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How to Invest in Royalty Income


Investing in royalty income can provide long-term returns to investors seeking to fund retirement or diversify a portfolio beyond stocks and fixed-income securities. Owning rights to royalties provides a steady income that tends to be insulated from fluctuations in the equity and bond markets. Investors can acquire rights to royalty income by purchasing shares of royalty trusts or bidding on royalty auction exchanges.

If you’re thinking about investing in royalty income, you may want to speak with a financial advisor first. SmartAsset’s free tool can match you with advisors that serve your area.

Royalty Basics

A royalty is a payment received by the owner of an asset from someone else for the use of the asset. Often the asset consists of intellectual property. For example, the owner of a patent may receive a royalty payment from the manufacturer of a product for each unit made or sold using that patent.

Other examples of royalties from intellectual property include payments for the use of patents, trademarks and copyrighted materials such as books, films or musical compositions. In addition to intellectual properties, oil and gas and mining leases generate royalties paid for the use of natural resources.

Royalty income is considered passive income by the Internal Revenue Service. This means it is generally taxed at capital gains tax rates, which are usually lower than the rates paid by individuals for earned income such as wages and salaries.

Types of Royalty Income

There are many different sources of royalties. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Oil and gas landowners who retain the mineral rights can receive royalties consisting of a percentage of the value of energy resources extracted from their property.
  • Owners of land with mineral resources such as gold, silver and valuable metals are paid royalties for any minerals removed through mining.
  • An inventor receives royalty payments for licensing the use of the patent to makers of products using the patent.
  • Owners of valuable trademarks can receive royalties for licensing the use of their logos and brand names.
  • Composers of songs can get royalty payments for each time the composition is publicly performed, streamed, downloaded, played on the radio, used for a film or TV score, or sold as a CD or record.
  • Movies and TV writers, directors, producers, performers and others who have copyrights to films and TV shows are entitled to residuals, as royalties are known in Hollywood, any time the show is streamed, played, or sold on a DVD or other media.
  • Publishers typically pay authors or other copyright holders a royalty consisting of the percentage of the sale price for each copy of a book sold in hardcover, paperback, electronic or audio formats.
  • Business funding. Investors who provide money to new businesses may be repaid by royalties on revenues from products or services sold by the business.

Investors who receive royalty income will get the payments as long as a copyright, patent, trademark, mine, oil well or other source is generating income. This makes royalties a potential source of long-term and relatively stable income. About the only significant risk associated with investing in royalty income is the potential opportunity cost of better returns from having invested in riskier assets. Sometimes royalties can increase sharply, as when a song gets used in the soundtrack to a popular movie or there is a big rise in energy prices.

Investing in Royalty Trusts

The easiest way to invest for royalty income is by purchasing shares of a royalty trust.

The easiest way to invest for royalty income is by purchasing shares of a royalty trust. Royalty trusts are a type of income trust. These are publicly traded corporations that acquire ownership of rights to leases and deposits of oil, gas and minerals. The income generated from royalties is distributed to shareholders as dividends.

Royalty trusts that distribute 90% of their income as dividends escape the double taxation that burdens most corporations. Instead, investors in royalty trust shares pay taxes on the dividends at their personal rates. Owners of mines and wells can deduct as business expenses the costs of operating their property.

Royalty trusts don’t actually do any mining or drilling. That part of the business is handled by another company. They allow investors to participate in the energy and mining industries without owning mines or wells.

Investing in Royalties Through Auction Sites

Royalty auctions offer another opportunity to invest in royalty income. A number of sites conduct online auctions of royalties for music, minerals and many other types.

Songvest, for example, focuses on music royalties. Investors can purchase fractional shares of the royalty streams from popular songs. EnergyNet lets bidders purchase royalty interests in oil wells, gas wells, logging operations and more. Royalty Exchange auctions rights to royalties on a wide range of properties, including music, movies, TV shows, oil, gas and many others.

Bottom Line

Royalty income can provide steady, stable, long-term income to investors.

Royalties can provide steady, stable, long-term income to investors as a part of their investment portfolio. Royalties are generated by many types of assets, including musical compositions, oil wells, gold mines, books, movies and TV shows. As passive income, royalties are taxed at lower rates than wages and salaries. Investors can invest in royalty income through auction sites and royalty income trusts.

Investing Tips

  • A financial advisor can help you invest in royalty income as part of an overall investment strategy. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • When it comes to investing, it’s a good idea to be prepared. SmartAsset has you covered with a number of free online resources that can help. Try using our free investment calculator today.

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