Everything you wanted to know about background music cue sheets but were too afraid to ask.

Everything you wanted to know about cue sheets but were too afraid to ask

If you are a music composer, lyricist, or producer, you'd have heard about cue sheets. Chances are that you’re just as confused as most other musicians about what cue sheets actually are, and why it is so important.

Cue sheets are used for background music, in ad jingles, when music is created for movies and serials, or as part of a web series background score, etc.

Cue sheets are the primary means by which performing rights organizations track the use of music. Cue sheets identify one or more creators who contributed to the background music, and made the song possible. There is a background to this that you should know.

In 2012, a historic act was passed in India. This Act made music royalties non-transferable. Prior to this, the rights to the music were held solely by the publisher, or music label. Post the Act, all the music creators enjoy the rights to it and therefore the royalties that flow from it.

The Act also created the need for cue sheets to identify how royalties need to be paid and to whom.

Without cue sheets, it would be nearly impossible for composers. lyricists, and publishers to be compensated for their work.

We’ve answered the 6 most frequently asked questions about cue sheets

  1. Is it compulsory for all artists to fill cue sheets?

    It isn’t compulsory.

    But if you don’t, you can’t register your musical creation at IPRS, PRS or ASCAP, and other performing rights organizations [PROs] that give out music royalties. Without cue sheets you won’t receive royalties for your work.

    What's more, business owners who use your music for commercial purposes can easily exploit your artwork and profit from it. You will not get your fair share. 

    Registering with music royalty societies helps authors, composers, lyricists, producers as well as live performance organisers avoid compliance and legal issues later on. The service that helps you with the registration is called a royalty adminstration company.

  2. Is there a standard format of a cue sheet?

    To make things simpler for organisations as well as the artists, each PRO develops its format for cue sheets. Mercifully, similar templates are followed by IPRS, PRS, ASCAP and other performing rights organizations.

    For example the ASCAP Cue sheet is given below. The forms at IPRS are here. Cue sheets for PRS for Music can be downloaded here.

    This is what a Licensor Approved Music Cue Sheet looks like.

    You can download the templates and learn more about the rules for filling in cue sheets on ASCAP’s official website.

  3. Why do IPRS, PRS, and other PROs need cue sheets?

    A cue sheet is needed in order to report the broadcast of music programmes accurately.

    Without a cue sheet, it would be difficult to keep track of when and where music was played. Ensuring timely payment of music royalty would also be very difficult without a cue sheet.

    Since the cue sheet contains all important information about the author, composer, and the music programme, it is the easiest and most convenient way for IPRS, PRS or ASCAP to manage royalties.

  4. What information does the cue sheet include?

    A cue sheet contains all important information about the music and the artist.

  5. What if I make a mistake while filling the cue sheet?

    IPRS, PRS and ASCAP receives hundreds of cue sheets every day.

    Even the tiniest mistake in your cue sheet can lead to your cue sheet getting rejected or ending with problems at the time of payment of your royalty. To make sure your cue sheet gets accepted, it is important to follow the template and fill in all your details correctly.

    Need help? Royalty administration companies specialize in making cue-sheets for music creators and also registering with Performing Rights Organizations [PROs]. 

    Absence of standardised data, especially in this digital age, affects music creators and often denies them their rights and the royalties.

  6. Isn't it enough if I register with one PRO?
    Theoretically, yes. Practically, no.

    The reason is one PRO co-ordinates with the other PROs for royalties.

    This takes time and expense. So what we recommend is that if you know the key markets for your music, then register your music with the PROs in these regions, separately.

If you are an artist looking for someone to help you earn your royalties without hassles, Joshua Royalties is your perfect partner.

Find out more about how we help you and what Joshua Royalties does on our services page.

Have a question we haven’t answered here? Get in touch with us to discuss further, or leave a comment below and we’ll answer it for you.

Wish to share an experience or add something we’ve missed out? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

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