Music Publishing Explained for Musicians

Music Publishing Explained for Musicians
May 4, 2021
While music publishing is a tricky concept to understand, it has the potential to become one of the most rewarding and lucrative revenue streams for artists. So although it can be a bit complex and daunting at first, it’s important for artists to understand to boost your income and make you music viable as a long-term career. We're here to explain how musicians can start earning even more money from their music by claiming publishing royalties.

If you're ready to start right away, then sign up to Ditto Pro for all your publishing, distribution and sync needs.

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Boost your royalties by up to 20% when you register tracks for music publishing with Ditto Pro.

A Guide to Music Publishing

Before we can get our head around music publishing, we need to understand how music copyright works.

Music copyright relates to which songwriters (or copyright owners) are owed money in the form of publishing royalties, every time their music is used.

There are actually two copyrights for every single track. One copyright for the sound recording, and one copyright for the composition.

1. The Sound Recording (Master Rights)

When artists say they “own their masters”, they mean the copyright to the original sound recordings of their music - also known as the master rights.

Music Publishing Explained for Musicians

Whoever owns the master rights to the original sound recording of a song will earn royalties whenever that song’s recording is broadcast or reproduced - and yes that includes streaming and downloads when you release music to any major streaming platforms or online stores.

The copyright to the Sound Recording is usually owned by the artist or record label.

2. The Composition (Publishing Rights)

The Composition or “Musical Work” refers to the underlying musical elements, structure and composition of a song. This may or may not also include lyrics.

Music Publishing Explained for Musicians

The composition copyright is usually owned by the original writer or composer of a track.

If you haven't already, make sure you learn how to copyright your music so you can become the legal owner of your song & be the person in receipt of the royalties it generates!

So while each copyright has its own rules & properties about who gets paid & for what, the one we're worried about for this post is number 2, the compositional rights.

That's because music publishing deals exclusively with the royalties generated by a song’s composition.

Music Publishing Explained for Musicians

What does a Music Publisher do?

A Music Publisher works on behalf of songwriters or composers to collect and pay out all of the royalties they earn from their compositions.

Publishers can collect 3 different types of royalties from sources all over the world. Hit the links below to learn a bit more about each one.

- Performing royalties : Royalties generated from live performances of a song, including concerts, festivals, radio play or at a public venue.

- Mechanical royalties: Royalties generated for manufacturing physical copies of a song (such as CDs and vinyls), plus digital streams & downloads.

- Sync licensing royalties: Royalties generated every time a song is broadcast through an AV media placement (think adverts, films & video games).

Essentially however, each of these royalties all relate to how an artist's music is USED.

Whether that be copied or sold in physical or digital formats, performed live on stage or at a public venue, or even broadcast on the radio or in any kind of AV media.

In theory, an independent musician could try to claim some of the publishing royalties they’re owed without the help of a publisher.

But publishing is a complicated business. There are hundreds of organisations across the globe responsible for different royalty sources, and it’s practically impossible for artists with smaller back catalogues to build the relationships they need to claim all the royalties they’re owed. This can end up leaving potential revenue unclaimed.

That’s where a music publisher comes in.

Publishers have relationships with Performing Right Organisations and other collection societies across the globe, plus years of expertise tracking down every potential source of royalties.

It’s their job to make sure you get paid everything you’re owed.

What is a Performing Rights Organisation?

A Performing Right Organisation (PRO) is responsible for collecting performing royalties on behalf of composers and songwriters in a given territory.

Most countries have their own Performing Rights Organisations, such as PRS in the UK or ASCAP, BMI and SESAC in the USA.

In order to claim the royalties that are owed to you, you'll need to have signed up to the right PRO in your region or area (or have your music publisher do it on your behalf).

So what’s the difference between a Music Publisher and a Performing Rights Organisation?

PROs are generally owned and controlled by music publishers, composers and songwriters, and are there to license and collect royalties for millions of songs together - thereby reducing costs for everyone, and protecting the value of music by grouping copyrights together to negotiate and license to digital services, broadcasters and venues.

PROs do not collect mechanical royalties. Your music publisher however will also be a member of a mechanical rights collection society, such as MCPS in the UK, and MLC or Harry Fox in the USA (and hopefully many more around the world).

Music Publishing Explained for Musicians

How to find a Music Publisher

You can sign up to Ditto Music Publishing right now to start claiming all of the royalties you’re owed.

Ditto Music Publishing will handle all the administrative work and boring legal stuff when it comes to collecting publishing royalties globally. This includes:

- Registering your music with your performing rights organisations worldwide

- Registering your music with mechanical rights collection societies

- Tracking and collecting all performing royalties across the globe

- Tracking and collecting all mechanical royalties across the globe

- Pitching your music for sync placements & collecting sync royalties

Hit the link below to get started with Ditto Music Publishing.


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Music Publishing Explained for Musicians

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