Collection Societies – Why do we need them?

Collection Societies are needed to protect the rights of musicians and songwriters, to monitor the performance of musical works and to make sure musicians get paid!

A publisher will grant a license for a song to be performed or recorded and radio stations must make a record of what songs have been played. Larger stations purchase a blanket license so that all material played is paid for in advance. This money is then distributed amongst the members of the appropriate collection societies. Every venue or public area in which music is performed must have a license to do so.


There are two rights in every recorded track, (copyright in the musical and lyrical composition and a separate copyright in the actual sound recording) so every time a track is played in public, there are two license fees to be paid – one goes to PRS who pass the money on to the person or people who wrote the composition and the other goes to PPL who pass the money onto the people who performed on the track. If you have done both, then you can receive two royalty streams.


The Performing Right Society is an organization for songwriters and composers. It collects royalties for the performance of music and distributes to its members. All venues and internet streaming services must have a PRS license.


The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society collects money for songwriters and composers for the use of their material in recordings. The ‘mechanical right’, as administered by MCPS, consists of two of these rights:

  • the right to copy the work;
  • the right to issue copies of the work in public;

Mechanicals refer to the use of music in CDs, Computer games, Records Feature films, Audio tapes Websites, Music DVDs, Telephone ringtones, TV and Radio Novelty products and Videos Commercials. Money is collected from the sale of these items and distributed to the members.


The Phonographic Performance Limited collects royalties on behalf of performers for the broadcast of their work. The royalties are distributed to record companies, session musicians and performers. PPL licenses are required by venues to pay a fee to its members for the public performance of their music on CD or radio.

Other Societies

ASCAP and BMI are US societies which have agreements with the PRS to pay songwriters and composers for the public performance of works

 Important Point

Song-writing royalties are split between the publisher and the songwriter, usually 50/50. If you do not have a publisher, but you are registered with the relevant societies, you can claim 100% of the royalties. However, a large publisher can get your songs placed more effectively.

By Juan Lopez, Legal Consultant

Image source: Mike Licht

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