Ask any aspiring songwriter what they want more than a number one worldwide hit and they’re likely to tell you they want a deal with a music publisher. In exchange for a percentage of your royalties, the music publisher will collect royalties and licensing fees, seek out synchronization deals for TV and film placement and sometimes provide cash advances to cover living or touring expenses.
But increasingly deals like this are harder and harder to come by, and songwriters have started thinking about starting their own music publishing company. The truth is you don’t need an MBA to take control of your music. In fact, it’s not unusual for songwriters to also be their own publishers. It’s fairly easy to set up a company and with a publishing administrator like Songtrust to help you, it’s an option you can definitely consider.
Benefits of Owning Your Own Publishing Company
When you sign an agreement with a music publisher, you often give away the rights to your copyright in exchange for the services they’ll provide - collecting royalties and help arranging synchronization deals. However, if you are your own music publisher, you have complete creative control of where and how your songs are used and you retain 100 percent of the interest in all your works. In keeping 100% of the publishing on your songs, you'll be able to collect all royalties owed to you from public performance, digital (internet radio and on-demand streaming), synchronization (TV, film, and video games), mechanical royalties (sales of physical recordings and downloads).
Simple Steps to forming a Music Publishing Company
Forming your own company takes a little bit of time and there is some paperwork and fees, but the rewards can be very satisfying. The steps outlined below should help you get started:
1. Create a Business Entity or File a Fictitious Name Statement: Visit the website for the Secretary of State in your home state to find the requirements for creating a name for your company. You have the choice of creating a corporation or a limited liability company (known as an LLC) which will be your publishing company or if you prefer to not to incorporate you can file what’s called a Fictitious Name Statement or a Doing Business As (DBA) Statement with the Secretary of State.
The DBA Statement makes it legal and informs the government and other interested parties that you are doing business as a music publisher using a name that’s not your own. Without a the name statement, you won’t be able to open a bank account or cash checks made out to your company. Make sure the name you choose is unique in order to make sure your royalties aren’t improperly assigned farther down the road.
2. Affiliate your company with a PRO: The next step should be familiar to most songwriters. You’ll need to affiliate your new company with a performing rights organization such as ASCAP or BMI. You may already be registered as a songwriter, but now you should register your company separately. It’s recommended that you register your company with the same PRO that you registered with as a songwriter. However, if you’re thinking big and planning to publish music from other writers, it’s a good idea to register with any PRO they are also affiliated with. The approval process takes several weeks and there is typically an application fee.
3. Register your company's songs with the Copyright Office in your publishing company's name: Next, you’ll need to contact the US Copyright Office to register for a Sound Recording (SR copyright). This can also be done online and takes a few months for processing. If you already have copyrighted songs in your own name, you’ll need to transfer those rights to your publishing company.
4. Hire a publishing administrator like Songtrust
Owning your own publishing company doesn’t mean you have to handle each and every detail all by yourself. A publishing administrator like Songtrust charge a one-time fee and are equipped to handle most of the administrative paperwork on a global scale.
If you’re a songwriter looking to keep total rights of your songs and be able to make all your own creative control until the right publishing deal comes along, starting your own publishing entity might be the next step for you. It’s good to keep in mind the general costs of music publishing and what you can save over time. However, just because you go for a DIY approach, doesn’t mean you have to go it alone - sign up for Songtrust to be your publishing administrator and we’ll make sure that both as a songwriter and a publisher, you’re collecting all your global publishing royalties.
Take control of your publishing. Maximize Songtrust for your songs and business.
We created this guide to answer a simple question: How do songwriters support themselves?
The answer is not as simple as we’d like, but our goal is to make it as clear, transparent and understandable as we possibly can.
Songtrust is more than just a rights management platform and publishing administrator - we’re a team of experts in the music community who strive to educate, support, and provide thought leadership to creators, representatives, and businesses across the music industry.
Our hope is that you’ll finish this guide with an better understanding of the business behind songwriting and have actionable resources to help you be successful.