In this article, we hope to explain the workings of Music Publishing and enable you to take more control of your own important income opportunities. Generating income from your music will be a lot easier and undoubtedly more beneficial with the use of a reputable publishing company.
There are a lot of benefits that come with being a songwriter, not least in that you are entitled to receive payment if the song you wrote is played on a radio station, purchased, used as soundtrack in a movie, played in a video game or on YouTube, in a TV show, presentation or commercial. Technology and the internet have made it even easier for songwriters to earn what can be a significant amount of income. However, the intricacies of music publishing are not fully understood by many, who might as a result therefore be short-changed or, in many cases, not even paid at all for their hard work!
What is music publishing?
Music publishing is the aspect of music industry that ensures composers and songwriters get paid for their work whenever their songs are used on a commercial basis. There are different ways in which a songwriter can get paid such as mechanical royalties, licences for sampling, performance royalties, licenses for synchronization, and print rights for sheet music. Of course, you can choose to exploit your own music publishing opportunities but most music publishers have established contacts and connections built up over time which makes it easier for them to source the right people that would make use of your song making the whole process a lot easier and generally more lucrative.
What is a publishing deal?
A publishing deal is entered with a publishing company who uses its influence and experience to optimise exploitation of your song, as a result of which they receive an agreed percentage of the copyright ownership to your song. In exchange for this you will receive what is known as a ‘Draw’, which is a regular allowance, usually paid monthly to you by the publishing company.
The advantages of a publishing deal include:
- Publishers remember will have been at this work for some years and will have built wide ranging contacts and reputation in the business, they will not only save you the time and effort but they’ll almost certainly improve the quality of your connectivity and expand the outreach for your music.
- Regular payment – from incomes achieved, this is the ‘Draw’ and can be the beginnings of a regular working income for artists
- Expenses – such as a Demo Budget can be provided by the publisher to take care of all your recording expenses.
- Plugging – Publishers employ song pluggers whose job is to source deals for your song while you relax and write more quality songs.
- Credibility – securing a publishing deal does without argument add credibility and recognition to you as an artist.
As always, there are disadvantages to consider:
- Competition, meaning ‘other artists’. Remember that by using a Publisher you will inevitably be sharing their resource with other artists/clients so be sure to choose your publisher wisely, make sure they have enough resource and that they are taking you just as seriously as their other clients.
- The Draw you receive monthly is remember effectively a loan against incomes that your song(s) achieve. It ain’t free money (no such thing)
- Similarly, any expenses paid, such as the previously mentioned demo budget, will also have to be repaid when your song(s) begin bringing in money
What are the responsibilities of music publishers?
Music publishers are basically copyright administrators, they make sure to capture every penny anywhere, anytime your music is ‘used’.
There are undoubtedly times when a songwriter is at best underpaid and often not compensated at all simply because he/she/they just don’t know how to generate income through publishing and due to this lack of knowledge or proper understanding artists can be extorted. This is where a publisher company can help.
If you suspect you are being not paid or underpaid for your work, then we strongly advise you to consider engaging a publisher. The publishing company will make sure your work is not only being properly remunerated but they will add value by probably providing additional streams of income and maximising existing streams where they already exist!
Look for trusted and well-established publishing companies that will fight for you and help you earn more, they need to be hungry and want to make money, for you and for them. (Remember any percentage earned of a nil income is still…nil so they have to make money to get anything from it, otherwise it’s a waste of their resource and your time) Pay careful attention to detail in any contract, such as percentage share, duration, rights etc. All obvious I know, but it’s easy to get excited at this big step and be drawn into a professional ‘solution’ and then end up with the skinny end of the stick!
Finally, and I say this every time when contracts are involved Get proper advice!
If you can’t afford proper legal advice then at least consider the benefits of working with an experienced Manager, someone who’s ‘been there and done that’?
See what we have to say on Managers / How to find the right one / Managers Responsibilities here
Where does the income come from?
It’s all about ownership and exploitation, meaning who owns the Copyright and how users of your music are made to pay for that use. Musical copyright empowers the owner or producer of a song the right to distribute the song, reproduce the song, perform the song and create derivatives work. See this section for information on protecting your Copyright.
There are different ways through which money is generated from music publishing:
- Mechanical royalties: whenever a copy of a song is produced, a royalty is paid to the songwriter. This royalty is to be paid regardless of whether the copy is sold or not.
- Performance royalties: whenever a song is played or performed publicly, there is a royalty that is to be paid to the songwriter. This public performance includes plays on any media such as the radio, television, internet, live concerts and so on
- Licenses for sampling whenever any portion of your music is used in part within another piece
- Licenses for synchronization for example when a recording is used as the soundtrack for a TV show, film, commercial, video game, presentation, or YouTube video
- Print rights for sheet music: you are entitled to a certain amount whenever the song is printed in any print media such as lead sheet books, sheet music etc.