Music publishing is the owning of the copyrights of a song. As soon as you complete the writing of a song, you own all the copyrights of that song. The fact that you wrote your song on your own, means that you are also the publisher of that song. This is because you have not gone as far as transferring the publishing rights to anybody else.
(You can choose to be your own publisher and earn 100% royalties, or you can hire someone.)
You may choose to keep these rights forever and not share them with anyone. In that case you would wear two caps, as song writer and music publisher. Any income that your song generates will be all yours. In order words you get the writer’s share plus the publisher’s share. If royalties amount to $100,000, you get $100,000.
Another situation exists when you, as a songwriter, publish your song with a music publisher. In that case you transfer all of your publishing rights. Any income that is earned is shared fifty fifty. You only get the writer’s share. If royalties amount to $100,000, you get $50,000.
The third situation which can exist is when you transfer only half of your rights to your publisher. This is known as a co-publishing deal. You, as the songwriter, get the writer’s share plus half of the publisher’s share. In order words you get 75% of all income while the publisher gets the other 25%. Obviously, if royalties amount to $100,000, you get $75,000.
By the way, for profound information on the world of publishing, I would suggest that you read Music Publishing: The Real Road to Music Business Success, by Tim Whitsett et al. It provides quite a clear understanding of the publishing side of the music business.
A music publisher is responsible for copyrighting your songs and collecting royalties. The main source of publishing income is from record sales, radio and tv broadcasts, licensing for tv commercials and films, and from sheet music.
A good publisher should try to get you a record deal, try to have artists record your songs, and try to get your songs featured in films. He should try to ensure that your copyrights are not infringed upon. A good publisher will spend a great deal of money to make sure that you are compensated when your songs are used.
Having a good publisher can be very beneficial to you, as a songwriter. In this case you can focus on songwriting and you don’t have to worry about the publishing side of things. A music publisher is a tremendous asset when your time is limited. You may also prefer to have a publisher, when you don’t think that you can handle the business part. This includes making phone calls, attending meetings and trying to ‘sell’ yourself. In this case it is better to concentrate on honing your songwriting skills.
However, in a situation where you have the industry contacts to effectively promote your songs and generate income, you can remain your own publisher and earn all your royalties!
At the end of the day, only you can decide what’s best for you, as far as publishing is concerned.
- The songwriter contract – what you should beware of.
- What is music copyright?
- Music royalties – learn about the different types.
- What is song copyright?