Mechanical royalties can add up to a lot of money. For example, at the current statutory mechanical royalty rate, if your song is less than five minutes and is on a CD which sells one million copies you would be entitled to NINETY ONE THOUSAND ($91,000) DOLLARS.
Because the statutory mechanical rate is increased periodically, it is best to seek payment for a mechanical license keyed to the statutory mechanical rate in effect at the time of manufacture. Record companies, on the other hand, may try to key the rate to that which is in effect at the time of initial release. Thus if a record is reissued many years after its initial release the composer/publisher would get the rate in effect at the time of reissue rather than the lower rate at the time of initial release.
On a practical note, many copyright owners hire the The Harry Fox Agency to issue their mechanical licenses and collect all mechanical royalties due. This saves them much paperwork and hassles.
Due to the various requirements necessary to obtain a compulsory mechanical license many record companies try to negotiate mechanical licenses directly with the copyright owner or its representative.
If this is not possible, perhaps because the copyright owner cannot be determined or located, you should obtain a compulsory mechanical license by complying with all applicable regulations for obtaining a compulsory mechanical license. (See Circular 73 – Compulsory License for Making and Distributing Phonorecords for this information). This is a “safe harbor” approach and by so doing you will be immune from a copyright infringement suit by the copyright owner.
Before obtaining a compulsory mechanical license however, you might want to check the online databases at The Harry Fox Agency, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC to see if you can locate the copyright owner and negotiate a mechanical license directly.
For foreign Mechanical Rights Societies contact the following: In England MCPA; in the Netherlands STEMRA; in Germany GEMA; in Norway, the Nordic Copyright Bureau (NCB); and in Canada CMRRA.
So musicians, write those compositions and register them promptly with the U.S. Copyright Office.