How To Copyright A Song And Earn Royalties: Introducing Cutie Baby

If you're interested in learning how to copyright a song and earn royalties, this post is for you. I copyrighted a lullaby when my son was born in 2017. I am also a national bestselling author of Buy Not That and How To Engineer Your Layoff, where I also have copyrights with the Library of Congress.

As a new parent, a lot of your time is spent trying to soothe and get your baby to sleep. Besides providing a constant rocking motion, one of the best ways to soothe a baby is to sing to him or her, regardless of whether you have a lovely voice or not.

Eventually, everything you say becomes a song because a pleasant melody is what babies love.

For example, instead of speaking, I will sing to my wife, “Wheeeeen was the last time he aaaaate?” Or, “Did we forgeeet to change his diapeeeeer? lalala.” It's a rite of passage that parents speak parentese or sing-songy.

Over the first three months of my son's life, I came up with a number of songs that helped him stop crying or actually pass out within five minutes. However, given my previous voice training was back in elementary school, I'm a terrible singer. Fortunately, my little one doesn't know that. All he knows is that hearing the sound of my voice makes him feel safe.

I have three goals for this post:

1) Share how musical dreamers can copyright a song.

2) Help new parents get their kids to go to sleep with a brand new lullaby that can be easily sung.

3) Highlight the many different ways you can earn royalty income once you've copyrighted your song.

Under international law, copyright is the automatic right of the creator of a work. All you've got to do is record your song, write out the lyrics, and voila! It's copyrighted. Given I own, a copyrighted website, I just have to publish the lyrics and the song here for worldwide distribution and I'm good to go.

Ah, another great reason to start your own website.

Alas, most of you will refuse to plant your own flag online and thus enable other internet companies to get rich off you. No problem. In order to enforce the copyright without a website, you just need to be able to prove your ownership.

In the US, the main way to prove your ownership is by registering your beautiful song with the U.S. government's copyright website.

For all you creatives out there, here are seven simple steps to copyrighting your song.

1) Record your song. The easiest way to do so is through the voice recorder of your iPhone or Android device. Or you can record your song via your laptop. Make sure you write out the lyrics or e-mail them to yourself. As soon as your song is recorded, it's copyrighted.

2) Go to Click on the Electronic Copyright Office, where you can make an online copyright filing. The whole process takes about five months to process. 

3) Register a free account. Click on “new user” to open your account. You'll need to give your name, address, country (if not from the USA), phone details, and preferred contact method.

4) Complete your online copyright application. Click on “Register a New Claim” under “Copyright Services,” located in the left-hand column of your account. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself, the work you're seeking to copyright and where you'd like the copyright certification to be sent.

5) Pay the $35 fee. You can pay via credit or debit card, electronic check, or a copyright office deposit account.

6) Upload an electronic copy of your work. Many types of files are accepted, but check the Copyright Office's complete list to ensure that you're not sending in an incompatible file.

7) Wait for your copyright application to be processed. You can log back into your account at any time to check the status of your claim. Overall, it took me five months to get my copyright in the mail. 

A Samurai Lullaby: Cutie Baby

We've all heard the all-time classics such as, Rock-a-bye Baby, Ba Ba Blacksheep, Brahm's Lullaby, and Twinkle Twinkle Star. But for those parents who want some variety, let me introduce a new lullaby that will resound in households everywhere from this day forward: Cutie Baby!

Cutie Baby was constructed in such a way that you can use your little one's name in the lyrics. All you've got to do is replace the word “Cutie” with your child's name and you're good to go. If your little one's name is longish or doesn't rhyme with baby, that's OK. All you've got to do is truncate the name and add an “a” or a “y” suffix so it does.

For example: David becomes Davy. William becomes Billy. Katrina becomes Katey. Susan becomes Susy. Yolanda becomes Yolandy. Samuel become Sammy. Pretty neat huh?

For those who also write and sing but are too afraid to share your work with the world, I say who cares. The worst that can happen is nothing. But the best that can happen is someone discovers your work and pays you to feature your song in the next Apple iPhone commercial and makes you rich!

