Crash Course: Music Publishing

Just as the right print publisher can make all the difference in an author’s career, a music publisher can serve a vital role in a songwriter’s success. The more you understand about music publishing companies, the better equipped you are to make the best use of this valuable resource.

What Are the Functions of a Music Publishing Company?

Music publishing companies are often summed up as “record labels for songwriters.” While that simplifies many of their activities, the term provides a succinct overall picture.

Generally, the songwriter is the creative part of the relationship while the publisher focuses on the administrative, nuts-and-bolts business tasks. Primary functions of a music publisher include:

  • Working with A&R executives, producers, artists and managers to secure commercial recordings and releases of a client’s songs
  • Obtaining necessary copyrights and licenses, auditing record companies and collecting royalties and fees
  • Promoting a client’s songs for use in the lucrative arena of entertainment, including TV shows, movies and advertisements

Some publishers today handle the responsibility of securing a recording contract for their songwriters. This can take the form of financing a demo or actually producing a finished recording.

Types of Music Publishing Companies

  • Major publishers are self-explanatory. Sony/ATV, Warner-Chappell and Universal are industry giants connected with the Big Three labels.
  • Independent publishers have no connection to the Big Three and they are independently funded.
  • Major affiliated publishers are a hybrid of the two. These independent companies have deals with the major companies to handle their licensing administration.

Some songwriters are self-published. They may hire someone to handle the administrative duties, but these people are employees of the songwriter, not a publishing company.

Which style is right for you? Major publishers have vast financial resources and strong relationships with important industry figures, while independent publishers offer a greater degree of freedom.

Monetizing Songs through Music Publishers

When you write a song, it becomes your property. As such, you’re entitled to royalties every time someone records, uses, plays or purchases your music.

This is where the benefits of music publishing come into play. Tracking uses of a song and collecting royalties are complex, time-consuming jobs. When a publishing company handles the business end, you have a more accurate accounting and more time to focus on the creative aspects of songwriting.

Here are the principal types of royalties you can receive from your songs.

1. Mechanical royalties are paid whenever your song is sold or reproduced for sale. This money is due whether or not the product (CD, vinyl, etc.) is actually purchased.

2. Performance royalties are generated whenever your song is played in public, such as terrestrial, satellite or Internet radio.

3. Synchronization licenses cover the use of your music in TV, film, commercials, video games or presentations.

4. Sampling licenses allow another artist to use, or “sample,” any part of a song you have written and recorded.

5. Print rights enable duplication of your songs on sheet music or any other printed form.

In exchange for their services, music publishers retain a percentage of all money generated from your songs, so use legal representation when negotiating a contract to protect your rights.

Whatever your musical goals, Clear Lake Recording Studios provide a high-quality professional experience that can be tailored to any budget. Contact us for more information.


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