1. Music Publishing is only for established songwriters and artists
While it’s true that most music publishers focus on a small swath of songwriters who have already achieved traditional success, music publishing is a part of the industry that songwriters at all levels can focus on. From registering and protecting your copyrights to collecting royalties and licensing your music for sync, there’s no minimum amount of money you need to be earning to start taking this part of your career seriously.
2. I’m affiliated with a PRO (ASCAP, BMI or SESAC), I don’t need to do anything else to manage my music publishing rights
Sure, that’s one option. But that’s not how most professional songwriters thinks. Performing Rights Organizations in the United States only license and collect royalties for the public performance of your music. For many music publishers and songwriters, performance income, while an important revenue stream, only represents a portion of their catalog’s income. PROs do not license or collect mechanical royalties or interactive streaming royalties, they do not handle sync licensing and they do not register your songs with the US Copyright Office.
3. I just signed up with SoundExchange, I don’t need to do anything else to manage my music publishing rights
It’s great that you’ve signed up with SoundExchange, except they don’t have anything to do with music publishing. SoundExchange is a performing rights organization that collects licensing fees on behalf of sound recording copyright owners (record labels, generally) and recording artists—not songwriters.
4. Every music publishing deal will screw you, they are like bad bank loans
Back in the day, there were lots of stories of songwriters and artists who got really screwed by a number of unsavory characters. However, it’s not true that every music publishing deal will screw you. Today, music publishing deals come in all shapes and sizes and the partner you choose can help you navigate this part of the industry. Apart from trying to manage music publishing yourself or with the help of a manager or lawyer, there are basically three options out there:
You can sign a long-term contract and sell a percentage of your rights (Co-Publishing)
You can sign a short-term contract without selling your rights but pay a percentage of your royalties as an administration fee (Administration)
You can opt for Songtrust and sign a month-to-month music publishing administration service agreement.
5. I mailed a CD with my songs on it to my self. This proves that I have the copyright.
It’s true that as soon as you “fix” your song to a physical form (write it down on paper, record it) your copyright exists. However, registering your song with the US Copyright Office gives you even more rights. For example, registering your song is a requirement before you can file a lawsuit against someone for infringing on your work. It also declares, publicly, that you are the owner of the work and affords you the ability to recover statutory damages and to potentially recover your legal fees as well.