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There are many ways for artists to get paid. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it’s a wonderful thing that artists can tap into so many revenue streams, especially in an industry where people repeatedly say it’s so hard to “make it.”
On the other hand, musicians generally end up needing to partner with multiple societies and organizations to collect everything they are owed, from streaming to publishing. And they can’t just do this themselves.
Songtrust is one example of an organization that collects publishing royalties on behalf of artists and industry people. They aren’t the only service out there, but the question is are they right for you?
In this hands-on review, we look at whether Songtrust measures up to all the hype.
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What Is Songtrust?
Songtrust offers global royalty collection for songwriters, producers, composers, managers, publishers, and more. Basically, anyone in the music industry who is an artist or anyone who represents an artist can check, monitor, and receive publishing royalties on their music.
Here is a quick rundown of some of Songtrust’s most impressive stats:
- Launched in 2011
- 2,000,000+ copyrights
- Over 300,000 users
- Servicing clients in 64 countries
- About 4,000 songs added per month
- Over 50 pay sources
- Collection societies in over 215 countries
Whether you’re an independent, unpublished songwriter or a Grammy award winning artist, Songtrust offers a solution that scales with the artist’s career. Songtrust claims to have over 100 years of insight into the traditions of the industry as well.
Publishing can be earned in a variety of situations, including:
- When your song is streamed
- When a cover of your song is used in a YouTube video
- When your song is played in a bar
- And more
Using Songtrust, you can find out exactly what you are owed for music publishing. Registering a song is quick and easy (you only need to do it once), and Songtrust handles the admin side (music publishing assets, performing rights, digital licensing) on your behalf.
You retain 100% of the rights to your songs and always maintain complete control over your work.
How Much Does Songtrust Cost?
Songtrust requires a $100 one-time registration fee (per writer). They also take a 15% royalty commission. All things considered (record labels generally take 80 to 95% of your total earnings), this is a good deal.
With Songtrust, you maintain 100% rights to your music, and you are not required to register your entire catalog of music (register only the songs you want them to represent). You also keep 100% of the sync fees you negotiate.
The Songtrust Website
The focus of this guide is Songtrust’s service, but their platform is part of the experience, so it’s worth going over briefly before we get into the overall experience.
Songtrust’s self-serve website is professionally designed, and features a simple, minimalist design.
Here are the main pages on their site and what you can find on each:
- Why Songtrust: This page is where they explain why their service is worth your time, as well as how they differ from traditional publishers. This page offers a good overview of what you can expect if you sign up with Songtrust.
- Who Uses Songtrust: This isn’t just one page of content. It would be more accurate to say that it’s five pages – Creators, Creator Reps, Businesses, Educators, and Success Stories & Hits. You can navigate to these pages to learn how Songtrust can benefit each entity.
- Pricing: Just as it sounds. You can go to this page to learn about Songtrust’s pricing structure and what they offer you in exchange.
- Help Center: Songtrust’s searchable, online knowledgebase.
- Resources: Songtrust offers additional resources on music publishing. These include checklists and packets, videos, newsletters, and more.
- Blog: Songtrust generally publishes case studies and artist spotlights, but they also have how-to guides and news items on their blog.
- Upcoming Events: Songtrust actively attends and hosts events. This is where Songtrust shares about their upcoming events.
- Music Publishing Glossary: A lot of jargon gets thrown around in the music industry. Songtrust keeps a relatively comprehensive glossary on the most used industry terms.
- Platform Tour: A page you can go to learn how Songtrust works, what their platform is like, as well as some of the benefits you get when you sign up with them.
- About Songtrust: An overview of Songtrust, a collection of stats, testimonials, awards they’ve won, their values, their press releases, and more.
Songtrust also has Contact Us, Songtrust FAQs, and Careers pages. These should be relatively self-explanatory.
You will also find links to their social media on their website – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
The Songtrust Experience
As noted, the music industry can be intimidating at times.
