The Young Dramatists Issue 1
Dramatist’s Bill of Rights: Royalties

Playwrights, composers, lyricists, and librettists often struggle professionally in theatres due to the wide-ranging demands and expectations imposed on them by their producers (and other collaborators). It is essential, therefore, that dramatists know their rights, which the Dramatists Guild established in 1926 and has defended ever since.

To protect their unique vision, which has always been the strength of the theatre, dramatists need to understand this fundamental principle: you own and control your work. To ensure this ownership and control, the Guild recommends that any production involving a dramatist incorporate a written agreement in which both the producer and the writer acknowledge certain key industry standards. Collectively, we call these ten basic points the Dramatist’s Bill of Rights.

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5. Royalties

There was a theatre company offering one of my TYA touring shows as a production that schools or other organizations could request to be performed at their location. The first year it was offered, I received a reasonable payment in a prompt manner. In the following years, however, communication became quite spotty. The company’s website still offered my show as an option, but I was not informed whether performances were happening and when I could expect a royalty payment. Sure enough, when I followed up with them, it turned out that performances had indeed occurred. I don’t think they were willfully trying to evade payment. As a small organization, it was probably something that fell through the cracks (even though it shouldn’t have been). It was aggravating having to be the one to remind them to pay me, especially when the fee seemed so small in comparison to my other income. But this is one of those cases where the principle matters more than the amount. Knowing it’s my right to receive royalty payments for productions of my work helped me keep on top of it and make sure I was paid what I was due.

Min Kahng
Min Kahng

(he/him) is an award-winning playwright, composer, lyricist, and creative coach whose works include The Adventures of Honey & LeonThe Four Immigrants, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Kahng is a MacDowell Fellow, an NEA Grant Recipient, and a Dramatists Guild committee member.