Music Publishing 101

A Breakdown of the Music Biz

The Basics of Music Publishing

Some of you who read this may have a deep understanding of music publishing and the terms there in. Some of you may just be starting out and have really no clue as what it is that music publishiers do? It may help to start by reading and getting familiar with some of the music terms. Here is a glossary on music business and licensing terms that we have compiled. It is not 100% complet but enough to get you a basic understanding.CLICK HERE If you would like to add to it or have thoughts concerning this please feel free to contact me at EMAIL Getting back to the question, "What exactly does a music publisher do?" The simple answer would be that we work with songwriters, who compose music and/or lyrics, just as a book publisher would work with an author.

A lot of people with in the music business, have little understanding of the ins and outs of publishing, unless you are directly involved in music publishing side of things. There are a lot of things to understand and we find that it is an every learning and understanding of how things are. On top of the fact that the laws and procedures vary from country to country along with subtly changes with in the structure of the laws and the inclusion of the digital age, it often becomes quite a difficult task to get a good understanding. If you are a songwriters, composer in a band or an established artist on your way you can use this info to learn about the basics, of the laws, collection guidelines, ways to register your music and issues of music licensing.

There are plenty of options for you to choose from when you decide that you are ready to work with a publisher. If you are based in the US or anywhere else in the world. Do your home work, education is key to helping you secure a better deal which translates into more money. When you start to look for a music publisher to work with, you should understand that there are basically three types of publishers. You have what is typically called Administrator, Independant and the Majors. The administrator typically is a small company, or an individual that provides a bare bones service, for a small commission, to the artist or songwriter by handling all of the registration, licensing and collection processes. They normally do not pay out advances or offer any other creative services.

The Inndependent Music publisher, offers the same services as an administrator, but differs by offering some creative services and offers competitive advances to songwriters. Their client lists would typically be made up of artists, songwriters, composers and producers who have already got their feet wet and have had some success. They have a basic understanding of the way things are, they are working hard and getting results.

Finally what we have left are the MAJORS. Artists typically like The Rolling Stones and Foo Fighters hook up with these types of music publisher. The "major" publishers would be like like Universal, Warner Chappell, Sony, BMG and EMI. They have the resources to pay hundreds of thousands even millions of dollars in advances to the songwriters and artists in order to maintain their percentage of their share of the artist or group.

The Breakdown

What does a music publisher do? What are the four basics?

The music publisher is responsible for a lot of things but there are basicically four areas of importance to an artist and songwriter. Those areas are song registration, licensing, royalty collection and creative matters. It begins with paperwork and usually a LOT of it LOL. The registration process can sometimes be a boring and tedious job that only a NON artistic person would enjoy. For most of the musicians and artist we meet usually have a hard time focusing on something so tedious and BORING!! No offense to those of you who enjoy filling out papaer work.During the song registration process, the publisher usually informs ASCAP, BMI or PRS about the new song and relays all the relevant information to them.

What are PRO's

What are ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and PRS? They are 'Performing Rights Organizations or Societies'. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers ( and Broadcast Music, Incorporated (, SESAC ( The Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, is the smallest of the three performance rights organizations in the United States. These are American performing rights societies while the Performing Right Society is the equivalent in the United Kingdom. Each country around the world usually has a similar office of which you will be able to find on google or yahoo. It is sometimes thought that they are publishers, but they are not. Basically they provide a service by monitoring, collecting and paying out 'performance royalties' to publishers and songwriters. These are royalties that are paid to songwriters and publishers whenever the song is, for example, played in FILM, on the radio or on TV. Virtually all radio stations and TV networks pay millions of dollars each year to the PRO's for what is called a 'blanket licence', which allows them to broadcast any song they wish, as many times as they like. Once the song is registered by a publisher, the performing rights societies will collect and pay out these performance royalties directly to the publisher and songwriter. Songwriters must choose to affiliate and register their work with only one society in the US; a publisher can help you decide which. In the UK, there is only one performing rights society, the PRS.

Performing rights societies will pay equal shares of the performance royalties they receive to the songwriters and to the publisher. Assuming the songwriter has a split of more than 50 percent, the publisher will then pass on the appropriate percentage of their share to the songwriter.

Those are, of course, not the only type of royalties a songwriter can earn. There are royalties that get paid when a song is included on an album that is commercially released in retail stores or made available legally on-line for downloading. These are called 'mechanical royalties'. How does one collect such royalties? That brings us to the second main area of publishing operations: licensing. This is one of the areas where the procedures are different for the United States and the United Kingdom. In the US, before mechanical royalties can be paid out to the publisher by the record label, you first have to license your song to the record label. When the publisher issues a licence to the record label, it allows the song to be included and sold on a particular album. The record company can then pay mechanical royalties according to how many copies of the album are sold. Your rights and payment rates are set down in this licence, so we don't recommend signing a mechanical licence that is directly sent to a songwriter from a record label without the review of a publisher or lawyer.

