Worship Songwriter Action List for 2022 and Beyond

Here’s how to prepare and register now for royalty payments.

Do this today.

Place all your songs in a spreadsheet with information such as:

Song name
Co-writer names
Songwriter split percentages (ownership)
Songwriter PRO affiliation
All IPI numbers (Interested Party Information
given to songwriters, composers, and publishers
issued by PROs)
ISWC (International Standard Musical Code)
and ISRC (International Standard Recording
Code) numbers
CCLI song number

This spreadsheet is the beginning of your song catalog.

Your next set of actions:

Sign up with a PRO to capture any public performances of your works and to be prepared for others to record and perform your work.

You should choose ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC if you are a congregational songwriter in the US. CCS collects money for your songs used outside of church services and pays them directly to those three PROs, who in turn pays their songwriting and publishing affiliates.

Sign up with SoundExchange and list any sound recordings you own. If you have a record contract, the company owns these sound recordings (that is, unless you have another deal) and will register the works.

List your digital works with streaming services. This is done automatically with CDBaby, Spotify, and whatever company you choose when you send your works for duplication or digital distribution.

Obtain ISRC numbers independently or from those who distribute your digital recording, and ISWC numbers independently or from your PRO as you register the work. You’ll need these numbers for the next step. Here’s a great site explaining these codes. https://blog.songtradr.com/what-are-iswc-isrc-codes-and-how-do-i-get-them/

Become a member of a Digital Rights Reproduction Collection Agency (DRCA) such as Audiam, TuneCore, CDBabyPro, or Songtrust. These are also known as Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs). MROs are in business to offer song publishing administration agreements, but they also collect and register the meta data of your works for a central database.

The important reason to sign up with a DRCA/MRO is that you’ll register your ISRC numbers with them so they can collect and distribute royalties for the underlying composition, for your authorship. Remember, you don’t receive money from these entities for sales, you receive royalties from these companies because of the number of replications.

If you’re in the US, you can sign up with the MLC, also an MRO, instead of a DRCA. It’s either the MLC or one of the DRCAs, not both. Here are the major differences:

• The MLC only covers collecting and distributing streaming royalties in the US

• The MLC is absolutely free of charge

• Other DRCAs collect streaming royalties internationally, including the US

• Other DRCAs have fees and take a percentage of any royalty money received for their services

• Both services collect the meta data of your work for The Public Work Search database managed by the MLC

Notes: Just to be clear, as an artist, you choose some company like DistroKid or CDBaby to distribute your digital product. The royalties you collect from them are from the sales of your product only. CDBaby and TuneCore also have DRCA sign-ups for the collection of mechanical streaming and download fees from Spotify, Apple Music, Rhapsody, and others. You’ll recognize this from the terms CDBabyPro and TuneCore Publishing. They’re selling you extra publishing administration services. These services pay royalties to rights holders for the underlying composition (authorship) related to the number of replications.

As a scenario, choose CDBaby for creating and hosting the song only. Then choose Songtrust as a publishing administration firm and a DRCA for that song (or choose the MLC for the song instead of the DRCA, Songtrust).

More Notes: As your song list grows, the above is a good exercise in helping you organize and update your catalog. Though it’s confusing at first, it’s also excellent knowledge about the type of royalties payable to you. Don’t get caught up in the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Make the DRCA decision with a clear head according to your goals and desires. You’ll want to sign up with one of the DRCAs listed if you are an artist or songwriter with a worldwide reach. Evaluate the cost compared with the amount of royalties you expect to receive. But my advice is to stop. Breathe. Understand your priorities as a congregational songwriter.


I would consider signing up for the free option (if you live in the US), the MLC, as a songwriter with the primary concern of making Jesus famous and getting your songs out to local churches. You can always decide to sign up for a larger international publishing administration strategy with a DRCA if your songs generate worldwide recognition.

It is important for the congregational songwriter to have their songs registered with CCLI, who collects fees from churches and distributes royalties for rights holders. They are the largest Christian song lyric and sheet music publisher in the world. They exist to distribute your songs to over 250,000 churches around the world. You may not be able to sign up with CCLI as an individual unless you have multiple songs and a planned reach for those songs. You can sign with your new, local, faith-based publisher who has a publisher membership with CCLI (see the concept of learning to be a congregational songwriter and flourishing in a songwriting community with like-minded songwriters in my book The 5 Steps to Get Your Songs Heard: A Congregational Songwriting Plan found at https://getyoursongsheard.com or https://books2read.com/stephenrobertcass).

Even if you already have an individual publisher membership with CCLI and you become a member of the new, local, faith-based and like-minded publisher, the right agreements will be in place to assure accountability and integrity.

Finally, I want to remind you to choose ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC as your PRO. These entities authorize CCS to license churches and ministries to perform and play the songs in their repertoires, and in turn pay their affiliated songwriters and publishers.

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