STOP! Do You Know the Difference Between Getting Paid as an ‘Artist’ and a ‘Songwriter’?

The above video appears in Ari Herstand’s new, free course, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed, on Soundfly.

Ari’s hand gestures aside, what we just saw in the video above is really, really important if you’re a singer-songwriter or performing artist who writes and performs your own work. So many artists miss out on tons of available royalty payments because they’re not setting themselves up correctly to accept them.

This is, in fact, the biggest reason why we reached out to independent music industry guru Ari Herstand and asked him to create a free course for Soundfly focused solely on how to get all the royalties you never knew existed!

This is money that belongs to you as an artist and is sitting in a fund somewhere with your name on it, waiting for you to show up and say, “That’s mine.” It may not be much — we all know streaming royalties are measly (though that might change soon) — but knowing where your revenue comes from and being empowered to collect it will make you a stronger force in the music industry.

Now, back to the question at hand: Do you know the difference between “artist” and “songwriter” when it comes to royalties?

The distinction between artist and songwriter is essential, because there are royalties specifically for artists, and there are royalties specifically for songwriters. The complicated part is that a lot of us are both, and eligible to collect royalties as both, but these terms aren’t interchangeable.

An artist records sound recordings (masters). An artist can be a singer, musician, band, or producer.

A songwriter writes compositions and songs. A songwriter can be a composer, author, or producer.

A Real-World Example

In the song “Diamonds,” Rihanna is the artist who performs the sound recording. Sia Furler, Benjamin Levin (Benny Blanco), and Stargate (Mikkel S. Eriksen and Tor Erik Hermansen) are the composers behind the lyrics, melody, and harmony. They are the songwriters.

When you press the play button below, Rihanna gets the artist royalty and the composers get the songwriter royalty.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “Get Press Coverage for Your Band with These Pro Tips for Writing Promo Emails”

How to Collect Your Royalties

There are different channels you need to utilized in order to collect royalties depending on your role within the song or work.

To get all of your royalties as a Songwriter, you need to:

  • Sign up with a PRO (Performing Rights Organization)
  • Sign up with a publisher, an admin publishing company, or self-publish
  • Approach or sign up with licensing companies

To get all of your royalties as an Artist, you need to:

  • Sign up with a digital distribution company
  • Sign up for SoundExchange as both an artist and the label
  • Approach or sign up with licensing companies

Here’s a handy graphic in case it’s still confusing:

Now that you know the difference between signing up as an artist vs. a songwriter and where to go to claim those royalties, you need to learn about all the different types of royalties that exist to make sure you’re getting paid appropriately.

It’s very likely there are probably a few payments you’re missing out on right at this very moment. Check out How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed, and collect them now. Did we mention the course is free?

Join our Mailing List

We offer creative courses, articles, podcast episodes, and one-on-one mentorship for curious musicians. Stay up to date!


6 Creative Ways to Stand Out in a Crowded Market

Authenticity and uniqueness are rare commodities in the music industry. Here’s how you can best communicate your brand and reap the benefits!


The Important Questions to Ask Yourself Next Time You Want to Give Up on Your Music Dreams

Just because you know this is what you want doesn’t mean you don’t call it into question… Be strong, visualize, and get back on the horse!


What Are the Different Tiers of Music Publicity Campaigns?

Thinking of hiring a publicist (or doing it yourself)? Here’s some helpful information that can assure you’re not wasting your time—or money.