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Month 7 – The Song Is Playlisted On BBC Radio 1



We find Pure-Horse in their rehearsal room, in the midst of a tempestuous debate regarding whether or not to spend the dwindling band kitty on an imported Moog one of them has found on eBay.

“There is no such thing as too much Moog”, exclaims the bass player, hands waving in the air as if trying to rouse an non-existent crowd to back them up in their belief.

“Don’t get me wrong”, the singer retorts, “I’m pro-Moog. Moog me up all day. But we really need to save that cash for, you know, existing.” They deliver their argument as believably as possible, despite the fact that they’ve no idea what a Moog is.

“Guys, this Moog point might have just become a moot point.” The drummer exclaims as they stand, phone in hand, grinning at the screen. “You’re not going to believe this, but we’ve just been C listed by BBC Radio 1!” They turn their phone around to show the rest of the band the BBC Radio 1 website, where Pure-Horse has been added in bold as a new addition to that week’s playlist.

“Golly”, squeaks the bass player, who is immediately grateful that the rest of the band are too distracted by the news to notice the fact they’d said the word ‘golly’. “Well that’s certainly going to cover the cost of the Moog”, at this, they sense the opportunity to chance their arm, “in fact, with the money we’ll make from the royalties generated thanks to being playlisted, we might even have enough to pay me back for the first three months of this rehearsal space that I paid for using the inheritance I received from my gran, right?” A Mexican standoff between the remaining three band members and the bass player ensues; a beat of silence quickly becomes a pause, that rapidly evolves into a full on awkward silence.

“Well, I hope so mate”, the guitarist agrees in their best neutral tone. “I suppose we’ve just got to do some research on what kind of money we can expect from this, but god knows where we’d find that out, right?! The music industry can be such a mystery at times.” Confident they’ve done enough to deflect attention away from the matter, they turn to fiddle with their amp.

“Yeah, you’re right”, the bass player agrees, “good job that the Sentric blog has covered this in detail already then!” as they eagerly open their laptop to access the very blog you find yourself reading now, the guitarist drops his head in defeat.

“Ah, the Sentric blog. God bless those helpful, helpful people.” They sigh.

So when do they get paid? – Approximately 6 months.

From broadcast to payment, publishing royalties usually take around two distributions to come through (there being a distribution every quarter).

Here are some example figures of the kind of money which is generated when your music is played on the radio (as of Q4 2020). All the figures here are for a song four minutes in length, as radio royalties are all based on the amount of airtime you receive. So if you’re doing two-minute punk songs then half all these numbers and if, perchance, you’re Meat Loaf reading this where all your songs are at least eight minutes then double them. And on a side note; I love you, Meat Loaf.

The common theme throughout the majority of publishing income streams is ‘the more people who hear it, the more money you’ll receive’, and as BBC Radio 2 has the highest number of listeners for any BBC station in the UK, that’s why you’re getting over double for a play by Zoe Ball than as you are by Greg James. Most regional BBC stations are worth a couple of quid a go, with BBC Radio London being the highest due to its listener size.

All these monetary figures fluctuate and are amended every quarter using RAJAR data. RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) releases listener figures for all the radio stations in the UK every few months. For example, you only used to get about £5 for being played on BBC 6Music, but ever since they threatened to shut that station down and its listenership increased significantly, the performance royalties of being featured there have notably jumped.

Within the world of radio, you have two classifications of stations; census and sampled.

Census Stations

All the largest radio stations (and indeed, all BBC stations) are census stations. This means every single track which is played on there is reported to the PRS and therefore the songwriters will receive royalties for the broadcast. Currently, 93% of radio income is distributed via ‘census’ stations so it’s very much the lion’s share.

Sampled Stations

A sampled station is a smaller station with a much lower audience share than a census station. So a local station in your area will probably be sampled around ninety days of the year. That means, if one of your tracks gets played on one of those ninety days then you’ll receive royalties, if not, then you don’t.

Now, this might sound a touch unfair, but it’s currently the best system we have. Firstly, you have to remember that the amount of royalties we’re talking about here for broadcasts on small, regional stations of this size are a matter of pence per play so you’re not missing out on much.

Secondly, the PRS is a not-for-profit business. They collect all the income, take a percentage for the administration, and then pay out the rest to rights holders and songwriters. Currently they process over six trillion uses per annum (mainly thanks to the wonderful world of streaming) and if they then added to that already hefty workload by turning all small sampled stations into census stations then that would increase their overheads, which would result in them needing to take a higher percentage admin fee, which ultimately means less money is distributed to the writers and publishers.

So it’s now you can start to see the true value of performance royalties just from radio alone as you’d need roughly 200k streams on Spotify to generate the same amount of income from a single spot play on BBC Radio 2 (but do keep in mind that a single spot play on Radio 2 should result in about eight million people hearing your song).

Every week the BBC publish their new playlists for the week which are split into A-list, B List and C List. If you’re on the A-list you’ll average around twenty-five plays per week, which for a four-minute track is just over £1k per week in gross performance royalties.

And if you’re on BBC’s playlist then it’s highly likely you’ll be on the playlist of every other pop music station in the country. If you take a look at the airplay charts (which you can find in Music Week) you’ll see that big songs will have huge numbers of plays behind them; as I write this, Miley Cyrus’ Midnight Sky clocked up 5,249 across 217 stations in a single week within the UK alone. That increases to 22,744 plays across 1,284 stations across Europe. With the vast majority of those plays generating a performance royalty when broadcast, that’s some serious publishing revenue right there.

NEXT: Month 8 – The Song Is Released On Vinyl.