Breaking Down… Performance Rights


Performance Rights is one of the most consistently growing revenue streams in recorded music, and has proved to be a reliable source of income for labels (and artists) in an ever-changing digital landscape. What comes with this reliability is a healthy dose of confusion amongst music professionals from all walks of the business. “Someone has explained how this works to me a 1,000 times, and I still don’t get it” is a common phrase heard by rights management teams everywhere and if you’ve caught yourself saying (or thinking) this too, trust us, you’re not alone! To help you stay on top of the latest terms and buzzwords in the world of neighboring rights, we here at the Orchard suggest you breeze through this throwback blog as a start.

We know how powerful examples can be, so to help you make sense of the terms mentioned in the previous blog, we’ve dug-up a classic, Nancy Sinatra’s hit album, Boots to highlight how some of these terms can be used:

Album: Boots

Artist: Nancy Sinatra

Release Year: 1966


*much of the below metadata has been altered for the purposes of this example and are not an accurate representation of the metadata associated with this album.

Master Rights Owner: Boots Enterprises, Inc*

Neighboring Rights Owner: Boots Enterprises, Inc*

Public Domain (or “PD”): Recorded in 1966, this recording is not protected by US federal law (only recordings released in 1972 and later are protected), and may not be eligible for performance rights revenue in certain cases. However, many state laws protect pre-1972 recordings and have begun enforcing these laws proactively in the past 10 years.

In the UK, sound recordings are not considered “Public Domain” until 70 years after the first publication. (This was extended from 50 to 70 in 2013). This means that in the UK this recording won’t be considered public domain until 2036!

Publishers: Boots Publishing*

Mechanicals: At the time of this album’s release, labels paid mechanical fees for every copy (and expected copies) of physical product sold/pressed which included early cassettes and vinyl. Today, the industry applies mechanical fees to both physical and digital copies, which now includes “on-demand” streaming sales. This fee is paid to the songwriter, and is not due to owners of the recording.

P-line: Boots Enterprises 1966*

C-line: 2006 John Smith*

Composition: The composition, which underlies a recording, is typically created by the songwriters. In this case, Lee Hazlewood wrote the hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” The original songwriters and publishers of a composition do not change, no matter how many times the composition is recorded.

Re-recording: Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” has been “re-recorded” aka covered multiple times by various artists. From heavy metal to teen pop and alt-indie renditions, the timeless classic has been covered every which way. While the composition ownership remains the same in cases of live recordings, ownership may lie with the theatre that recorded the performance, which means the theatre would be entitled to performance rights royalties for eligible use. Publishing/composition royalties would still be due to the original songwriters/publishers.

Synchronization: A majority of millennials recognize the single from Boots – “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” from the popular re-record/cover by Jessica Simpson in association with its major placement in the 2005 remake of The Dukes of Hazzard and subsequent music video featuring early the 2000’s provocative heart throb and reality show star.

RemasterBoots has been rereleased over the years with sound quality improvements to keep up with technological changes to new-age audio systems and formats. Though a somewhat contentious issue, releases a.k.a “remasters” are typically viewed by courts as separate recordings which usually comes with new sets of rights owners (see Re-recording above).

Understanding these basic terms is a sure way to maximize your catalog’s Performance Rights revenue. There are, of course, more nuances to these terms, and often times, each recordings rights should be considered on a case-by-case basis. For a look at other best practices, check out this blog: Metadata: A Race Record Labels Can Win.

Image courtesy of Tiko/Adobe Stock

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *