Using a Self-Directed IRA to Invest in Music Royalties
Published on March 11, 2021
A royalty is essentially the income stream generated from certain intellectual property—usually music, books, and films—and earned by the rights holder of said published or produced properties. Singers, songwriters, producers, labels, publishers and authors are among the individuals or companies that can have legal claim to the income generated from the intellectual property (IP).
Did you know that music royalties are considered an alternative asset that can be bought or sold and included in a self-directed IRA?
Self-directed investors can invest in music royalties to diversify their retirement portfolios with a non-publicly traded asset. Like many other nontraditional investments allowed through self-direction, music royalties are considered uncorrelated assets, meaning they perform unrelated to public markets (such as the stock exchange); therefore, they provide a good hedge against market volatility.
Royalties as revenue streams
Royalties are legally-binding payments from a licensee to a licensor—the party with the legal claim to the intellectual property. In the music world, royalties are paid based on album sales, song/album downloads, streams, or whenever a song is used in a commercial or movie—any sales channel. They can generate a consistent cash flow, especially in today’s age of digital streaming. Think Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and other pop music artists who’ve created the asset one time but earn income for years; their songs and records climb the charts and continue to sell or be downloaded time and time again, year after year.
Royalties are a long-term asset, paid for the life of the artist plus seven years, creating the potential for capital appreciation over time.
Artists may sell royalties to their back catalogs or even current works to raise capital in the short term or create financial security, enabling them to earn money immediately from their works, or even have the proceeds donated to charity. Sometimes estates auction off the catalogs. Investors can earn passive income when holding the IP asset in their self-directed IRA.
How to invest in music royalties
In the past, investing in royalties had been limited largely to private equity investors or institutional funds. Today, royalties are bought and sold on exchange platforms created specifically for this purpose, making this alternative asset more accessible to a wider pool of investors (including those with self-directed retirement plans).
There are four main categories of music royalties:
- Mechanical – based on sales of a recording on any type of media
- Performance – whenever a song is played publicly (radio, streamers, in public places such as restaurants)
- Synchronization – for songs used as background music in a film, television show or commercial
- Print – paid to songwriters and publishers for sales of printed sheet music
The account owner invests in a percentage of the royalties through auction and can earn a healthy yield. According to Royalty Exchange, one of the exchange platforms for entertainment IP, music royalties earned 10% or more average ROI (annualized asset return) in the first six months of 2020. Other exchanges are SongVest and Lyric Financial.
Other types of royalty investments
Self-directed investors may include royalties in trademarks, patents, mineral rights, educational materials, pharmaceuticals, or invest in royalty trusts. When investing in items with copyrights or patents, the income – and the percentage ownership – lasts for the lifetime of that copyright or patent.
At Next Generation, our clients invest in a broad array of alternative assets through their self-directed IRAs, from real estate to royalties, private equity to precious metals. Next Generation offers custodial and administration services for these accounts, and as part of our white-glove service, we offer client education through webinars and our complimentary educational sessions. Alternatively, our helpful team is available to answer your questions directly via phone at 888.857.8058 or email at NewAccounts@NextGenerationTrust.com.Back to Blog