There are many industry terms (jargon) that take some getting used to, and the fact that artists end up having to partner with so many organizations (sometimes four or more) to get paid on everything they’re owed makes it especially complex.
For the most part, though, Songtrust is a breath of fresh air in this regard. Their platform is simple and fun, and there isn’t much to it. Songtrust, in fact, does most of the work for you, on your behalf. The only thing you need to do is register your music.
Here we’ll look briefly at the pre-signup and post-signup experience, as well as our overall impression of Songtrust.
Songtrust will prompt you to the enter your artist name or title of your song and will instantly search their database for your music. If they find anything, your song(s) will pop up and you can choose one you’d like to get a streaming publishing royalty estimate on.
This is quite clever, and it’s a good way to usher new users into their ecosystem.
The next step is to choose a song and your ownership of it (0 to 100%). If you’re an independent musician, then likely you own 100% of the song, but if not, be sure to enter an accurate value to get a proper assessment on royalties.
Once you’ve chosen a song, Songtrust will prompt you to enter your personal information into their system to register your account. Having done this, Songtrust sends you an email with your earnings estimate.
If your song(s) haven’t been streamed much, then there’s always the chance that you are owed nothing, though some artists may be surprised by the amount they are owed (never hurts to check!).
Finally, Songtrust prompts you to register for their Music Publishing 101 session so you can learn more about their service and how music publishing works.
All you need to do to get started post-signup is to register your songs.
This means entering the relevant details, including co-writers (splits are calculated automatically).
Once you’re done, all you need to do is hit the “Register” button and you’re done!
Songtrust will track your songs and pay the royalties you’re owed once per quarter (four times per year).
Overall, Songtrust is easy to use.
Getting started with them is quick and straightforward, and it can be quite exciting, especially if you have unpaid royalties waiting for you on the other side.
Even if not, if you’re ready to ramp up your career and plan to get your music in the hands of as many people as possible, then it might be time for you to sign up with Songtrust or another organization that handles music publishing, so you are paid what you are owed.
Now, one thing to keep in mind is that some music distributors offer royalty collection on music publishing. The easy way to know whether you already have music publishing with your distributor is if you’re paying a higher fee on your releases (or monthly/annual fee if that’s how your distributor handles payments).
Getting your distributor to look after your music publishing generally costs more.
Once you’re inside Songtrust, there isn’t much to it. Just register your song(s) and let Songtrust handle the rest.
What Does Songtrust Offer?
Songtrust offers royalty collection on music publishing.
Music publishing is just one of many ways artists can earn on their songs, but because it’s based on intellectual property (copyrighted material), in a media and content rich world, it can be quite lucrative.
In addition to royalty collection, Songtrust offers quite a bit of education on music publishing, including their blog, workshops, and other downloadable resources.
If you don’t have someone handling your music publishing, you can’t very well do it yourself. You will need to work with Songtrust or another organization that does this on your behalf.
Some music distributors have built-in music publishing royalty collection, but it typically comes at a premium. You’ll be paying something for it either way, so the choice is entirely up to you.
If you’re still relatively small, and your music doesn’t get streamed or used in media much, now might not be the time to rush into a Songtrust membership. But if you’re starting to see some traction with your music, it would be worth considering.
What Can I Expect From Songtrust?
Songtrust makes it easy for you to get started on their platform. Once inside, the only thing for you to do is register your songs, and this doesn’t take long either.
Songtrust educates artists and industry people on music publishing, so if you’d like to learn more, you could tune into one of their workshops, or tap into some of their other resources, including guides, templates, and checklists.
Once you’re set up with Songtrust, royalties are collected ongoingly and are paid out quarterly (four times per year).
Their $100 fee gets you a full year with Songtrust. Of course, that means you will need to pay $100 annually to stay with them.
