Insight To Cue Sheets & Performance Royalties

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:

  • Music duration

  • Type of music (Background/featured etc.)

  • Composer/artist name

  • Publisher details

  • 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.

BMI Definition

“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:

  • Television broadcast

  • Radio broadcast

  • Audio streaming services (Spotify, Amazon Music etc.)

  • Internet (Youtube, Vimeo etc.)

  • Live concerts

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.

Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 02.43.36.png

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:

  • Track title

  • Artist/Composer

  • Publisher

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.

For Example:

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:

Performance Rights Organisation Across The Globe

Argentina SADAIC
Australia APRA
Austria AKM
Belgium SABAM
Bulgaria Musicautor
Canada SOCAN
Chile SCD
Colombia SAYCO
Croatia HDS
Czech Republic OSA
Denmark KODA

England PRS For Music
Finland TEOSTO
France SACEM
Germany GEMA
Greece AEPI
Hong Kong CASH
Hungary Artisjus
Iceland STEF
India IPRS
Ireland IMRO
Israel ACUM
Italy SIAE
Lithuania LATGA-A
Malaysia MACP
Mexico SACM
Netherlands BUMA
New Zealand APRA
Norway TONO
Poland ZAIKS
Portugal SPA
Russia RAO

Scotland PRS For Music
Singapore COMPASS
South Africa SAMRO
Spain SGAE
Sweden STIM
Switzerland SUISA
Trinidad & Tobago COTT
Turkey MESAM
United Kingdom PRS For Music
Uruguay AGADU

Happy ending

Hopefully you have found this information helpful. If you have any questions or tips please comment them below.


Registering Cue Sheets

What Is Public Performance

Cue Sheets & Public Performance

What Is A Cue Sheet

Cue Sheet Sample