What Is Music Publishing
and How Much Should You Know?

An understanding of music publishing is essential if you want to have a successful career in songwriting. Here I will explain what publishing is, what publishers do and why they are so important to you, and some of the ways your songs can make money.

What Is Music Publishing?

It is simply the owning of the copyright of a song. When you write a song you automatically own the copyright to that song.

You don't have to register the song with the Copyright Office for it to belong to you.

However, before you send the song to anybody you should register it, in case you ever need to prove authorship.

Since you own the copyright you can do whatever you like with the song. Check this page for ideas on where to send your songs.

Of course you want your song to be heard by the public and earn royalties. That has become the standard definition of music publishing.

You can be your own publisher. But unless you have the right connections in the music industry, you likely won't be able to get the song recorded by a major artist or placed in a motion picture.

That's why you need a professional music publisher. He or she will have the clout to get your song listened to by the right people.

But before you sign that contract, be sure to have it looked over by a music business attorney.

What Does a Publisher Do?

A music publisher is basically responsible for registering your songs, offering them to the public, and collecting royalties.

But there is a lot more to it than that.

A good publisher will actively pitch your song to record label executives, recording artists and their managers, and those in charge of choosing music for films, television programmes and commercials.

The publisher doesn't make any money until the song makes money, so once you sign a deal with a publisher it is in their best interest to plug your song.

Established publishers are aware of which artists and film projects are seeking new material, and the types of songs they are looking for. And more importantly, they have working relationships with these people.

Types of Music Royalties

There are two basic types of music royalties, Mechanical Royalties and Performance Royalties.

  • Mechanical royalties are payments from record sales and sheet music, and are paid by record companies to the publisher. They are based on the number of units sold.
  • Performance royalties are payments for the public performance of a song. This could be live shows, radio, movies or TV shows, even elevator music and the jukebox at the local diner. These are collected and distributed by the Performing Rights Organizations, or P.R.O.s.

Who Gets What

Every publishing dollar that's generated from a song is divided into two halves, the "Writer's Share" and the "Publisher's Share".

If you sign a co-publishing deal you will be entitled not only to your 50% of that dollar (Writer's Share), but also a portion of the Publisher's Share as well.

If you agree on a "50/50 split" and your song generates $100,000 in royalties, you would receive $50,000 in Songwriter Royalties and $25,000 in Publisher Royalties, because you are splitting the publishing in half.

Learning More About the Music Business

If you're considering a career in songwriting I urge you to learn all that you can about the business side of music.

There are many outstanding publications available to help you. The annual 2014 Songwriter's Market

  is an invaluable resource that is filled with how-to articles as well as listings for publishers, producers, record companies etc.

When submitting your song to a publisher, you need to make a good first impression. One wrong step can mean the difference between your song being heard or ending up in the trash.

Check out some of the many resources available in bookstores and on the net. Knowledge is power and the more you know the better!

Return from Music Publishing to Home

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.