What is a cue sheet?
A cue sheet is a list of music that has been used or will be used in an audio visual programme outlet such as TV, film or video. In order for the list to be useful, it will need to contain the following information:
Type of music (Background/featured etc.)
TV/Film production details
Cue sheet information only needs to be submitted once, as the information is stored and attached to the film for future broadcasts. No matter the broadcast station, or world location, if the information has been entered correctly. Then Performing Rights Organisations can collect and dispense performance royalties, based on the information provided in the cue sheet.
“Cue sheets are the primary means by which performing rights organisations track the use of music in films and TV. Without cue sheets, it would be nearly impossible for such composers and publishers to be compensated for their work. An accurately filled out cue sheet is a log of all the music used in a production”.
Performing rights organisations & cue sheets?
Without a cue sheet performance right organisations are unable to distribute performance royalties. Performance royalties occur when a musical work has been performed publicly. A common misconception is to think that performance royalties only occur through live concerts, in realty the majority of performance royalties materialise from the recording of the musical work.
Common examples of when a performance royalty occurs:
Audio streaming services (Spotify, Amazon Music etc.)
Internet (Youtube, Vimeo etc.)
What happens if a cue sheet is not submitted
Artists/composers and publishers earn healthy returns via performance royalties, hell it’s how we make a living. There is currently an abundance of cases concerning cue sheets not completed or completed incorrectly, resulting in millions of unclaimed royalties.
The performing rights organisations will hold earnings for a substantial length of time, but if no claim is made, then the uncollected royalties will eventually be gathered into a surplus, some organisations are able to use this money to fund new artists and community work.
More commonly the surplus of money is divided on a percentage scale between established top performing artists. The length of time an organisation holds onto unclaimed royalties differentiates between them, but can be as little as three years.
In a nut shell
By not submitting a cue sheet an artist/composer & publisher are withheld earnings that are rightfully theirs. Instead the earnings will be divided by percentage between the performance organisations and established popular artists such as Justin Bieber, Pharrell Williams and Taylor Swift etc.
This isn’t fair, and it’s actually illegal to not submit a cue sheet. Mistakes happen and errors are made, so please be careful when filling out cue sheets, in a way you are directly responsible for an artist/composers annual income.
Okay I’m with you but I’ve purchased “Royalty Free” music… right?
Yes, but as strange as it sounds, royalty free music still generates performance royalties, this happens when a track is broadcast. When purchasing a music license you are granted permission to use the music within context of the license agreement.
Let us assume for example you have purchased a music license for a TV episode. This license agreement will cover your production, therefore no royalties or reoccurring payments are made by you or your company. This is how royalty free works, and it’s the same for most royalty free music libraries.
If that's the case what is non royalty free music?
Non royalty free music is totally different, it would mean paying a royalty for each and every time music is used by the buyer/production company, as well as for each and every month/year you have access to it.
Rest assured when using royalty free music neither you or the broadcaster will pay any additional charges. (Broadcasters pay an annual fee to performance right organisations for the right to broadcast music).
Where do the royalties come from, who’s paying who?
Broadcasters pay an annual fee to their Countries performance right organisation, it’s a blanket fee that covers the right to broadcast music. Once the fee has been collected, performance right organisations divide and pay-out royalties based on a cue sheet analysis. Therefore in a way, broadcasters pay artists/composers for their music before it has been broadcast.
As complicated as it sounds, this is how the music industry works. Performance royalties make composing music a worthwhile career for many artists/composers and publishers.
In the diagram below you will see a chain breakdown of the process.
What happens with online videos, such as Youtube & Google Video?
Youtube, Google Play and other online video services also fall under the category of broadcasters. This means they also pay an annual fee for the right to broadcast music. Rather than a cue sheet, when the video is uploaded you are requested to enter the music information, think of this as an online cue sheet. To ensure the correct artist/composer receives royalties, you will need to provide the following:
There is no additional charge to you or broadcaster. The broadcaster has already paid an annual fee to the performance right organisation. It's then their responsibility to divide and pay out royalties from the broadcasters annual fee.
Where can I find a cue sheet?
Cue sheets are easy to come by and can be downloaded through the website of most performance right organisation’s. In the UK we like to use one provided by PRS as it includes useful tips and guidance notes. Broadcasters are usually happy to receive any style of cue sheet, but please ensure it includes the relevant information.
Where can I find the information to complete a cue sheet?
When you a license a track from TitanTunes your invoice will include the license agreement, along with relevant information to help you easily complete a cue sheet.
Track Title: The Rain Of Winter
Composer: Dara Crawford (PRS)
Publisher: Titan Tunes LTD
What to do once a cue sheet is completed?
Save and print a copy of the completed cue sheet
Always provide a copy of the cue sheet when sending your production to a broadcast company
Send us a copy of the cue sheet via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Performance Rights Organisation Across The Globe
Czech Republic OSA
England PRS For Music
Hong Kong CASH
New Zealand APRA
Scotland PRS For Music
South Africa SAMRO
Trinidad & Tobago COTT
United Kingdom PRS For Music
USA ASCAP BMI SESAC
Hopefully you have found this information helpful. If you have any questions or tips please comment them below.
Registering Cue Sheets http://www.prsformusic.com/creators/memberresources/Pages/RegisteringCueSheets.aspx
What Is Public Performance
Cue Sheets & Public Performance
What Is A Cue Sheet
Cue Sheet Sample