The clock is ticking for musicians to register to claim their share of the initial batch of royalties collected from U.S. digital airplay via satellite radio, Internet radio and cable/direct TV radio.

The clock is ticking for musicians to register to claim their share of the initial batch of royalties collected from U.S. digital airplay via satellite radio, Internet radio and cable/direct TV radio.

Digital rights collection body SoundExchange says that if artists or their heirs do not register by Dec. 31, they will lose their share of the first royalties collected during the first distribution cycle -- between 1996 and 2000.

SoundExchange pays featured performers for the public performance of sound recordings on which they appear, rather than songwriters.

The collection group has already paid out almost $16 million covering 200 million digital plays for approximately 6,000 members since the body's establishment in 2000.

Among the 38,000 artists who have not yet claimed their funds are such wide-ranging acts as the Shangri-La's, the1960's girl group who sang the hit "Leader of the Pack," and Black Sheep, the '90s rap duo best know for "The Choice is Yours."

SoundExchange pays artists anywhere from $10 to $6,000, depending on airplay. Most checks will be small, but royalty revenues are expected to mushroom in the future.

Sound Exchange takes its administrative costs off the top; the remainder is split 50-50 between artists and labels. Featured artists -- those listed on the cover of an album -- get 90% of the artists' share of royalties. The remaining 10% of the artists' share goes to the backup musicians and backup vocalists, via an independent trust fund administered by the American Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

Artists or their heirs who sign up prior to the end of the year will receive both their past and current royalties in the first quarter of 2005.

Based in Washington, D.C., SoundExchange is a nonprofit organization governed by a board of artist and label representatives.

In other SoundExchange news, the organization has inked a reciprocal artist agreement with Mexico's Somexfon. The deal allows SoundExchange to receive and distribute the Mexican society's royalties to artists the U.S. group represents. It also allows Somexfon to collect and distribute royalties for Mexican musicians, in conjunction with collecting society EJE Mexico.