Here are the lyrics to Cutie Baby with the sheet music below. You can listen to the simple melody by listening to the podcast down below (song starts at 5:28) or clicking this page which is my official Cutie Baby page with audio.

Cutie (replace with your little one's name) baby
Mama's here for you
Cutie baby
Is there anything Papa can do?
Cutie baby
You look so sweet tonight
Dream away baby
Everything's gonna be alright
Little dragon baby
Grow up to be so mighty
Cutie baby
Everything's gonna be alrighty

Cutie baby
Papa's here for you
Cutie baby
Is there anything Mama can do?
Cutie baby
We're so blessed to have you
Yawn away baby
We'll always be there for you
Little muffin baby
Is there anything more we can do?
Cutie baby
You've made our dreams come true

Sweet dreams little one.

We love you.

If you are a gay couple or a single parent, you can simply change the lyrics.

I'd love for readers to e-mail me their versions of Cutie Baby using your child's name. All you've got to do is open up the voice recorder on your mobile phone, record, save, name, and e-mail it to me. I'd like to put your version up in this post or on the Cutie Baby page.

Here is the sheet music to Cutie Baby as composed by my wife. It's really easy to play on the piano or guitar.

A Samurai Lullaby Sheet Music - Cutie Baby

Building Passive Income With Royalty Income

The only passive income stream I've yet to try and build is royalty income, largely because I have no musical talent. But what I've since realized is that I don't need to have a great voice to make royalty income. I can simply license out the lyrics and have great songsters sing for me.

Further, my lyrics and melody are basic. This enables every parent to sing the song, regardless of musical talent.

According to Tune Core, a website that allows you to sell your music on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, & more, here are the 13 different ways to earn money through royalties. They are:

1) “Analog” Public Performance Royalties

2) Synchronization License Royalties

3) Mechanical Synchronization Royalties

4) Print Royalties

5) Digital Download Mechanical Royalties

6) Streaming Mechanical Royalties

7) Digital Non-interactive “Streaming” Public Performance Royalties

8) Interactive “Streaming” Public Performance Royalties

9) Digital Synchronization License

10) Digital Print

11) Mechanical Royalty For A Ringtone/Ringback ToneDescription

12) Mechanical Royalty For A Ringtone/Ringback Tone

13) Public Performance Royalty For A Ringtone/Ringback Tone

I had no idea there were so many ways to make money from music, and I bet neither did you. I don't plan for Cutie Baby to make me any royalties. But just like how The LA Times picked up one of my posts about an umbrella policy back in 2010 that helped put Financial Samurai on the map, you just never know what will happen if you put yourself out there.

Be Unapologetically Fierce About Pursuing Your Dreams

Ranking The Best Passive Income Investments

A Day In The Life Of Two Stay At Home Parents Who Also Work

Usage Inquiries: For those interested in using Cutie Baby for a commercial, TV show, movie, podcast, blog post, or any sort of production, please shoot me an e-mail from my About page. Cutie Baby copyright registration number is SR0000800220.

Any royalties received from Cutie Baby will be used to support children and adults with visual impairments such as nystagmus (involuntary movement of the eyes), ocular albinism (a lack of pigment in the retina), strabismus (misalignment of the eyes), and more.

Readers, are there any musicians or artists out there who earn royalty income? If so, how hard is it to generate a decent royalty income stream? Again, I'd love to hear your version of Cutie Baby if you want to shoot me an e-mail. Featured image by

30 thoughts on “How To Copyright A Song And Earn Royalties: Introducing Cutie Baby”

  1. Important to note, guys, that there are different laws applicable in different countries. I worked in music licensing (synchronisation) in Australia for 13 years, and here we have no official ‘copyright registration’ system. The moment that a song is ‘materially recorded’ (e.g written down or audio recording etc) it is protected by copyright with no further action necessary. So we win by saving on a $35 registration fee each time! There can be good money to be made from synchronisation deals (i.e licensing songs for inclusion in film and TV commercials) provided you have written the right song, and have the right person pitching it for opportunities. The general ‘feel’ and energy of the song is important, and appropriate lyrics are critical. The status of the artist and how recognisable the song is can also play a role. Many of the deals that I secured for emerging artists meant a huge deal financially for them, and often one small commercial licence would cover the cost of making an entire album.

