Music Publishing

Music Publishing Companies have many jobs that are very important to an artist and a record label. Although most songwriters and artist own the rights to their own music the publishing company looks after the license of the music. They give the music scores to companies for use in films adverts etc. They also collect all the royalties from the sale and distribution  of the music. They help music creators to further the expanse of royalties they can make from their music, because of how many record deals go these days the artists will normally end up with way less money than they earn when you factor in all of the people that help create the music and deserve a cut of royalties, so publishing companies can help give creative artists the opportunity to make extra money, sometimes more from their actual record sales.

Music publishing companies are able to exploit the compositions that they are given because they will have connections in the industry which means they can save an artists lots of time when it comes to contacting companies to request work, and more often than not unless you are already celebrity status you more than likely will get shot down or even worse not get any sort off response.

Types Of Publishing Companies

There are 4 types of publishing companies that you could come across.

  • Major – These are the biggest publishers, all major publishers will have ties with major labels as well as have the most contacts through the entertainment industry. Warner-Chappell is probably the best known of these.
  • Major Affiliated – These are are what you would call an independent publishing company, but they have deals with the majors to handle their licensing administration.
  • Independent – These publishing companies are basically the same as an indie label. They handle their own administration in-house without the aid of one of the majors. They are also self-funded.
  • Writer-Publishers – It is not uncommon for a songwriter to handle their own publishing. If the workload dictates it, they may hire someone to handle to handle their song administration for them, but this person is an employee of the songwriter who gets a salary/hourly rate/flat fee for their work – not a representative from a publishing company that takes a cut of the income.

How Do publishers Make Money

When it comes to making money, the way publishers do it is through licensing fees as well as royalties. Most music publishers will have a 50/50 deal with the person signing the contract, when the deal is signed all money generated by the music gets split 50/50 between the artist and the publisher. At one point publishers would get full rights to the music they signed for life, but now publishing deals are a lot more fair in many ways as the publisher only gets part of the copyright and for only a certain amount of time that would be designated within the contract. But some may argue that 50% is to much to give up, this is a large portion of all your royalties that you need to give up. The question that you should then ask yourself is. Could I do this myself? It certainly isn’t impossible but it would be very difficult as an independent artists to get your music on other platforms without the help of a publisher. What a publisher does is take a lot of stress and time off an artists which would stop them from creating as much music as they wanted, one way to look at it is that even though you have to give up 50% of your royalties, this is money you would never would have seen otherwise. The bottom line is that music publishers can certainly enable you tap into some very lucrative income streams that you otherwise wouldn’t have had, as well as help you manage some difficult jobs. Although you as an artist can certainly handle your own publishing, and thereby keep all of your profits, a good publishing company can potentially take your career to the next level. Publishing deals can indeed be a very good thing, but make sure you understand what to expect from the company and that they are bringing something new to the table that you can’t create for yourself.


The PRS or performing rights society pays songwriters, composers and the publisher for for when their music is played in public places such in shops or other business. Music is an important part of many business and help create a mood and atmosphere often depending on the time of day or what day of the week it is, these companies are therefore using other peoples intellectual property for profit and so must pay up and buy a PRS licence. PRS is a non profit organisation which means that they don’t take any of your royalties for themselves. If you are a writer you will need to pay  PRS: £100 for writer membership / £400 for publisher membership, including VAT.


MCPS or the mechanical copyright protection society which was established in 1924 is a non profit organisation which distrusted royalties to the writers and the publisher of music for the use of their music on different formats. MCPS cost £100 for writer membership / £400 for publisher membership, including VAT. 

There are many flaws with MCPS and PPL as it is impossible to know how many people are playing your music in a shop or what radio station is playing your song and how many times they play it this is especially hard when different countries are involved. This means that you would potentially miss out on money because of the flaws in this system.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property is a law that protects all ideas from being stolen and wrongfully used, only ideas that are physical are classed as intellectual property. For example you could have an idea for a book but until you write that idea down it is not intellectual property. In terms of music it is very important and stops people from claiming music as their own or copying someone else’s music for their own gain, a composer or artist would need to record or notate the idea before it becomes intellectual property unless they do something like this then it is just an idea that hasn’t been manifested and therefore isn’t protected. Intellectual copyright last for 70 years after the death of the creator it was extended from 50 years sometime ago. But these laws have also caused many problems, as some artists or whoever the copyright holder of the intellectual property is can sue someone else if they feel that they have created something that is to slimier to the intellectual property they had created before. A recent example of this is with ‘blurred Lines’ by Robin Thickle, it was thought that the song shared and even took elements from the Marvin gaye song ‘Got to give it up’

Publishing companies are a very crucial part in many artists life and without them many people wouldn’t be able to make a living from the music they love. For this reason it seems that especially in a time when recorded music is no where near as profitable as it was publishing companies are needed more than ever to really give a boost to artists and give them extra income streams.


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