Reference Document – Music Publishing
Music Publisher Responsibilites
Music publishers are those individuals or entities who release songs created by artists to the public for consumption, mostly for the purposes of profiting from the sale of these songs. Their major responsibilities include: mechanical royalties (in which money is paid to the publishers in exchange for the reproduction of a song onto a medium for playing it, from phonographs to CDs), foreign monies (securing the distribution of mechanical royalties overseas), licenses for synchronization (e.g. playing a song in a commercial), transcription (radio commercials), and print (sheet music), and the like. Music publishers also have the responsibility of registering copyrights for the music and administrating over them, and providing authorization for performers and venues to have the songs they publish be performed in public. Music publishers also perform “song plugging,” which is meant to secure other outlets for the public to hear a song you are publishing, either through a cover by another artist or placement of the song in the newest popular film or television show. In these ways, they act as a conduit for releasing the works of a songwriter for sale to customers for both public and private use, levying marketing and advertising expertise to inform more potential buyers about the musical products they have available to them.
Types of Publishing Deals
In the music publishing business, a publishing deal is much sought after, primarily due to the income that can be provided to an artist for selling their song to a publisher, as well as securing the sale of future songs to that same publisher. Publishers will rarely pay advances to the artist, instead opting to take a percentage of the profits earned from the eventual sale of the song; however, it is the only real way to get your song noticed, as music publishers are the chief method of distribution for a major musical work. At the same time, it is often preferable to get a record deal with a label prior to tracking down a music publisher, as this higher chance of success will help your chances of getting one that will work harder for you. For the most part, there is a 50/50 split that occurs with the income from a song between the music publisher and the artist. These are known as the “publisher’s share” and “writer’s share” respectively.
There exist a wide variety of publishing deals that exist for artists to consider as they look at music publishers. The first is a standard publishing agreement, which comes in either a per-song basis or a contract that ties them to a certain number of years, songs, or albums with the publisher, depending on the terms of the agreement. With these arrangements, the copyright falls exclusively to the publisher, the artist completely losing control of the ownership of their creative product. In order to sweeten the deal, however, advances are more often given by the publisher to the artist, which means more money up front. Conversely, there are co-publishing deals, which give the artist a degree of control and ownership over the copyright of the song. This is typically a 50/50 split as well, but there are exceptions depending on the contract. There is a “publisher’s share” and “writer’s share” with these co-publishing deals as well.
There are also administration deals, which forces the publishing administrator to provide marketing for the artist and songwriter’s library of songs. These deals will often be assigned a certain number of years to their lifespan, and there are often chances to renew the contract if the artist becomes successful and profitable for the publishing administrator. Administration fees, which equal up to 20% of the gross income from the song, are the norm, but the entirety of the rest of the money goes to the songwriter or band. Administration deals allow a greater amount of control over the songs for the songwriter than the advance deals found in co-publishing deals. With the help of a co-publishing or administrative deal, you can have better control over how much money you make, particularly in the event your initial efforts are better received than previously anticipated.
Proper Strategies for Songwriters
Standard publishing agreements and co-publishing deals from independent labels are best left alone for the following reasons – first, they are attempting to curb how much they are forced to pay you with a smaller advance fee; secondly, an independent company may not have the resources or networking skills to promote your work to a sufficient level to earn your desired profit; third, your label might have publishing income collected from it, due to the specific deal you get from your independent publisher; finally, in comparison to a co-publishing deal, an administration deal is vastly preferred, both in terms of creative control and the fees that a songwriter can potentially get.