  2. How cool is it for your boy to have a copyrighted song written just for him?? If I were your kid I would brag about this all the way to my friends

  3. Keep up the great work Sam. What a nice tribute to little ones and eye care. My wife and I are DINKs but do have a lot of nieces and nephews, so we can certainly appreciate where you are coming from.

    Ignore any nay sayers in the comment sections that don’t get approved to post by you. For me, reading the comments of others helps to validate that we are on the right track by hearing from multiple points of view. Don’t disable them!

    We are one step closer as my wife is on board to FI as a change in our zip code from the Washington, DC area to an international move to either BZ or CR is in our near future. Our second scouting mission to Costa Rica is in Aug.

    Being a long-time reader and semi stalker (LoL) has helped immensely. Thank you for what you do!

  4. Must have been fun researching this piece? Very complete and clear. Not sure it convinced me to write a song just yet or diversify into music rights. But good angle. Enjoyed it.

  5. Sam we can talk privately if you want more details, Royalty Exchange hasn’t been getting good reviews from some of the “sellers” of the auctions. Lots of double talk and back peddling.

  6. Simple Money Man

    I had no idea about all these royalties either. How much could one potentially make if their lullaby makes it BIG?

    We’ve been using white noise to put our little one to sleep but are trying to phase that out.

      1. There are many interesting articles out there about the topic “Can you retire off writing one hit song?” The answer is yes. Did you know Don McLean wrote “American Pie” in early 70s and still collects over $300K per year in royalties from that song?

        Back in the 80s as a teen, one my best childhood friends talked about spending time at his rich uncle’s huge house in NC. Turns out his uncle wrote the song “The Gambler”.

        Finally, I once met a guy in the mid 90s who didn’t seem to work too hard, had a nice house, great boat, and a luxury car. I asked him what he did. Believe it or not, he wrote music that people listen to when “on hold” on phone calls with businesses.

        The sky is the limit.

        1. Amazing! With all those success stories growing up, did you try to create your own song? It is on believable to collect $300,000 a year in royalties for still so long.

          Can you imagine how much more creation there would be if people took one hour out of their busy day every day to create? It would be amazing!

        2. I often wondered what happened to him. Many years ago I read an article in Reader’s Digest written by an ex-classmate (I think) about how to persevere in life and they quoted his story. Apparently he slept in his car and worked nights to visit music companies during the day but he never gave up on his dream to become a musician.

  7. You have no idea how much I needed this post.

    My creative side is a music songwriter. I’ve actually composed 5 or 6 songs (at least 2 or 3 I really think would be worthy of playing on the radio) but as of yet I have only performed them in front of friends and family.

    Never thought about getting copyright on any of my works or even the steps as a songwriter to get an artist to take it (if you have tips on that I would love to hear them).

    This gives me a bit of inspiration to dust off these old creations (I mainly wrote them in medical school after a breakup) and see if anything can be done. Would be awesome to add a royalty for a revenue stream like you mentioned.

    1. Good stuff! What do you think is the reason why you decided not to copyright your work and get rich off yourself?

      Chances are slim that either of us will ever get rich off our music, but at least it’s fun to try. I’m hoping to encourage more readers here to just try and put themselves out there. Yes, it hurts when people don’t care or people don’t listen or appreciate what you do. But you’ve got to take the pain and keep on going.

      For example, not even my wife listened to the podcast this morning, even after I waited a couple hours after I asked her whether she listened to it. Nobody really cares as much about your work then you. That’s why it’s so painful when reception isn’t as you hoped.

      It’s the same thing with blogging. When you spent hours putting together a post and nobody reads or shares it, it feels very lonely and disappointing. But if you can keep on going, for at least a year, I am certain that good things will happen.