Royalty collection is their business, and you don’t need to be involved as an artist. That said, if you’d like to learn more about how it works, there is plenty of content you can dive into on their website.
Who Uses Songtrust?
Songtrust is utilized by a wide range of artists and industry people:
- Creators, like songwriters and producers
- Creator reps, like songwriter reps, managers, and lawyers
- Educators, like colleges and universities
- And more
Some of Songtrust’s biggest success stories include:
- Singer-songwriter Emma McGann
- Songwriter Griffith Frank
- Seth Herman
- Trouble Andrew
- And others
If you think Songtrust might be the right choice for you, then it’s certainly worth checking their testimonials and success stories to see what they might be able to do for you.
Songtrust User Interface, Design & Usability
Songtrust is a professionally and beautifully designed platform with a simple, minimal interface.
Obviously, every aspect of the interface, design, and usability can affect your experience. So, in this section, we look at each.
Whether it’s colors, font choice, graphics, layout, or otherwise, Songtrust has done a great job of designing an easily navigable, highly usable platform.
We couldn’t find any broken links or pages, and that reflects highly in their score as well.
There isn’t necessarily a lot to look at post-signup, but again, the interface is there to help you register your songs – not to help you perform rocket surgery.
The only thing we found that could be better was bolded fonts. We found these to be a tad less readable than the un-bolded version of the same font. Common issue, easy to solve, but we’d be remiss not to mention it.
Songtrust has opted for a slightly unconventional design.
Most websites have two, neutral primary colors, and one highlight color. Their site kind of uses two highlight colors – grey and salmon.
That said, it’s a clever twist on a typical design practice, and it seems to work for Songtrust.
Their input forms aren’t sophisticated, but of course, what happens in the background is. Collecting royalties doesn’t happen by accident!
And we’ve heard from coders that, just because something is simple doesn’t mean it doesn’t require some serious coding. Sometimes, the simpler the app, the more code that’s needed.
There’s nothing about the Songtrust design that doesn’t work. So, we applaud them on a good job.
Usability primarily focuses on navigation, layout, and the overall ease of use.
We didn’t notice any major usability issues on Songtrust, which isn’t surprising. When you take care of the interface and design, the rest has a way of falling into place, all on its own.
Some of their pages do have a lot of content, but they’ve done a good job of breaking up large sections of text, and have also used plenty of visual elements, including charts, illustrations, and pictures to keep it engaging.
The navigation menu is a little unusual and might throw some users off. This is where we generally like to see relatively standard and familiar links like Home, About, Contact, Products, Blog, and so forth.
Overall, though, we don’t find the navigation to be overly confusing. They have “Why Songtrust” front and center instead of “What is Songtrust” but we found this to be a clever choice overall. People do care more about the “why” than the “what.” That said, you still need to explain the “what,” which they do on their “About” page.
The music industry is an odd business in this regard, because if you don’t know that you’re owed music publishing, you wouldn’t even know to go looking for it!
Anyway, anything we could say would mostly be nitpicky because Songtrust clearly has an eye for everything discussed.
Songtrust Review, The Verdict
SongTrust has a slick, fun, easy to use platform. They have excellent customer service (so far as we can tell). And if you’re interested in learning about music publishing, they have a ton of helpful resources.
We even checked to see if SongTrust had any negative or critical reviews, and we couldn’t find anything of substance.
Yes, there is the occasional musician that says it must be a scam because they do what a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) or music distributor does. But this is untrue.
First and foremost, your PRO does not collect music publishing. Secondly, your music distributor only collects on music publishing if they offer that service, and if you’re paying for it.
Also, SongTrust does not offer music distribution services or list your music for sale anywhere. That’s important to know.
Aside from that, it’s just a matter of whether SongTrust is right for you. There are other companies offering the same services. Depending on what you’re looking for, it might be worth comparing what they offer against SongTrust.
We have cross-examined SongTrust, and based on what we've found, we can honestly say it’s a top music publishing service.