Success Story: Navigating (Battling) ASCAP for Infomercial Royalties

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  • #37073 Reply

    I recently had success in claiming some royalties through ASCAP’s insanely frustrating, jump-through-this-hoop-jump-through-that-hoop system and wanted to share my story and what I learned. Here goes:

    Two years ago, I signed up for a free account with TuneSat (music detection software) and uploaded the maximum of 50 tracks. After a couple months, I logged back in and was surprised to see a song of mine had been played 1000’s of times on an infomercial for a skincare product on dozens of different network and cable TV channels. It appeared as though the infomercial had been playing since the day I uploaded the music, and each time I’d log in to TuneSat I’d notice more and more occurrences piling up. On ASCAP’s website, they have a section about how to claim royalties in advertisements by looking up the ad on their partner site, Numerator, and sending them the Numerator ad code, plus a recording of the music being used in the ad, so I did that. There were several iterations of the ad, all using my music, that each had their own Numerator code. It took me a few hours to search the Numerator site for all of the different versions of the commercial. I sent about a dozen different claims to ASCAP, one for each version of the ad plus a link to my track and sat back awaiting a collection of pennies to come flooding my mailbox.

    After a few weeks, ASCAP wrote me back saying that all of my claims were invalid because short form infomercial royalties are processed through cue sheets created by their other partner site Soundmouse (also music detection software which listens for cues and automatically generates and sends cue sheets to ASCAP). I’m a bit bummed, but I want those pennies, so I register my song (and all my other tracks) with Soundmouse (pretty tedious to enter all of the necessary info for ASCAP to process royalties: need upload music file, title, writer & publisher IPI, ISWC, & ASCAP Work ID for each individual track), and again, sit back and await my small fortune.

    After a 9 months pass, and I don’t see any cue sheets for the infomercial enter my ASCAP account, I write back to ASCAP and explain that I’ve entered all the necessary info for the song to be processed via Soundmouse. I also wrote to Soundmouse and learned that they don’t report any info or detection of songs to the composers, they only report their findings to the PRO’s (which seems slightly fishy to me). A few weeks pass and I receive a response from ASCAP saying that whoever first processed my claims, using Numerator, was mistaken and that Soundmouse is not needed to process these claims. They say that my original dozen messages will be processed, and that the Numerator info will in fact be used to determine the number of plays because even though it’s a short form infomercial, any ad that shows up on Numerator should be processed with Numerator’s info, not Soundmouse. At this point, the number of occurrences of the ad is well into 5 figures. I’m psyched again and sit back, expecting a sack of coins to show up at my doorstep any moment.

    A month goes by and I receive a message from ASCAP saying that the original link I’d sent with my track (Soundcloud) is broken and that they can’t listen to the track to verify that it’s the same as the one being played in the commercial. Doh! This is completely my fault! I’d run out of space on my Soundcloud account and accidentally deleted the track in order to be able to upload an album to send to a publisher for consideration. This was about 11 months after I’d initially sent ASCAP a message with a link to my song, so it was easy to forget why I’d originally uploaded that track to my Soundcloud. I immediately re-uploaded the song and sent a new link to ASCAP. I don’t hear anything back for a month or two so I send a follow up message and receive a response saying that ASCAP has received everything they need to process the claim. Woot woot! Scrooge McDuck swimming pool of coins for me!

    Finally, after a year and a half of communicating back and forth with ASCAP, jumping through this hoop, stumbling through that hoop, I received a payment for publishing royalties on the song played in the infomercial for just over $4k! That’s just the publisher’s share (I’m the publisher on this song). I imagine the writer’s share in January will be the same.

    To break it down and get specific, some versions of the infomercial were 2 minutes, while others were only 30 seconds. ASCAP claims my music was always only used for 10 seconds (this is inaccurate, as the music clearly plays for a full 90 seconds at times), with royalties equaling as little as $.02/play all the way up to $2.95/play with heaps of $0.10, $0.15, $0.20, $0.75/plays. These plays came from almost every network imaginable on Univision, Local TV, with the majority coming from Cable TV broadcasts.

    All this to be said, follow those pennies! A lot of times they won’t be yours until you claim them. Load 50 tracks into TuneSat! I’d have never known my song was being played 1000’s of times if I hadn’t. Jump through the hoops, sometimes it’s worth it!

    #37074 Reply
    Art Munson

    Congrats Rhythmscott! My experience with BMI has been the same. Sadly we have to fight for our money. The system is so broken!

    #37080 Reply
    Michael Nickolas

    Thanks for taking the time to write that informative post!

    #37081 Reply

    Wow, thanks for sharing this. It’s sad to see how incapable the PRO’s are to do their job but i’m glad you got paid in the end 🙂

    #37106 Reply

    Thanks for sharing. It sucks that we have to go through so much crap just to get a drop of what we rightfully deserve…

    #37144 Reply

    Thanks for sharing! 1 win for the writers!! CONGRATS! Now if we could all get paid for those 1000s of Sports placements that ASCAP claims that never passed their infamous “SAMPLE SURVEY” we will really be making progress!!

    #37145 Reply

    Happy New year to all.

    To those who are stating how “sad and annoying it is that PRO’s like ASCAP don’t have our backs, make us jump through hoops, etc..” The Reality is that it really IS up to us to chase down our performance royalties for infomercials and tv spots. Cue sheets in the USA simply do not get filed for these projects. Advertisers, ad agencies, post houses, tv and film editors do not send any information to PRO’s on our behalf. No one is looking out for us on any level when it comes to these projects when music is licensed off of micro stock sites. A PMA publisher may have your back and claim this properly, but I would not make any assumptions even with PMA libraries. You have to be willing to dig up your evidence and file the claim. If you are in not willing to do that admin work, you really do not even belong making any efforts into this business.

    Soundmouse, and their non transparent role in reporting, is an issue I will never understand. It’s very shady that soundmouse refuses to share their data with composers who put in tremendous amounts of time uploading their tracks and metadata for each title. I’d love to know why that data is hidden from writers.

    #37146 Reply

    Thanks everybody!

    Yes, Music1234! I’m constantly reminded that the composing of the music is really only half of the work we do. Just as much time must be spent on the admin side making sure everything is in order.

    While chasing down the royalties for this infomercial, I had no idea what it’d end up paying out. I had read people saying that sometimes commercials only pay fractions of a penny per play and was prepared to make $7 to $11 for my efforts. I’m quite pleased that wasn’t the case, and also a reason I wanted to share specifics.

    Re: Soundmouse, I understand that they’d have tons more data to report if they were reporting to composers, but it seems like we live in the age where everything should be automated. They’ve got my email address. Can’t they just CC me on whatever they’re sending to the PROs???

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