      1. I’m not sure why I didn’t even try to take any steps to copyright etc. I thought it would be a lot more complicated process than the one you described actually. And again it was something out of my comfort zone so I thought it would just flame out. I actually do need to dust off the stuff I wrote and try to do something with it.

        I 100% agree about hoping that people read your content when you post it on a blog. It actually takes me about 4 hours or so to write a post, get the pictures I like for it, edit it, re-read it (multiple times/multiple revisions) before I put it on the internet.

        The day I launched the blog White coat gave me a huge favor and mentioned it on a tweet. Had a lot of traffic that first day with a lot of visitors so I thought this is great. Then the following days it literally dropped down to single digit page views. I thought to myself man what’s the point of doing all this when I no one is actually reading the content. White Coat Investor said it brilliantly, you could have the best content on the web but if you don’t get eyeballs on it it doesn’t mean a thing.

        Luckily I stuck with it and somehow word spread and traffic has picked up (obviously not like major player sites like yours or white coat) but from people I shared #’s with they were impressed that within a month I had the amount I did (I believe I am currently over 15,000 page views having started in April 23).

        Thanks for the inspiration. I will let you know when I do move forward with my music

  8. That is so cool you wrote a song and got it officially copyrighted. What a lasting gift for your little one. Even if it doesn’t make any royalties he’s lucky to have such a sweet dad to write and sing for him. Music is so great for babies and children in all forms!

  9. Interesting post Sam,

    Well, I am not a music creator but I am an owner of Music Royalties. I use Royalty Exchange. I have bought and sold music royalties on the site. I have done it for a year. Bottom line is that in general it is NOT a good idea to invest in Music Royalties.

    Royalty Exchange is the largest site I know that allows you to buy and sell via an auction style format. However, the information they provide is really limited on the financial side for royalties. Occasionally, you can get decent financial history for a well performing song (8 years of history) but most of the time it is 3 years or less. Most of the music rights they sell are public performance rights either from the song writer or the sound recording. The music is varied from country, hip-hop, religious, rock, Indie, TV Production music, etc. The bottom line I have seen and from other investors I have talked to is the royalty income decreases over time. In fact no one I have talked to has seen their royalty payments increase.

    Royalty Exchange will try and push the increase in streaming numbers (which is public performance) from Spotify, XM, Pandora, Amazon, Apple, etc. However from what I have seen the royalty payments decay. Sometimes as much as 70% from one year to the next. It is very very very hard to predict the royalties and hence value the assets. The average selling range I have seen is 5X to 7X last years royalty income for an asset with Life of rights (70 years plus ownership) Their new product they push is only 10 years ownership and multiples are 3X to 5X.

    As with any new alternative asset class I only put at most 1% of my Net Worth in something new. In 1 year, I have lost money. Of all the royalty assets I own. One was down 67% in royalty income year over year. The others are ~20% each. I sold off the worst performing one. Mainly because Royalty Exchange does a bad job for the investor and they did not clearly explain how the Professional Rights Organizations(PRO) actually collected the royalty payments. It threw off my Discounted Cash Flow analysis and basically I overpaid for the Music rights is the moral of the story.

    Hopefully, I save other readers some heartache. Royalty Exchange is their for the Music Sellers and not there for the Investors in Music Assets. Buyer beware!!!!! Royalty Exchange could hardly care though. Right now their are so many people scrambling for these assets that are not well understood that they can’t attain enough Music Rights to auction off.

    Right now it is definitely a Sellers Market. Give it 2 or 3 years once these Investors see what they bought and I believe the tide will shift in a very negative way for Royalty Exchange.


    Music Royalties Status -$27,000

    1. I have to disagree with this assessment of owning music royalties to an extent. I bought two packages in 2014 from Royalty Exchange, each for $25K. Both are giving me solid returns. One package is from a rock band’s first album released in 2000 – giving me consistent return of 15% for four years now. The other package of R&B pop songs from the mid 90s is giving me an astounding 30% return and growing. The returns on the mid 90s songs have doubled since 2016 as streaming has taken off (Apple Music and Spotify). The music industry is starting into a boom phase now with royalty payouts all rising.

