Mechanical royalties are a type of royalty paid to a songwriter whenever a copy of one of their songs is made. This includes physical formats like CDs and vinyl, as well as digital formats such as MP3 downloads and streams on platforms like Spotify or Apple Music.
The term “mechanical” dates back to the era of player pianos, when the reproduction of music involved a mechanical process. Today, it covers any reproduction of a song, whether physical or digital.
Mechanical royalties are typically collected and distributed by mechanical rights agencies such as the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) in the United States, or directly via agreements between the rights holders and the entities making the copies, like record labels or digital platforms.
As an example, when a consumer purchases a digital download of a song on iTunes, a portion of that sale is paid as a mechanical royalty to the songwriter and their publisher.
It’s important to note that mechanical royalties are separate from performance royalties, which are earned when a song is performed publicly, such as on radio or in a concert.
For more detailed information, consider visiting the Mechanical Licensing page on Wikipedia.