10 Things You Had Totally Wrong About Music Publishing


1) Music Publishing is the business of music journalism and music PR

The word “publishing” can throw some people off, but music publishing is actually the business of owning and exploiting songs in the form of musical copyrights. The business started because the main source of revenue for composers originally came from “publishing” sheet music.

2) Mailing your song to yourself is the only way to gain ownership of your copyright

The moment your song is finished and “fixed in a tangible form which can be reproduced,” you own a copyright. This can be anything from music on a piece of paper to a simple recording. Filing your song as a PA Copyright with the US Copyright Office is helpful in proving your case but regardless, you still own the copyright.

3) Publishing royalties only come from sales and are only significant if you sell thousands of units

Not only are publishing royalties generated from sales, but there are hundreds of sources where they can come from including Spotify, Youtube, lyric sites, live shows, vinyl, video games, gyms, restaurants, apps, airports, merchandise etc...

4) Registering your songs with ASCAP or BMI covers all of your publishing royalties

Signing up with one of these organizations is a great start to collecting your money, but it’s only the beginning. For most professional songwriters, the money they collect from ASCAP or BMI accounts for only 30% of their overall publishing royalties. If your songs are only registered at these places, you won’t be able to collect international performance income or international mechanical royalties, as well as certain interactive streaming royalties in the US.  Find out more about these royalties here.

5) Mechanical Royalties are only generated from physical “Mechanical” sales

The term “mechanical” royalty was coined when songwriters began to receive compensation for having their songs reproduced in a mechanical form, such as vinyl or tape. Today’s mechanical royalty is generated from physical and digital sales, but anytime you press play to listen to a song online, a mechanical royalty is generated. Do you have songs on YouTube or Spotify? These are just a few examples of how these royalties are generated and you will have to affiliate with The Harry Fox Agency in the US to collect that $.

6) I can easily affiliate myself with any Performing Rights Organizations around the world and collect my publishing royalties myself

This is technically possible, however, before you start this process, you may want to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Can I read, write, or speak the native language of the society I am trying to contact and affiliate with?

  • Will I ever hit the minimum payout threshold in that country? (Often when you affiliate independently you have to generate a certain amount of money in that country in order to collect it)

  • Do I own a real corporate entity in the form of an LLC or DBA in the territory of the society with which i am trying to affiliate?

  • Do I know the tax or political sanction issues in this country? Am I following the legal principles to do business there? Could doing business in this country be considered illegal?

  • Am I an established songwriter with a commercial release in the territory

If any of these are true you are in luck! if not this process may be more difficult than you think.

On top of all this, there is an up-front fee for affiliating with each society that can make the process not only time consuming, but expensive! These fees can often exceed $100 and let’s not forget about international postage…

Learn more about starting your own publishing company here!

7) I don’t need a publishing administrator, I have a publishing company!

Even if you do have your own publishing entity at your local PRO, you still need a professional administrator if you want to collect the money you are owed globally. A PRO publishing entity is a great way to add your name to a song and collect the publisher's share of performance royalties in your local territory, but not sufficient for global and comprehensive royalty collection.

8) If I use a distribution service like CD Baby for my distribution, they will pay me my mechanical royalty from digital sales

This is true for sales in the US...BUT, almost every other country pays a direct fee of roughly 10% of the wholesale price of each unit to the local mechanical society. If there is no publishing administrator to collect these royalties for you, you won’t see this money.

9) Songwriters have to give up ownership of their copyrights when signing a publishing deal

When you sign up with Songtrust (and certain other songwriter-friendly publishing deals), you are not losing any ownership of your copyrights.

10) Songwriter’s don’t make any money from radio

In the US, terrestrial radio stations are required to pay performance royalties for the songwriter, but not the recording artist. Satellite radio and internet radio are also great sources for songwriters to collect performance royalties.

Join Songtrust today and start collecting all of the publishing royalties owed to you worldwide.

Author: Alex Badanes


Access what you’re due.