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How to Publish Your Music? What is Music Publishing? Is it for me?

Music publishing is a critical cog in a larger machine. Without it, composers, songwriters, and producers stand little chance of getting fully compensated for their work. If you’re keen to start monetizing your material, it’s definitely time to start exploring the potential benefits of music publishing.

Key Takeaways - How to Publish Your Music

  • Music publishing involves the management, protection, and monetization of musical compositions.

  • Understanding music copyright is essential to grasping the basics of music publishing.

  • Music publishers play a crucial role in ensuring that songwriters and composers receive payment when their works are used commercially.

  • There are significant financial, legal, and networking benefits associated with music publishing.

  • Evaluating your music career goals and seeking professional advice can help determine if music publishing is right for you.

How to publish your music

Understanding Music Copyright

The Two Types of Music Copyrights

Music copyrights provide legal protection over your original music projects. They grant rights holders exclusive control over their use, including public performance and distribution. There are two primary types of music copyrights:

  1. Sound Recording (Master Rights): This copyright pertains to the actual recording of the music. It is usually owned by the artist or the record label.

  2. Composition Copyright (Publishing Rights): This copyright covers the melody and lyrics of a song. It is almost always owned by the original songwriter or composer.

How Copyrights Generate Royalties

Copyrights are essential for generating royalties, which are a primary source of income for musicians. Royalties can be earned through various channels:

  • Public Performance: When your music is played on the radio, in a restaurant, or at a concert, you earn performance royalties.

  • Mechanical Royalties: These are earned when your music is reproduced, such as on a CD or a streaming service.

  • Synchronization Royalties: These are earned when your music is used in a film, TV show, or commercial.

The Role of Copyright in Music Publishing

The music publishing ecosystem is built upon a foundation of copyright and music rights. Once a music publisher is left to manage intellectual property and copyright, they can more easily recoup the money they’ve invested in a songwriter or composer. Copyrights provide the legal framework that allows publishers to promote and monetize music effectively.

The Role of a Music Publisher

Music publishers are pivotal in managing licensing, placements, and syncs as crucial intermediaries between songwriters, composers, and the entities seeking to use their music. They bring immense value to the table by handling the administrative, legal, and financial aspects of the music business, allowing creators to focus on their craft.

Responsibilities of a Music Publisher

Music publishing is just the collective name for a large group of professionals. One of the main areas of music publishing activity is artists and repertoire (A&R). It’s the job of an A&R team to scout for and sign new talent. If a signed artist isn’t actively performing, A&R teams may also organize collaborations with other musicians or invest in career development opportunities.

They can act as intermediaries between songwriters and other entities, such as record labels, film and television producers, advertisers, and streaming platforms. The key functions of music publishers include copyright administration, royalty collection, licensing negotiations, and synchronization placements.

How Publishers Promote Music

Whether you decide to self-publish or seek a company to publish your music, the job of a music publisher is more than just registering and administering songs, compositions, and recordings. Music publishers usually look for artists with a track record of sales and successful self-promotion in the industry, or who are signed to a label, so that they can assist with getting their music placed in advertising, movies & TV, other visual media, or with well-known performers.

One of the primary services provided by music publishers is managing licensing agreements. They navigate the complex licensing landscape, negotiating terms, fees, and durations to ensure that the rights of the copyright holders are protected while granting appropriate permissions for the use of musical compositions.

By handling mechanical, synchronization, and performance licenses, music publishers enable artists to monetize their works more lucratively.

The Relationship Between Publishers and Songwriters

Music publishers play a crucial role in fostering relationships between songwriters and other industry professionals. This relationship is built on trust and mutual benefit, as publishers work to promote the songwriter's music and maximize its commercial potential.

In summary, music publishers are essential partners for songwriters, offering a range of services that help to navigate the complex music industry and maximize the potential of their musical works.

Benefits of Music Publishing

Financial Advantages

Music publishing offers significant financial benefits for songwriters and composers. By partnering with a publisher, you can access new revenue streams such as synchronization licenses, mechanical royalties, and performance royalties. This can lead to a steady income, allowing you to focus more on your creative work. Additionally, publishers often provide advance payments on future royalties, giving you immediate financial support.

