How to collect your music royalties in SA

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Making music is fun but knowing and understanding the business aspect will help you to build a sustainable career.

Sure, if you are starting out or unsigned, trying to understand music royalties, jargon and other business related matters can be overwhelming. But hey nothing stops you from learning and taking matters into your own hands.

As an Independent artist, it’s all on you. So don’t expect anyone to teach you about the music business and how all these things work.

What’s the point of creating and releasing music if you don’t know or can’t generate any revenue from your work?

In this blog post, I will show you how you can collect royalties in South Africa. So without further ado, let’s dive in.


Before you go any further, you should start by familiarizing yourself with RISA and how it functions. If you are serious about your career or building a business (record label) in this industry then you have to be affiliated with RISA.

You can either register as a fully-fledged member or apply for an ISRC code.  But I want to focus on the latter because I believe that is important especially if you release and distribute music digitally on a regular basis.

Now I must state that you don’t need to be a RISA member in order to get the ISRC code. All you need is a few documents like your company registration documents (yes you need a company), proof of address and your Identification copy and you’re all set.

An ISRC code is required by most music distributors for every release that you put out. This code is assigned to your audio or video recordings and is used to track your music.

In most cases before your songs are mastered, the engineer will request your codes (depends who you work with) and assign them to each track.   Registering for a code at RISA is the first step to ensure that you move in the right direction.

Performance Rights Royalties

If you have a catalogue of music (released or unreleased) sitting in your hard drive, then you have to make sure that all your material is registered.

In South Africa, you should start by notifying SAMRO about your music. SAMRO is the biggest music collection in Southern Africa if not Africa as a whole.

What SAMRO does is to administer and collect royalties (performance rights royalties) from music users and distribute all monies collected back to their members.

Members are composers, authors (songwriters) and music publishers.  Let me just give you a basic example of how this works.

Say I have retail shop and I want to play or use music in my business. Then I would go to the SAMRO offices and apply for a music user license.

Once SAMRO grants me the license and collects the music license fee from me, they would then distribute the funds back to members as music royalties.

Performance Royalties are derived from the following:

  • Radio
  • Television
  • Shopping Malls
  • Restaurants
  • Pubs
  • Night Clubs
  • Tarvens
  • Concerts/Shows

But you have to be a SAMRO member first in order to get your performance rights music royalties. You can do so by visiting their website and filling out the application forms and submitting all your music (notification of works).

You don’t necessarily have to submit mastered versions of the songs. If you have written songs without instrumentals or music you can still register your works.

Mechanical Royalties

If you have written songs which were released commercially then you are owed mechanical royalties.

When you write a song then you own the actual composition (Lyrics) or the publishing rights.

Mechanical royalties can confuse many but this is pretty much straightforward.

Here’s how it works:

Each time music is reproduced the songwriter is entitled to a mechanical royalty. For example a record label owes the songwriter money for each CD (Compact Disc) that is manufactured or pressed.

Here are other revenue streams derived from mechanical royalties:

  • Cassettes or Vinyl (I know this is old technology but I had to make my point)
  • Digital Downloads (from your label or if you have a distribution deal)
  • Streaming websites (Spotify)
  • Ringtones

But where do you even start and how do you collect all these royalties?

In South Africa you have to register with CAPASSO for membership. Their job is to administer and collect mechanical royalties on behalf of composers and publishers.

You can either register as a composer or a music publisher or both. If you are doing everything on your own, then it would make sense to register as a composer and publisher.

But working with a trusted music publisher would make things easier – Because they would handle the day to day operations such as licensing your music to advertising agencies, and television and movie production houses.

Needletime Music Royalties

Any working recording artist or label in South Africa is entitled to needletime rights. This is probably the lesser-known of music royalties for the novice artist.

This is how it works for the recording artist:

  • A needletime royalty is paid to you for any commercially released public performances

This is how it works for record labels:

According to SAMPRA a recording artist can be defined as the following:

  • A lead vocalist
  • Backing vocalist
  • A drummer
  • Pianist

……..or anyone who makes a contribution to the recorded performance (including the studio producer).

So that means as a session musician you are entitled to needtletime royalties each time a song (commercially released) that you worked on is performed in the public domain.

But that sounds easy on paper and but a challenge from a practical standpoint. Remember I mentioned RISA in beginning?

Well RISA is affiliated with SAMPRA, and that means as an independent musician you will have to register your record label with the RISA as a fully-fledged member in order to enjoy the benefits.

The process of applying for SAMPRA membership is similar to those of SAMRO and CAPASSO. You can apply for membership online and submit all the notifications of works which will be added on their database.


If you are serious about earning a living from your music then you have to ensure that you are organized.

Producing music and making sure that your paperwork is in order can be tedious and time consuming as Independent artist, I understand.

But it has to be done. If you have the luxury of working with a team then you can delegate certain tasks.

However don’t completely shy away from responsibly.  Because you still have to know how everything works even if you don’t do the actual work (like the registration of works) and so forth. 

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you would like to add your thoughts and opinions, please comment below.

Thank you for reading.

6 thoughts on “How to collect your music royalties in SA

    1. Hi Simon

      We are a not a collection society, so I can’t help you with that.

      SAMRO, SAMPRA,CAPASSO and others collect royalties, so you would have to contact them.

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