      However, I will say when I bought in 2014 you had to be an accredited investor and the pool of investors bidding on packages was small as no one new about this type of investment, estimate a 100 approved bidders at the time. Now, RE boasts 20,000 investors (does not require accreditation). I have followed about 75% of the auctions over the past few years and due to the high number of investors, the value has gone down. When I bought, I was able to buy at a 6-7X ratio of the annual payout. I now see packages going north of 10X (no real value). The only real value is for packages that sell north of $75K. The higher it is, the better the value as the competition among the bidders is small.

      The best package I saw sold was in 2017….all the rights to Sesame Street songs. It was consistently paying $100K per year for a long time (almost no degradation in payouts). My group tried to get it but didn’t. It sold for just over $600K. Bottom line is that the real value in music royalties are on large “Lifetime Rights” payout packages. The small packages (which is about 75% of them) that sell for less than $75K are not giving the 20%+ returns we were seeing in 2014-2016 range.

      1. Ahhh,

        Very good insite. Its good to meet someone who is actually doing well. The assets I bought have been a mix of platinum hits (hip-hop), pop music and TV production music. I paid an average of just under 6X for my assets(Life of rights). Tried to stick with mainstream music or production music that I thought would do well in reruns. Most assets had at least 5 years of royalty financial history and looked like it was trending up, but obviously in my case was an anomaly.

        What do you think about their new product with only 10 years of ownership? Watching some of those auctions there is no way the Investor can make there money back let alone any kind of return.

        The most fascinating things I learned from Royalty Exchange was when I sold an asset. It was eye opening and is why I won’t do business with them ever again. I guess they forgot I was an investor in other musical assets. Once you know their listing process and thought process it is now easy to weed out the assets that they themselves know are bad. It was a fascinating learning experience.


        1. I absolutely do not like the 10 year terms. When I see this new type of listing, I don’t even look at it. Life of Rights is the only way to go. I have insight as to why they are doing this. I got to know Sean Peace, the founder of Royalty Exchange. He ended up selling out a few years ago. The original ownership of RE had trouble finding songwriters who would sell their royalty stake because of the “sentimental” attachment they have. Basically, they would be giving away their baby. Back then, they were lucky to have an auction every two months. Now, their are multiple auctions at all times. The 10 year terms allow the royalty holders (mainly songwriters) to finance new projects (or just get cash now) yet maintain their royalty rights long term.

          One of my packages I own is “Life of Rights”, sold by the producer of the album. The other package was a very creative thing Sean set up to get more sellers. I am guaranteed “X” payback on the royalties. I hold the rights and get the checks until I am paid “X”. I estimated it would take 8 years to reach the payout. It’s tracking to take 5! This is the R&B pop package that has doubled it’s payout. The main artist re-invented herself, released a new album after a 15 year break, has a million social media followers – her old songs have found new life. Plus, as mentioned streaming has upped the payouts too. This has been a home run. RE doesn’t offer these types of deals anymore.

    2. Fascinating stuff! Something I wasn’t thinking about when I published this post. Good food for thought and perhaps a gust post on the pros and cons of investing in music royalties.

      Instead of spending money to buy royalties, what about your spending an hour each day coming up with new songs and then selling them? Like you said, the exchanges for music sellers not music buyers.

      We listen to new songs every single day and there is new technology to create beats and so forth. Why not just create? There is no downside risk except for being ignored.

      I’m looking forward to the moms and dads of the various parental groups I belong to, to give Cutie Baby a go. It’ll be fun at least!

      1. There are many key things to do and not to do when buying music royalties. I wrote key guidelines to a group of investors last year when I was putting a group together to buy large packages. When Canuck says his royalties dropped 50%, tells me there were some “flags” on that package. Possibly, the songs were not very old – they were still pulling in income from their “freshness” factor. This is an important criteria. I only scout and buy songs that are at least 10 years old minimum and and have flat lined on payouts, the degradation slope is very small. Stable, consistent, predictable payouts.