The procedure is a bit different in the UK. Just as PRS is the Performing Right Society, the UK has a 'mechanical' society called the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society, The record label which releases the album in the UK does not pay the publisher directly, as they would in the US. Instead, the record label pays the MCPS a certain amount of money, based on sales of the album. Once the publisher registers the song with the MCPS, they can then collect mechanical income from sales in the UK.

Music publishers also must be knowledgeable about new technology and the licensing of additional revenue streams such as ringtones — songwriters must have a publisher issue a separate licence for ringtone use, and the growing popularity of ringtones around the world leads some to believe that this source of income is not a passing fad but will only get bigger in the years to come. In the US, the publisher will issue a licence to a phone carrier (Verizon Wireless, Nextel or Sprint for example) or a ringtone provider such as Blingtones or Zingy. The publisher would then receive the income directly from the ringtone provider. In the United Kingdom, the income is collected by the collection society rather than directly from the source, just as with mechanical royalties. Generally the income on a ringtone is about 10 cents (for 100 percent of the copyright) in both the US and the UK.

An important part of the job of a publisher is to protect songwriters' rights. The most common way to do this is by formally registering your songs for copyright protection. In the US, this is done via the US Copyright Office. In the UK, copyright exists automatically in any written or recorded work, but registering a song with the MCPS is a good way of establishing your claim to have written it in case of dispute — better than sending it to yourself in a Jiffy bag, anyway! Some people have heard about maybe doing a "poor mans copyright" which is placing a recording and lyric sheet with in an envelope and mailing it to yourself and not opening it. So you have the stamp of the post office to declare the date you wrote the song. Yet this has not stoof up in many US courts because of many reasons like re sealing the envelope.

If you can spend time and effort in writing your music, spend hours recording and sharpening your skills, why would you NOT file a copyright for that song? Your competition does, and will? They will have the right to collecte the money from your work? Many artist and up and coming songwriters do not think of protecting themselves. You can do it for not as much money as you think. It will add class to your songs and you as a songwriter should just incorporate that into part of the gig. You write the song you should also benefit finacially from it as well

In the United States, one of the larger issues in terms of protection comes into play when a publisher attempts to license a song to a record label. Since the record label is the entity paying out the mechanical royalties, they can attempt to pay less than the amount they are required in accordance with US copyright law. (According to copyright law, the current royalty rate you are entitled to receive — called the 'statutory mechanical rate' — is currently 8.5 cents if you wrote 100 percent of the song.) They accomplish this not by breaking the law, but by having you sign documentation that allows the record company to pay you a lower royalty rate or pay royalties on fewer albums. By asking songwriters to accept less money than they are potentially entitled to receive, record companies save millions of dollars in mechanical royalty payments each year. If you work with a publisher, they are experienced enough to not allow the record companies to issue the royalties at a reduced rate, unless the label is actually entitled to according to a prior written agreement (known in industry parlance as a 'controlled composition' clause).

So, through registration and licensing, we've come to the third part of the publisher's role: royalty collection. Song registration and licensing allows the publisher to collect your proper amount of royalties from all sources. We've already discussed performance and mechanical royalties, but there is another royalty type called 'synchronisation' royalties. These usually occur as a one-off negotiated flat fee whenever music is 'synchronised' to a moving picture. By way of example, sync fees are paid if your song is used in a movie, TV show, commercial or video game. An experienced publisher will negotiate the sync fees and issue the requisite licences. (Future residual royalties are further paid by the performing rights societies for many sync rights.) A music publisher works diligently to collect all of these income streams from the various sources.

Lastly, there is the fourth element: creative exploitation of the song. Publishers can often spend a large part of their time attempting to 'pitch' the song to advertising agencies, music supervisors who work in film and TV and video game producers. The creative energies of a publisher can bring untold new opportunities to songwriters both artistically and financially.

One thing to remember is that this process takes time. If you think you are going to send out a song or two and become the next Michael Jackson or the next Justin Beiber from a simple video you are going to be sadly disappointed. It is not that it cannot happen it is just that there are a million other folks trying to do what you want to do. Just take a look at the X Factor, or American Idol and the like. So many folks who cannot perform and who have no clue are flooding the market. It is up to YOU to educate yourself, to stand out above the crowd. Never give up, never stop following the dream you have. read thru this website and others like it, surround yourslef with people that are like minded. Realize you do NOT know everything, but you live in and era that the tools for success are at your finger tips.

This is just a small sample of the info you should look into and teach yourself, for no one cares more about your music than YOU!! No one will ever protect your music or try to market your music better than you and your fans. I would encourage you to check back often and also look into other websites for information in regarding music publishing. For that is the only way you will get ahead, other than finding those who share your vision.

Wolfies Music Publishing providing music for Film, Television, Web, and much more. Offering a wide variety of genres from Rock to BACH. With several tracks to choose from, we have the songs you want to make your project special. Wolfies Music also provides helpful links and instruction as to how to promote your band and artist providing tools, social media and consultation along with someone to help you realize your full potential. Wolfies Music Publishing provided 100's of tracks and cues from a variety of artists to many brands and post production clients globally. All tracks are available to be used on a pre-cleared basis. Music from WMP Publishing artists have been used by many of the worlds leading global brands. For more information read more →

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