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Music Publisher: How to Benefit Off Working With One

By ASKM Publishing

Everything You Need to Know About a Music Publisher


If you’re an independent artist who writes your own song then you’re also a songwriter. If you’re only interested in writing for other artists then  you’re solely a songwriter. Regardless of which of these categories you fall into, if you have anything to do with writing songs you need to know all about music publishing. You have to know all about music publishers. What does a music publishing company do? The most important factor you have to understand is why music publishing is so important? To understand this you have to be familiar with what a music publisher is and what he or she do?


What is a music publisher and what do he or she do?


music publisher

A music publisher is a person in charge of making sure songwriter receive proper royalties and payment for their music

A music publisher is a person or persons that’s responsible for making sure songwriters and composers receive proper compensation for their songs. A music publisher can be an independent publisher who works by themselves. Or a music publisher can be apart of a music publishing company and work with several parties. The required duties of any music publisher and/or publishing company is to make sure you as the songwriter or composer recent your money for your songs every time your music is played or used. However, this isn’t the only task a music publisher is responsible for. If you’re an artist/ songwriter signed to a music publisher he or she is also responsible for:

  • shopping the songwriters’ songs
  • getting songs placed on several platforms such as TV shows, commercials, movies, etc.
  • register copyrights for your songs
  • file administration paperwork regarding your songs
  • and more

This means now that you’re a songwriter or an artist who writes their own songs and you’re signed to a music publisher, that music publisher is responsible for making sure you benefit off your song to the best of their ability. It’s also their job to protect your songs. It’s very important to be aware of the fact that there are multiple different types of music publishers. You can be an independent music publisher, major affiliated music publisher or major music publisher. Each one has it’s own benefits, pro’s and con’s. The decision is based on your needs, what you’re looking for and what goal you’re trying to accomplish.

  • Independent – completely independent. Handles everything themselves with no assistance or finance from major labels or fellow music publishing companies.
  • Major Affiliated  – independent with some support and finance from major music publishing companies
  • Major – associated with “the big 3” labels (Sony, Universal, Warner), have 100% financial and administrative support from one of the big 3 companies. Tend to offer songwriters largely advances due to major backings.

The best way to sum up a music publisher or music publishing company is to describe them as record labels for songwriters and composers. One may ask “if I’m an independent artist why should I have a music publisher at all?” That’s a good question. As an advocate for artist independence I wouldn’t encourage one to sign with a music publishing company right away. However, there are some exceptions or various situations where you it may be better to sign with a music publisher.


When working with a music publisher is beneficial for the artist

In this day and age with indie artists at an all time high signing a deal or any sort can be very unnecessary. However, there are specific times when there may be an exception to this. The great thing about being an independent artist is you can be your own music publisher. Meaning if you’re an artist or songwriter and haven’t signed with a publishing company yet then by default you are your own music publisher. This is great for artists who want to remain 100% independent. However, if you are more focused on songwriting and want your songs to reach an artist of a certain caliber, you may want to consider signing with a music publishing company. For example, say you’re interested in shopping a song of yours to an “A-list” artist. Doing it on your own is possible. However, the chances of you getting through to that artist team is slim to none. With a music publisher you’ll have someone who has the finances, resources and reputation to not only shop your song, but actually get it placed. That’s one of the pro’s of working with a publishing company. Most of them already have established relationships with industry executives, managers, A&R and more. This makes it easier for them to negotiate for you. Another factor some artists consider signing with a music publishing company is simply because the company is able to offer them an advance. If you’re a struggling independent songwriter who still hasn’t landed your big break, yet bills are due you may want to sign with someone that can give you an advance. Please keep in mind advances you have to pay back and if your song doesn’t live up to its potential and you have no money to pay the advance back you could very well be in the negative.

music publisher chart

Chart showing how music publishers, artists, labels and licensing all work and relate to one another

Don’t get discouraged about signing with a music publishing company. There are several options you can go with when making your deal. If you find yourself in a situation where you think you want to sign with a publisher go with a more simple agreement. The best type of agreement to do this with is “a single song agreement.” A single song agreement is an agreement between you as the songwriter and music publisher for just one song. This allows the other songs in your catalog to be 100% self published by you. You can still remain an independent songwriter. You even have the option to work with other publishers if you want. This enables you to have one song being shopped by a popular entity while still being in control of your catalog. The best way to make this type of agreement work is to have this single song agreement with one of your best songs. A song you truly believe will get picked up by a mainstream artist. Now you have someone with a reputation in the music industry shopping it. Once the song become a mega hit you won’t have to feel obligated to any contracts (only the one regarding the single song). You can still be independent and successful. This just one example how to make having a music publisher work with for you.


How to know if this is the right music publisher for you

If the opportunity presents itself and you’re interested in working with a music publisher even for a short period of time there are several factors you should look for. All publishers aren’t on the same level. All publishers don’t have the same amount of presence within the music industry. If you want to shop a song using a music publishing company and expect it to reach a certain level make sure you get with a successful one. Here are some traits to look for when signing with a music publisher:

  • have previous songs and artists they have worked with who are successful (independently or mainstream)
  • have a firm reputation within the music industry
  • don’t do a lot of advertising ( a music publishing company shouldn’t have to advertise or solicit songwriters.) You find them they don’t find you.
  • can provide you with a detailed layout on how they are going to make your songs successful.

Keep in mind if you want to remain strictly independent you don’t have to work with a music publisher. You can shop your songs solely by yourself. However, for whatever reason there may be an exception as to why you would want to work with a music publisher. These are great tips and guidance as to how to benefit off working with one.


Learn all you need to know about the music business and more with Mogul book. Shop here.



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