Song publishing

Posted: March 7th, 2008 | Category: Songwriting Courses

Song publishing is the art of making money from your songs. The objective of song publishing is to find commercial exposure of your songs that you can collect performance and mechanical royalties.

Songwriting tools

It maybe easy to hear but it is one of the most common pitfalls of songwriters. Actually in the music business, a songwriter should consider these roles closely:

a. Roles as a writer- this is what you are writing music and lyrics.
b. Roles as a publisher- this is what you become if you try to find ways to get commercial exposure of your songs.

It is the songwriters role as “publisher” that you can find commercial exposure of your songs to get royalties. In fact, it is by virtue of copyright, the creator of the song will be automatically become a publisher also. For example, I own the song copyrights and at the same time holds the music publishing rights also. I even started my own music publishing, a good example is my music catalog specifically targeted to license songs for film and TV: www.musicforlicense.net.

But writing songs is a “creative work” to do while “publishing work” is more of a business side, which makes it harder for songwriters to earn royalties for their songs. It is because of this problem that there are what called as “Music Publishers” in the music industry.

Music publishers are big music companies that promotes songs commercially. What they do are the following:

a. They have clients that will use the songs. Clients such as big recording artist, movie producers, recording producers, A&R and other music professionals.
b. By process of “song pitching” they recommend the best songs for their project.
c. They have a very large database of songs called “catalog” from songwriters they have partnered with.
d. Once the song earns royalties, the money is split between the publisher and the songwriter. Mostly at 50/50 split, but depending on the song publishing agreement/contract.
e. It is only when the song is successfully cut into a project that the songwriter and a publisher will start to earn songs. But it may depend on the contract.

Lots of song publishing success are due to these factors:

a. Great and very targeted songs to a particular genre (like pop, rock , alternative or country)
b. Relationship with music publishers that has high percentage of songs successfully released in music business.
c. Good marketing strategy on the part of publishers (this may take account the cost as well as the availability of the songs)

One of the ways of a publishing success is song exposure via live concerts, playing in music bars where potential song opportunities can be discovered. Most clients of the song needs to have some music that has commercial success and it would be good if the songs are already been played by some indie artist for some time before triggering a major release.

Playing live concert

In performance right societies such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, they collect performance royalties that will still be shared among songwriters and publishers. Also with the mechanical royalties that will be collected by HFA.

In ASCAP song registration, it will ask who will be the songwriters and the publishers of the songs. Also the percentage of sharing for the songwriters among themselves, some songs have two or more songwriters working on it. So, in the song registration form in ASCAP, the sharing of royalties will be decided.

Of course, all of the songwriters needs to be affiliated with ASCAP or other performance right societies in order to be paid properly with royalties.

Below are the best advices I can give to songwriters wanting to get the most from song publishing:

1. Select an expert niche where you can target your song. If you are an excellent songwriter in pop, concentrate pop first.
2. Know the present trends of your industry. Sometimes it is very difficult to promote a song during the publishing process that ends up “out of trend” with the current music.
3. Know the quality of your lyrics. Although writing is an art, music publishers takes lyrics quality very seriously so make sure the songs should have something to “tell” to their potential listeners.
4. Establish a catalog of your songs complete with lyrics, music/chords and much better with notes of your arrangement.
5. Invest money to record your songs. Work with a producer you can trust. Quality recording can make you stand out in the competition. So achieving low cost recordings while the quality is good can maximize the return of your investment. Recordings need not to be extremely well it is just need to pass the “commercial level”.
6. If you just started writing songs,invest some knowledge in music production, it can save you a lot of money in the future. It is very expensive to hire a producer but if you can do it yourself it is an added advantage. Learn to get used with some audio processing softwares to take a snapshot of your demo recording.

Digital audio workstation

7. Patience will make you rich. In music publishing it is not a one night success but a one step at time promotion where those very little daily steps can add a significant edge in the coming years.
8. Get out the most from both positive and constructive song feedbacks from any listeners.


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