Music 101 Blog: What Is Music Publishing & Why You Need It


As forward and productive many in the music industry should be in 2015, there are lots of folks who still don’t know the basics. Never fear, SheBloggin’s here! This article breaks down the definition of music publishing, where it comes from, and why it’s imperative that you have it.

Hit the jump to read the whole article.

A music publisher (or publishing company) is responsible for ensuring the songwriters and composers (producers) receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. Through an agreement called a publishing contract, a songwriter or composer “assigns” the copyright of their composition to a publishing company. In return, the company licenses compositions, helps monitor where compositions are used, collects royalties and distributes them to the composers. They also secure commissions for music and promote existing compositions to recording artists, film and television. Successful songwriters and composers have a relationship with a publishing company defined by a publishing contract. They also provide substantial advances against future income. In return, the publishing company receives a percentage, which can be as high as 50% and varies for different kinds of royalties.

Whether you’re based in the US or the UK, there are plenty of options open when you decide that you are ready to work with a publisher. Before you start to look for a publisher to work with, you should first understand the three basic types of publishers. The first is described as an administrator. Usually an individual or small company, they provide a service, for a small commission, to the songwriter by handling all aspects of the registration, licensing and collection processes. However, they do not normally pay advances, and usually do not offer any creative services. The next level of publishers are called ‘independents’. An independent offers the same administration services as an administrator, but also provides creative services and offers competitive advances to songwriters. Their client lists would usually be made up of mid-level artists plus talented songwriters and producers.

Most of the majors like Jay Z, Kanye, Drake, etc. align themselves with the third type of publisher, called a major. Major publishers like Universal, Warner Chappell, Sony, BMG and EMI pay millions of dollars in advances to the songwriters and artists in order to maintain their market share.

If you want to make money as a songwriter, composer or lyricist, the obvious answer is to find yourself a publisher. I hope this info helped a bit. If anyone has any questions, please leave it in the comments section.

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2 Thoughts to “Music 101 Blog: What Is Music Publishing & Why You Need It”

  1. Avatar Rider With No Name

    Howdy Tasha,

    Just wanted to say thanks for these posts. I’m a new artist, in fact not even in hip hop, but I find your posts very informative as I know little about the industry itself.

    I’m getting ready to launch my debut song, and I was wondering, can I just reach out to companies myself for licensing? Or an ad agency? Or filmmakers? Or am I totally delusional? 😉

    Thanks again, darlin.


  2. Avatar Christian

    Love this information! Thank you

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