Industry Expertise and Networking

Navigating the music business can be challenging. Publishers bring valuable industry expertise and established connections with music supervisors, labels, A&Rs, and other key players. This network can open doors to lucrative licensing deals and promotional opportunities, helping you to elevate your career to the next level. Leveraging their expertise can save you time and effort, allowing you to concentrate on creating music.

Legal Protection and Rights Management

A music publisher ensures that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation for your work. They handle the complex administrative tasks of registering your music, tracking its use, and collecting royalty payments. This legal protection is crucial for safeguarding your intellectual property and ensuring that you get paid for the use of your works.

How to Get Started with Music Publishing

Steps to Secure a Publishing Deal

To secure a publishing deal, you need to understand the current day music industry trends. Build a social media following, release original music, and monetize your work. Consider labels and tour globally to increase your visibility. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Create a strong portfolio of your work.

  2. Network with industry professionals.

  3. Submit your music to publishers.

  4. Negotiate the terms of your deal.

Choosing the Right Publisher

Choosing the right publisher is crucial. Look for a publisher that aligns with your musical style and career goals. Research their track record and client list. Sign up with one of the main Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP or BMI to collect and pay your royalties.

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

Self-publishing gives you more control but requires more effort. Traditional publishing offers industry expertise and resources but may involve giving up some control. Weigh the pros and cons carefully to decide which path is right for you. If you’re keen to start monetizing your material, it’s definitely time to start exploring the potential benefits of music publishing.

Common Misconceptions About Music Publishing

Music Publishing vs. Distribution

One common misconception is that music publishing and music distribution are the same. They are not. Music publishing focuses on managing the rights to a song and ensuring that songwriters get paid for their work. In contrast, music distribution is about getting the music to the public, whether through physical copies or digital platforms.

Understanding Publishing Royalties

Another misconception is that all royalties are the same. In reality, there are multiple types of royalties, including mechanical, performance, and synchronization royalties. Understanding these different revenue streams is crucial for any songwriter looking to make a living from their music.

Evaluating If Music Publishing Is Right for You

Assessing Your Music Career Goals

Before diving into music publishing, it's crucial to evaluate your long-term music career goals. Are you looking to monetize your material, or are you more focused on creative freedom? Understanding your priorities will help you decide if a publishing deal aligns with your aspirations.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Music publishing offers numerous benefits, such as industry expertise, networking opportunities, and financial advantages. However, it's essential to weigh these against potential downsides, like sharing a portion of your royalties and possibly losing some creative control. Make a list of pros and cons to see which side outweighs the other for you.

Seeking Professional Advice

Navigating music contracts can be complex. Even if you have decided to work with a music publishing company, it’s important not to enter into any agreement without carrying out some due diligence. Consulting with a music attorney or industry professional can provide valuable insights and help you secure the best deal possible.

Are you considering diving into the world of music publishing? It's a crucial step for any artist looking to protect their work and maximize their earnings. At Musician Guidance, we offer a wealth of resources, from expert videos to personalized mentoring, to help you navigate this complex industry. Don't miss out on the opportunity to propel your music career to new heights.


Music publishing is a critical cog in the larger music industry machine. Without it, composers, songwriters, and producers stand little chance of getting fully compensated for their work. If you’re keen to start monetizing your material, it’s definitely time to start exploring the potential benefits of music publishing. By understanding the intricacies of music copyright, the role of publishers, and the processes involved, you can make informed decisions about whether music publishing is the right path for you. Partnering with a reputable publisher can open doors to valuable opportunities for exposure and financial compensation, making it a worthwhile consideration for any serious musician.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is music publishing?

Music publishing involves the management, protection, and monetization of musical compositions. It refers to the administration of copyrights and the licensing of songs.

What are the two types of music copyrights?

There are two copyrights needed for every single track: one for the sound recording and one for the composition.

How do music copyrights generate royalties?

Music copyrights generate royalties every time the music is used, such as when it is played on the radio, streamed online, or used in a film or television show.

What is the role of a music publisher?

A music publisher ensures that songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. They also secure commissions for music and promote existing compositions to recording artists and to film and television.

How can I start with music publishing?

To get started with music publishing, you can secure a publishing deal, choose the right publisher, or consider self-publishing. Each option has its own set of steps and considerations.

Is music publishing the same as music distribution?

No, music publishing is different from music distribution. Distribution is about getting your sound recordings out to the public, while publishing is concerned with managing the compositions and the royalties generated from them.


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