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Paul McCartney performing. / AAP

The whole situation with royalties is confusing and far from clear

Peter Edgerton

Every few months a small royalty will arrive in my bank account from the Spanish organization SGAE (the General Society of Authors and Publishers). Just yesterday I was the grateful recipient of the grand total of ten euros and twenty-seven cents. This is all very intriguing and I am always faced with the same question: what could these transactions be?

Well I guess an old song that I composed and recorded years ago could have been streamed twenty-nine million times on Spotify, or whatever it takes on that particular platform to collect a bargain of ten euros. Alternatively, a chain-smoking graveyard shift DJ in a half-forgotten town near Burgos might have played one of my tracks, then taken the time to register his magnanimous act with the SGAE before going go to the kebab shop on the way back. The possibilities are endless for a fertile imagination.

I tried to investigate once. To have received the colossal sum of five hundred and some euros on a particularly momentous occasion (about fifty times the usual amount) from a British organization similar to the SGAE.

I wrote them an e-mail asking them for details of the origin of these untold riches. The response I received a few days later was just baffling. It was a scanned computer printout, listing a seemingly random selection of cities in the United States, each with a time written next to it. For example, “Phoenix – 4m 7secs, Baton Rouge – 11m 28secs.” No mention of song titles, beware, just cities and times.

I thought maybe they mistook me for a Greyhound bus enthusiast. Subsequently, I tried to dig a little deeper into the subject but, alas, in vain. I had the shortest of shifts.

The whole history of royalty is infinitely confusing. There are videos of me tweeting on YouTube that have these annoying cell phone ads tagged at the start. As far as I know, I don’t receive any payment from these companies. Or maybe that’s what ten euros and twenty-seven cents is. Who knows?

If I’m in the dark, imagine how Paul McCartney must feel.

“Paul, another check has just arrived. This is for seven million pounds.”

“Goody gumdrops. What does it correspond to?

“Dunno. It just says ‘Eugene, Oregon – 8m 16secs.’

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