Royalties, in the music industry, are fees paid to a recording artist or band for the use of their music. The royalty administrator for a record label or performing rights organization will have numerous responsibilities, the majority of which relate to maintaining and updating the artist database and reviewing sales and airplay data.
The administrator begins by reviewing the artist’s contract to determine royalty obligations through all possible exploitation methods, and then inputs that information into the electronic database along with the artist’s name, address, and tax information. This person must continually update the database to reflect changes in the contract, payment information, and sales or performance data. At labels, the royalty administrator is also responsible for establishing escalation counters to track sales for each artist, and following those figures through to the database. He or she must regularly audit the sales numbers collected for accuracy, and prepare accounting statements to reflect the information collected. Performing rights organizations (BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC in the United States) collect airplay data from licensees like radio and TV stations, restaurants, hotels, and any place that broadcasts music; then they use proprietary sampling techniques and multiplier formulas to assign payment to songwriters and publishers.
After reviewing all relevant information with the royalty manager and supervisor and receiving approval, the royalty administrator releases payment and royalty statements to the artist, confirming receipt of payment in a timely fashion. Based on the schedule established by the manager, the administrator will prepare regular reports detailing trends in sales royalty payment and status reports regarding each signed artist. Dozens of royalty administrators may work at a single record label or PRO, and therefore each is assigned only a segment of the company’s roster.
Skills & Education
A bachelor’s degree or equivalent professional experience is required for this position. Appropriate majors include music business, business administration, and communications. A law degree is not required, though courses in copyright law, communications law, and other related areas is encouraged. These classes are offered at most universities as part of undergraduate studies. Advanced computer skills are also a necessity, and proficiency with spreadsheet formulas is a great asset. The royalty administrator should be a detail-oriented math whiz with an obsessive compulsion for organization.
What to Expect
This is an entry-level position, but it does require a strong understanding of the royalty tracking process, copyright, and music licensing. Experience as an intern with a PRO or with a record label in the royalty department is an advantage in landing your first full-time job. This isn’t the most high-profile or glamorous position in the music industry, but it’s a perfect starting point for the spreadsheet-loving numbers junkie looking to climb the ladder on the business side of music. It can be difficult to crawl out of the stable of entry-level workers, but those who are persistent and prove themselves capable will find opportunities for advancement as a royalty supervisor, or can seek a lateral move to clearance administrator, A&R administrator, or other role.
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