Rappers, Do You Know Your Music Rights / Royalties?

The quest to make more money from the same music is something all musicians, producers and rappers alike, should strive for. We all have heard of the concept of royalties before but what exactly does this mean?

In this post, I explore the three types of rights (royalties) that are available in the South African context. I’ll also tell you which organizations you should look into to get these rights.

1. Performance Rights

Performance rights which give performance royalties, are the rights to perform music in public. Anyone who uses your music in public, by law, has to pay the creators of the music they are using.

The people that were part of the original version of the song are usually the ones that are entitled to performance royalties. This would be the composer (usually the producer), lyricist (usually the rapper) and the music publisher (got a portion from the creatives).

Performance Royalties are earned whenever the music is performed in public, as in live/ on stage, and broadcast on TV or Radio. Other public places are like the in-store radios, public reception areas etc.

This is considered the mother of all rights to get yourself covered for. Signing up with a PRO, Performance Rights Organisation, is how to receive these royalties.

In South Africa, SAMRO is the organisation that I’d suggest you’d register with. It’s free, simple and easy. Head over to their website for more information.

2. Mechanical Rights

Mechanical Rights which give mechanical royalties, are rights entities need to reproduce and change format of a song for public use.

Whenever your music is being streamed, changed to ringtones, aired on radio, downloaded after purchase etc. you are entitled to mechanical royalties. Mechanical royalties also arise when your music is attached to something that shows on tv.

In South Africa, mechanical royalties are collected by CAPASSO. CAPASSO has agreements worldwide that help them collect on your behalf. They have a yearly fee of R100 at the time of this post. Head over to their website for more information.

3. Needletime Rights

Needletime Rights which generate needletime royalties, are the rights performers and recording artists get when their music is played in public.

This is different to the Performance Rights in point 1. Needletime Rights pertain to the recorded version of the musical work. An example is if you perform a cover of a song by Bryson Tiller. Bryson and his team are still the composers and lyricists of the song but the recorded version (cover) is yours. Therefore, you’re entitled to Needletime royalties.

If you’re in South Africa, you need to be a South African Music Performance Rights Association, SAMPRA, member to start receiving Needletime royalties.

Three rights mean three royalties. I made the mistake of thinking SAMRO had me conveniently covered but I missed out on two other pay checks. Do the right thing and get affiliated ASAP with these organisations before you drop your next single. It’s free and only costs time and a little effort. If you’d like to discuss anything mentioned above, hit me up on whatsapp 0835709602 or send me a DM on Instagram or FB: @SkillMusicSA

Until next time,


Skill is a producer, pianist and performing artists based in Port Elizabeth. He’s input can be heard on music by PdotO, Blaklez, Toya Delazy, Zakwe and Yanga to name a few. This post amended from his website SkillMusicSA.com.