SoundExchange handed out $155 million dollars to artists in 2009, more in 2010


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SoundExchange has been writing checks like it’s going out of style. Luckily for musicians, money never gets old.

Charged with collecting royalities from digital music streams on Internet, satellite radio and cable television, the Wash., D.C., based non-profit group distributed $155 million to artists in 2009, up 55% from 2008 when it handed out $100 million.


Each time a song is played on Pandora, KCRW’s website or XM Satellite Radio, the virtual sound of fractions of pennies are heard dropping into SoundExchange’s pocket. Multiply that by billions of songs heard over the Internet each year and, voila, a new income stream for musicians is born.

This year, SoundExchange is expected disburse $252 million, according to unaudited estimates from SoundExchange.

But because SoundExchange has been unable to locate the tens of thousands of artists for whom it collects royalties, a portion of the money it brings in sits idle, waiting for artists to either come and claim it or for SoundExchange to find them.

At the end of 2009, SoundExchange had $111 million in unclaimed royalties, categorized as ‘unpayable funds.’

There’s been progress moving money out the door. In 2009, SoundExchange collected $183 million in royalties from Internet, cable and satellite radio services, and distributed 84% of that to musicians, up from 71% in 2008 and 28% in 2007. In 2010, SoundExchange said it hopes to distribute 97% of the $260 million in has collected.

That’s more than enough to buy more than a few lumps of coal.

-- Alex Pham