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All You Need To Know About Music Publishing

All You Need To Know About Music Publishing

Your music can reach listeners in many ways. But if you’re going to offer your music for sale, distribution, and deals, knowing the legal aspects can be essential to take advantage of the different ways to generate income from the copyrights you hold as a musician. These rights are often handled by a publisher, who ensures that you get compensated each time your music is played publicly, whether online, on the radio, or reproduced for distribution purposes. Publishers typically manage these rights for their authors.

Although music publication is a hard topic, grasping the fundamentals may go a long way in how you generate money from music.

In general, songwriters and copyright are the two main factors in music publication. Musicians and copyright holders are entitled to remuneration when their work is commercially used (whether via sales, licensing, or public performance). Songwriters might benefit from various services provided by a music publishing firm. As “administrators of the publication,” they manage the copyright, protecting the use of the songs and collecting the royalties that are due for the use. The usage and exploitation of the copyrights they manage is a priority for certain music publishers on the creative side, where they secure chances in the form of “synchronization licenses” for advertisements, television shows, movies, and video games.


In the late 19th century, music publishing began to play a significant role in the contemporary music business. Tin Pan Alley, a tiny area in New York City, was home to a group of music publishers and songwriters who collaborated to produce and promote popular music outside of religious and classical genres. Unquestionably, distinct sales tactics and forms (think sheet music) characterized this period, as was its eventual effect on how music publishers and composers conducted business. Today’s sale of sheet music represents only a marginal part of the publisher’s income and role.

Be careful not to confuse the music publisher with the “phonographic” publisher, which is a completely different profession: it is the one who markets the recordings (hence the adjective “phonographic”).

Many types of composer royalties may be earned when people listen to music on their computers or mobile devices (through streaming or downloading). Songwriting royalties linked with each stream and download must be collected and handled by a publisher, even if your digital distributor collects the aforementioned streaming and download income and download sales.


First and foremost, you should know what copyright is and how it impacts art ownership before getting into the details. A piece of work a person creates is deemed to be the copyright holder’s property at the time of its creation. Regardless of whether or not you want to have that piece of music legally protected, you, the artist, own the work you made.

When assigning publication rights, things become a little more complicated. When it comes to selling your music, you might think of a publisher as the person or corporation with the right to do so. If you want your music to be used in commercials, movies, or radio, you’ll usually have to sign a contract with a publisher. The publisher will then utilize their contacts to get your music into these different media.


A music publisher’s work consists of researching, discovering, and signing authors and composers. The publisher then plays the matchmaker between the composer and the author to get good songs.

The publisher can also sign a songwriter who, therefore, signs the texts and music of the same work.

Once the song has been created, the publisher’s role is to place the works he owns in edition with the performers (if the author-composer-performer does not perform his own songs).

When an artist is only a performer, his manager or label must look for songs that suit him. This is the case most of the time for artists coming out of television musical competitions. The solicited editors can quite simply propose songs already created but not yet interpreted. They can also have their authors and composers collaborate to create tailor-made songs for the artist according to his vocal personality, musical register, and universe.

Once the work has been performed, the publisher is responsible for ensuring its exploitation. This can be done in all possible ways: recording, broadcasting (radio, TV, etc.), concerts, and finally, the synchronization of music in a film, a TV series, a documentary, an advertisement, a video game, etc.

Moreover, the publisher is, in a way, the “manager” of the work. They ensure the permanent and continuous exploitation of the works and become responsible for their protection and the control and administration of their rights.


For their work, the music publisher receives a share of the royalties generated by the exploitation of the work for which he has signed a so-called “editorial assignment” contract with the creators. And this for the entire period of protection of works, which is 70 years in Europe.

SACEM will remunerate rights holders on the following basis:

  • For mechanical reproduction rights: author 25%, composer 25%, publisher 50%.
  • For public performance rights: author 1/3, composer 1/3, publisher 1/3.

It should be noted that the publisher invests in creation in several forms (advances, order bonuses, contribution to the budget of a clip, tour assistance, etc.) and is often the first economic partner of the beginner artist. Therefore, it seems logical that they benefit from a share of the rights it has helped to generate by managing and optimizing the exploitation of the works.

Some artists today choose to create their own music publishing companies to keep all their rights to their work and, therefore, all the money collected through this.

A music publisher with exclusive rights might generate money from your song even if you don’t want them to. Even if you die before your music is released, a publisher may be able to profit from it.

Now that you understand more about “music publishing,” be sure to protect your rights and make sure you’re fairly compensated for your hard work. Need any help getting that done? You can reach out to us today!