    3. Hi all. I represent Royalty Exchange and just wanted to chime in to say that music royalties are indeed a new and interesting asset class, but that investors should take their time before jumping in. Educating investors about the different types of royalties available, how they earn revenue, and how they are distributed to rightsholders is a top priority for us.

      We have an entire suite of articles and guides on our site to assist with this, including our Ultimate Guide to Buying Music Royalties, which we encourage any potential investor to read before getting started.

      In fact, most of the investors registered with us simply watch the different listings and auctions for months before making their first bid. We recommend any investor interested in participating do the same. We’re always happy to answer any questions.

      We do have both Life of Rights and 10-Year Term options available via our auctions, so there’s something for every type of investor. For a marketplace like ours to succeed, both buyers and sellers have to find value in it. So we’re proud to say that we have many repeat investors who have won (and enjoyed returns from) multiple auctions.

      1. Antony,

        The information your company provides is a good start but hardly helps you make a decent return in bidding on the auctions. I waited months before I bid, read all the information provided as well as external information on royalties.

        What Royalty Exchange NEEDS to provide is standardized listings!!! Stop hiding non flattering financial information in the endless raw data and hyperlinks to sites that are an endless maze. My experience with you guys is if it doesn’t shine the best light on the asset its buried. Members from your own team said those words to me. I understand it from the seller(Musician) perspective but it screws the Investor and they will eventually realize it and never bid again. That is where I am and I know other investors who feel the same way. If your listings were standardized and always showed the exact same information it would go a long way and is frankly just being fair.

        Also, I was told since RE has insight into the PRO’s for what royalties are being paid for the auctions(closed) they were going to be providing sanitized information on “the growth” of royalty payments after sale. Not sure if that would happen, especially if they are trending down but again more information would make the auctions more fair.

        You may have many repeat investors, (I was one of them) but once they realize their not getting what they thought the pool may dry up. I am a slow learner it took me over a year.

        I get it that its a tough middle road to keep. Keeping musicians and Investors happy, but being honest when an asset is not the best will only help your business going in the long run. They will know your company has Integrity. For those musicians most know the asset is lacking so hiding info to get the best price is a short term gain and a long term cost.

        It is a great alternative asset you are providing but it needs to be fair to both sides.

        Good luck to future buyers and sellers


        1. Canuck –

          I’m Royalty Exchange’s CEO and I really appreciate your feedback. I don’t know if you’ve checked out our listings in the last few months, but we’ve done a lot to standardize our listings in the last year including limiting the types of royalties & distributors. And, it is our goal to specifically articulate the strengths and weaknesses of the catalog in every listing.

          That being said, I’m sure we could do much more.

          Can we connect by phone for 15min? I’d love to hear more of your specific thoughts on what we can do better and share with you some of the things already in the works.

          If you’re willing to connect, please email me at smith[at] and we can arrange a call.

          Regardless, I’m grateful for the feedback.

          Matt Smith
          CEO @ RoyaltyExchange

  10. This is awesome and the timing is perfect…I liked this post a lot, Sam.

    I’m working on a post that I intended to be a song from nearly 4 years ago… I feel fine about posting it on my site, as I’ll have the ability to prove the song is mine. But the formal copy right process seems so much more satisfying! Mrs. BD will no longer be able to resist my musical talent and roll her eyes at me while telling me I sound like a screaming cow. I’ll be an official, copyrighted musician :)

    Similar to you said, I have no, zero, nada hope and/or expectations of collecting any type of royalties but it never hurts to start… hell, your “How To Start A Blog” was the final push to get me started on my own site late last summer. (Thanks again, by the way!) – Mike

    1. HAha, nice. The thing I realized is this: you don’t need a beautiful voice to write music or come up with a melody. You just need to come up with something decent, and get someone with a great voice to sing it!

  11. Ha, hilarious Sam. I play guitar and have been in a few “marginally talented” rock bands in my time. Sometimes we even wrote our own songs too. Copyrighting is easy indeed, but they key here is you have to make something that someone else wants to listen to or perhaps, steal :)

    Like you, I think I have a better chance of doing that with the written word on my blog than I do with my musical talents. But ya never know ;)

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