Music Publishing Explained for Musicians
In short, music publishing is the collection and payment of royalties whenever a song is “used”. That might seem simple enough, but in truth it barely scratches the surface.
Music publishing has the potential to create a new whole revenue stream for artists. Although it can be a bit complex and daunting at first, it’s important for artists to understand. So we’ll do our best to explain how musicians can start earning even more money from their music by claiming publishing royalties.
<u>A Guide to Music Publishing.</u>
Before we can get our head around music publishing, we need to understand how music copyright works.
There are two copyrights for every track. One copyright for the sound recording, and one copyright for the composition.
The Sound Recording (Master Rights)
When artists say they “own their masters”, they mean the copyright to the original recordings of their music - also known as the master rights.
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.
The copyright to the Sound Recording is usually owned by the artist or record label.
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.
The composition copyright is usually owned by the original writer or composer of a track.
Music Publishing deals exclusively with the royalties generated by a song’s Composition.
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 a few different types of royalties from sources all over the world. Hit the links below to learn more about each one.
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.
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).
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 right 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 and make sure you’re getting all the money you’re owed for your music.