. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC collect for writers and publishers. NRO’s collect for owners of sound recordings: artists, producers and labels.

There is a way to collect this money and I can show you just how to do it. It’s time consuming, but can be worth it if you’ve got music playing anywhere on European TV or radio. In 100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business, there is a list of many NROs and the procedure to approach them. I also answer a few side bar question on this subject, like:

100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business by Moses Avalon– Why your lawyer will not help you collect this money, even if he’s working on commission. (Cant blog about it publicly. Too outrageous.)

– What ASCAP and BMI will have to say about it and what you should say to them.

– Which NRO territories pay the most.

Someday we will have a Performing Rights Act to help artists and labels collect this money but until that day artists need to empower themselves and get this cash!!

Support this site and expand your knowledge by picking up your copy of 100 Answers to 50 Questions on the Music Business, today. Available on Amazon books.

Do you have experience you can share with readers about collecting from these organizations? Please post your comments.


11 responses to “How Can Artists Collect Foreign Radio Income Right Now?”

  1. Jef Jaisun says:

    In the early ’80s I learned that most European countries at the time paid live performance royalties to songwriters who performed their own material. Denmark was making a big push at the time to get Danish songwriters to compose in their native language, rather than English. The hook: Danmarks KODA had an affiliation with ASCAP and BMI. If you were an ASCAP or BMI writer/member who performed in Denmark, all you had to do was file the forms and you got paid!

    I discovered other countries did this, too, so wherever I performed in Northern Europe I made sure I filed the forms. (This also provided a nice way to make sure people like Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry got paid if I performed their material.) ASCAP held on to my money for TWO YEARS, but eventually I got it. And in some cases the royalty checks for performing my own compositions were more than I got paid for the gigs.

    I also joined the Nordisk Copyright Bureau, which, as I recall, administered mechanical rights. Never got much out of them, but at the time the airwaves were still under the control of Danmarks Radio.

    A Performing Rights Act here sure would be nice. But don’t pass up the opportunity to make those extra bucks in Europe.

  2. Dan Peek says:

    Yo, Dan Peek here again.
    Because we recorded several of our AMERICA albums in England, an organization, PPL collects and distributes money for us and to us. It’s turned out to be a nice little windfall.

    The only scary part about the scenario is that small labels can be hard pressed to pay for players(musicians/singers) and is a great incentive for people like me to do all of my recording as true solo records, i.e., singing and playing all the parts.

    My guess is that the eventually all countries will enact legislation requiring payment of any and all musicians who performed on any given recording.


  3. Good one Moses as you know as a founder of Sade and performer on the bands biggest hit album to date I would love for the US to pay me as the ROW does:) I currently get compensated via AFTRA but frankly it is a joke especially when you can imagine how many times a day my drumming is featured on US radio shows! I have also heard of only one private org that collects for artists and they are expensive and guess what they only rep people like the singer of Sade so if you are a poor humble musician like me you get shafted once again:) VIVA the Performance Rights Bill in the USA and lets get those balck musicians paid for their work along with some of us poor white musicians……….Best of British. Paul Cooke – Sade Drummer

    • Moses Avalon says:

      Sorry Paul, I’m affriad you misread the piece. This is for US aritsts looking to get paid from radio play in Europe and Canada. Not the other way around. The US does not pay NRO money to anyone.

  4. allen wentz says:

    So, I need to buy the book to get the instructions on how to do this? Just want to verify that. Seems it could be well wortth it for me. Thx.

  5. David Forman says:

    Great issue to touch on. Neighboring Rights is something that musicians should be aware of. Our company represents NR issues for several high profile clients as well as several session musicians. But, this is something anyone should be able to do on their own.

    First off, the Rome Convention Treaty of 1961 is a must read. Do the research. Neighboring Rights applies to those people that are citizens of those countries. (Keep on reading because there are many many loopholes). Think of it this way – in the publishing world, the breakdown is as follows: songwriter collects 50% and publisher 50%. In the neighboring rights world it works like this: musicians collect 50% and master owner collects 50%. (Kinda of like a George / Ringo royalty for musicians)

    Yes, American citizens recording in the USA are excluded because the USA did not sign Rome Convention Treaty of 1961, but there are quite a few exceptions to that rule. In our roster of clients we have one of the heaviest guitarists of the 1960’s. All American, major hits that will be heard forever. He was signed to Warner Bros. – UK, and that qualified his estate to collect. That’s one loophole. Another session musician client of ours, records overseas quite a bit, that qualifies him. Several have done live albums in Europe – that works. Basically, recording in a neighboring rights country qualifies you. “Dude Looks Like A Lady” – Aerosmith, recorded in Vancouver – qualified. Same for Bon Jovi and Metallica for their songs/albums recorded there. I would imagine that for Metallica, outside of the Black album, would not collect any NR monies from around the world, but I suspect that Lars (drummer) does, as he was born in Denmark, automatically qualifying him.

    An interesting story happened with one of our clients. This fellow was basically an engineer, a Canadian (which automatically qualifies him) living here in Los Angeles. He engineered a record that went onto selling over 4 million units around the world, plus tons of airplay, etc. Engineers do not qualify, but while mixing he felt something was missing, so he took it upon himself to add some tambourine. Not realizing what he just did, he was now a musician and qualified to collect (which he did – rather handsomely). Several other loopholes include recording or overdubbing a significant portion in a studio in a NR country.

    Different NR Societies, different rules. Several countries will hold onto the money for say 6 or 7 years in a suspense account. If unclaimed, that money will revert either back to source or be divided up among other that are members of that society. Other societies may have an expiration date in one year. Once unclaimed, consider the money gone and never to be retrieved again.

    Must do’s: Always have your name on the packaging or registered somewhere (musicians union is good). Always include on the packaging, the name of the studio in that neighboring rights country (you must always have proof that you recorded there). Keep your NR society informed. Go through their list of songs that they have been collecting for. It would help to translate the titles that you played on into the language of that country (generally nothing to really worry about, but then again you could very well be surprised). One last thing, be careful when giving an organization the mandate to collect from other societies. Make sure they have reciprocal agreements in place.

    If a musician fits into some of the criteria mentioned above, it can be well worth the time and effort.

    Different story for the label side, but make sure you have your ISRC Codes handy.

  6. khareen says:

    Those persons don’t know how much is their money in the bank, because it’s much and they can’t even count it.

    Thanks for the post, I just hate rich people…i don’t know why.
    Thanks for the post…

  7. Hi Moses. Glad I have a good memory. I was just looking into International sub-publishing administration with a US publisher – who cannot (for obviously legal reasons) track this money. Luckily too, I’ve not yet joined Sound Exchange, which I fear may conflict with collecting this money from digital radio stations in NRO countries (am I correct on this?)

    Thanks to your blog, I remembered this income stream exists. It’s no surprise that US corporations (especially Terrestrial Radio Stations) have screwed us Americans yet one more way. I won’t count on the Performing Rights Act to be passed anytime soon, given our government can barely pass a debt ceiling agreement.

    Just one more reason I want to move to Europe! France, here we come, merci beaucoup!


  8. vance t. says:

    I’m curious…an artist I’m working with could possibly be going overseas to open up for a major artist…do those above mentioned rights automatically apply to him?(..incidently…he writes, does his own music tracks, sings his own hooks…soon to be producing)

  9. That guy thanked his ex-wife? Wow. I think that is wonderful!

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