G'day, mate! If you're an Aussie creator, musician, or inventor, you've likely heard the term "royalties" thrown around. But what are royalties, and how do they work Down Under? Let's dive into this crucial aspect of the creative and business world that keeps our favourite artists, writers, and innovators afloat.

Accountant what are royalties

What are Royalties?

Royalties are payments made to the owner of an asset for the right to use or profit from that asset. In Australia, these payments are typically a percentage of the revenue generated from using intellectual property, such as music, books, patents, or trademarks.

Types of Royalties:

Music Royalties

Music royalties are perhaps the most well-known type, especially in Australia's vibrant music scene. These royalties are payments made to rights holders for the use of their musical works.

Types of Music Royalties:

  • Performance Royalties: These are paid when a song is performed publicly, including through radio play, live performances, and use in venues like pubs or restaurants.
  • Mechanical Royalties: Generated from the reproduction of songs, such as physical album sales or digital downloads.
  • Synchronisation Royalties: Earned when music is used in films, TV shows, advertisements, or video games.
  • Streaming Royalties: A relatively new form, paid out when songs are played on streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music.

In Australia, organisations like APRA AMCOS play a crucial role in collecting and distributing these royalties. For the 2019-2020 financial year, they collected $471.8 million in royalties for Australian and New Zealand songwriters, composers, and music publishers.

Book Royalties

Book royalties are a vital source of income for our Aussie authors. They are typically calculated as a percentage of the book's sale price.

Key Points about Book Royalties:

  • Paperback royalties in Australia usually range from 7.5% to 10% of the book's retail price.
  • E-book royalties can be higher, sometimes up to 25%.
  • Royalty rates often increase with sales volume, incentivising authors to promote their work.

For example, if an Australian author's paperback book retails for $20 with a 10% royalty rate, they would earn $2 per book sold.

Patent Royalties

Patent royalties are payments made to inventors or patent holders for the use of their patented invention. These are particularly important in industries like technology and pharmaceuticals.

Characteristics of Patent Royalties:

  • Often structured as a percentage of sales or a fixed fee per unit sold.
  • Rates can vary widely depending on the industry and the importance of the patent.
  • In Australia, patent protection lasts for 20 years, providing a significant window for earning royalties.

For instance, a pharmaceutical company might pay royalties to use a patented drug formula, typically ranging from 2% to 10% of net sales.

Trademark Royalties

Trademark royalties are payments made for the use of a protected brand name, logo, or other trademarked property. It is common in franchising and merchandising.

Examples of Trademark Royalties:

  • Fast-food franchises like McDonald's charge franchisees royalties for using their brand and system.
  • Sports teams earn royalties from the sale of licensed merchandise bearing their logos.

In Australia, trademark royalties often range from 5% to 10% of gross sales, depending on the strength and recognition of the brand.

How Royalties Work in Australia

In the land of kangaroos and koalas, royalties operate under specific guidelines. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) considers royalties as income, which means they're taxable.

Collection and Distribution of Royalties

In Australia, several organisations play a crucial role in collecting and distributing royalties:

Music Royalties

APRA AMCOS (Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society) is the primary body responsible for collecting and distributing music royalties. They manage:

  • Performance royalties (when music is played in public)
  • Mechanical royalties (for reproduction of music)
  • Synchronisation royalties (for use of music in film, TV, etc.)

Literary and Visual Arts Royalties

The Copyright Agency manages royalties for writers, visual artists, and publishers. They handle:

  • Resale royalties for visual artists
  • Royalties for the use of written works in educational institutions and government departments

Screen Royalties

Screenrights collects and distributes royalties for filmmakers,  scriptwriters, and other rightsholders when educational institutions, government bodies, and retransmitters copy or communicate their works.

How Royalties Are Calculated and Paid

The calculation and payment of royalties in Australia can be complex:

  • Music Royalties: APRA AMCOS uses a combination of census (complete count) and sample data to determine royalty distributions. They collect data from radio stations, streaming services, and live venues to calculate royalties.
  • Resale Royalties for Visual Artists: Artists receive 5% of the sale price when their work is resold for $1,000 or more.
  • Government Copying Royalties: Screenrights use data reported by government departments about the programs they copy. Royalties are then allocated based on factors like the duration of the copy and the program's category.
  • Distribution Periods: Most collecting societies in Australia operate on a financial year basis (July 1 to June 30), with royalty payments typically commencing in December of the same year.

Taxation of Royalties

In Australia, royalties are considered taxable income. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) requires creators to declare royalty income in their annual tax returns. Some key points to note:

  • Royalties may be classified as either Australian or foreign income, depending on where the work is used.
  • When Australian residents pay royalties to non-residents, a withholding tax of 30% typically applies unless modified by a tax treaty.

Impact on Australian Creators

Royalties can significantly impact Australian creators:

  • Steady Income: Royalties provide a consistent income stream for many artists, allowing them to focus on their craft.
  • Long-term Benefits: Successful work can generate royalties for years, providing financial security.
  • International Reach: Australian collecting societies have agreements with international counterparts, allowing creators to receive royalties for overseas work use.
  • Support for Emerging Artists: Royalties can help sustain emerging artists as they build their careers.

Challenges and Future Developments

While the royalty system in Australia is well-established, it faces several challenges:

  • Digital Disruption: The rise of streaming and digital platforms has complicated royalty calculations and distributions.
  • International Complexities: Collecting royalties for the use of work overseas can be challenging due to different legal frameworks.
  • Transparency: There's an ongoing push for more transparency in how royalties are calculated and distributed.
  • Blockchain Technology: Some are exploring blockchain as a potential solution for more efficient and transparent royalty tracking and distribution.


Royalties are the lifeblood of many Aussie creators, providing a way to earn a crust from their intellectual property. While the system has its complexities, understanding how royalties work is crucial for anyone in the creative industry.

So, whether you're penning the next great Aussie novel, composing a chart-topping hit, or inventing the next big thing, remember that royalties are your ticket to turning your passion into a sustainable career. Keep creating, and may your royalty cheques be as plentiful as kangaroos in the outback!

Frequently Asked Questions:

How often are royalties paid in Australia?

ayment frequency varies depending on the type of royalty and the collecting agency. For example, APRA AMCOS typically pays music royalties quarterly, while publishers might pay book royalties bi-annually or annually.

Do I need to register for GST to receive royalties?

If your annual turnover from royalties and other sources exceeds $75,000, you'll need to register for GST. If you're below this threshold, GST registration is optional.

Can I sell my royalty rights?

Yes, it's possible to sell royalty rights. However, it's crucial to seek professional advice before making such a decision, as it can have significant long-term financial implications.