Music Publishing 101: 5 Things You Should Look For In A Music Publisher

So you’ve written a song. Now what? Well, by writing a song you’ve created a piece of intellectual property which you own. Copyright is there to protect the value of this property, allowing you to generate income from its usage. Music publishing is the business of protecting and administering the copyright in your song and maximizing its value. Generally, a music publishing company will take a share of the income from your song in return for the administrative and creative work they do for you. Working with a good publisher can save you time and money and plug you into a wider and more efficient network of opportunities to generate income in comparison with self-administering your songs as a performing rights organization (PRO) member only. We’ve asked Ross Adamson, Senior Catalogue Manager at CONNECT Songs' global publishing administration partner Sentric Music for 5 points you should consider when looking to work with a publisher:

Fair Deal Terms

Are the basic terms of the publishing agreement fair and in-line with what you need for the point you’re at in your music career? Is the publisher offering money (an advance) upfront? The prospect of cash now is always tempting but does the amount being offered seem fair in comparison with the length (the term) of the agreement? If no money is offered as part of the deal then the term should be extremely short – ideally less than 6 months and certainly no longer than a year under normal circumstances. (For example – the CONNECT Songs agreements offer no advance as standard and so the term is an extremely short and very fair 45 days).

What splits are being offered? Traditionally publishing splits were 50/50 but, again, this should be in line with any advance and the term. For big money investment from a publisher, you might be willing to have an initial 50/50 split on royalties with them but what about after they’ve recouped the advance? Does the rate increase in your favour? For a deal with no advance, alongside a short term you should also expect a fair royalty split – probably no less than 75/25 in your favour. (Again, using CONNECT Songs as an example – the performance and mechanical royalty split is 80/20 in favour of the songwriter).

Efficient Collection Network

Publishing companies have different approaches to royalty collection in different territories so it’s important to consider how a publisher collects income and the impact this has on your royalties. Is your publisher a member of most major collection societies around the world (or at least in the territories where you are most active)? Direct membership and collection means that when your song earns money in a territory, the publisher can collect it in that territory. If the publisher is not collecting directly in a territory then the royalty will either be collected by a local sub-publishing partner (if your publisher has one) or the local society will pass the money to the society where your publisher is a member. In either scenario, the sub-publishing partner or local PRO will take a cut and so this will reduce the amount coming back to you via your publisher.

Strong Creative Team

What success has the publisher had with synchronisation and other creative work? Do they have a showreel of successes (always preferable to simply a list of clients they’ve placed a song with)? What other artists or catalogue are they working with? It’s easy to think that if a publisher has other artists like you that your music might be lost or not as highly prioritised but companies looking to use music also value relationships with publishers they know can offer a wide range of options. As competitive as the world of synchronisation is, being part of a large catalogue can bring a greater frequency of opportunities. It’s also worth considering whether the publisher provides any opportunity for you to review and submit suggestions, or perhaps create a bespoke piece of music, for briefs.

Account Management

How do you maintain your account with the publisher? The publisher obviously needs your song information – how do you get that to them and if something changes, is it easy to update the information? What support options are available if you have a question or an issue? Is there a dedicated contact or a specific support team you can speak to or email? How often will you be paid, how will you paid and what will your statements look like? The usual frequency of publishing statements and payments is quarterly but this isn’t always the case – some publishers account twice per year so does this matter to you? These points are all very much on the administrative side of things and easy to forget but they all very much impact on the level of service you’ll get from a publisher so are worth reviewing.

Other Services

Does the publisher do anything else alongside administration of your songs and creative work? You might not want or need anything else but some publishers actively work with other industry partners to provide offers and opportunities for exploiting or promoting your music. That could be live performance opportunities, placement with jukebox or background music providers, songwriting camps and so on. These additional services can bring additional revenue and career development opportunities.

Finally, ask around to find out what experiences other artists you know have had in using certain publishers – all the about/FAQ pages, shiny social media ads and media articles in the world can’t make up for a personal recommendation.


Learn more about Sentric Music and CONNECT Songs.

MikeMusic Publishing 101: 5 Things You Should Look For In A Music Publisher

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