A very important milestone in the life of a professional recording artiste is the moment when they join a PRO (Performance Rights Organization). A PRO essentially is an organization that acts as an intermediary between the Copyright holder (YOU) and anyone who desiring to make use of your intellectual property (RADIO/DEEJAYS/TV etc). PROs serve a few functions but the main function of interest to you is revenue collection.
A point to note is that PROs do not Copyright music. This is often a confusing point because institutions like COTT are normally referred to as a “Copyright Organizations”. Copyright is a separate topic and we’ll go through that in detail in a future post.
In the world we live in today it’s impossible to collect revenue for your music by yourself. Your music could be played in a bar in Cumuto to an indian wedding in Rousillac to a big fete in Chaguaramas to an ad on radio and that’s just Trinidad. So trust me when I say that you need a body to keep track of it all and collect on your behalf. Once you sign up they will hunt like the hound of Baskervilles all over the globe for your moula and retrieve it for you.
Well, something like that. COTT, one of three PROs in Trinidad and Tobago (TTCO and Awesome are the other two), has a particularly long reach internationally. They have partnered with many international PROs (such as ASCAP, a huge one in the US) meaning that once your song plays in the domain of any one of their partners, your revenue will be retrieved. Their network is pretty impressive and growing and as of this time of speaking you can be confident that your revenue can be collected in almost all of the English speaking territories worlwide. COTT is also the largest PRO in T+T. They have the largest membership base and have been around the longest. I”m not being biased, just stating facts.
So how do you join? Well for starters there are two types of COTT membership. You can join either as a creator or as a publisher. Most likely as an artiste you will joining as a creator. Both types of membership have different critieria.
If you’re joining as a creator you need to have a song playing on radio before you can join COTT. This is with respect to music, plays etc are probably different. Technically it states that your music must have been performed live in public but the accepted public medium at their offices is usually radio. They collect revenue largely via radio play so I guess it doesn’t make sense for them to devote resources to tracking material that isn’t available there. So before you even step to them you need to ensure that your song is getting that radio love – if you need tips check our article “5 Tips to Get Your Music on Radio in T+T“.
If you’re joining as a publisher you must have contracts covering at least five works. These contracts will be agreements you have with artistes to administer their music.
Once your music is bumping on radio or you have your contracts in order, your next step is to head down to one of COTT’s offices. They have offices in Port of Spain, San Fernando and Tobago so the choice is yours. As a creator you will have to pay a one time fee of $150TT. As a publisher you will have pay $750TT. After that you probably will have to fill out a form or two. From my experience signing up as a creator, you will have to provide the song you plan to register on a cd although I’ve heard they accept mp3 digitally now. Walk with your ID card as well and a bank account number if you have it (the latter makes it easier to receive royalties).
And that’s it in a nutshell. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments or relay your experiences. And of course, make sure subscribe to keep getting content such as this. One love and keep creating that new sound.