Copyright being the basis of earning an income in the music industry, the rights being in the music, lyrics, sound recordings, performance together with the rights underlying the merchandising, are the flow of money in the music industry. Unless musicians and their management apprehend copyright basics, it will be impossible for to capitalise on making income and entirely shielding the integrity of musicians efforts.


  • Copyright is for lawyers and it’s their job to understand copyright
  • Mechanical royalties are called that, because they are automatic
  • Mechanical royalties are the same as record royalties
  • You own all the rights at the end of the contract
  • If you sign a record contract you have to sign away your publishing


Copyright underlies most of the methods that people make profit out of music it being fundamental to make real money in the music industry, talent is optional but copyright is indispensable. Essentially copyright plays an extraordinary part, may be in any development within the industry, as the industry recognises origination, imagination and creativeness then copyright being that prime instrument by which we accord that recognition. Economically it’s conveyed by the medal of a range of limited rights that grant the musician the full control and the right of commercial utilisation. The rights of copyright are an award for origination, creativeness. It is recognition that both the culture and the economy of the music industry are dependent on encouraging and developing these characteristics. In South Africa, copyright is regulated in terms of the Copyright Act (No. 98 of 1978).

Consider the following points, shows why they all involve payment for the use of copyright material.

  • Every time you listen to music on the radio you are listening to the result of several contracts involving copyright.
  • Most radio and television commercials use copyright music.
  • Most songs that are recorded are copyright. Even the sound recording itself has a copyright.
  • Virtually no film or television drama is now made without the use of music and thus the use of copyright.
  • Communicating music on the internet usually requires the consent of copyright owners.