Before we can get our heads around what music publishing is, we need to understand how music copyright works.
Music publishing is the exploitation of a song’s composition copyright. The composition of a song is the lyrics and melody as written by one or more songwriters. Music publishing only relates to composition.
Music copyright relates to which songwriters (or copyright owners) are owed money in the form of publishing royalties, every time their music is used.
Types of Musical Copyrights
There are actually two copyrights for every single 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 sound 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 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.
- 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.
What is Music Publishing?
Music publishing is the business of promotion and monetization of musical compositions: music publishers ensure that songwriters receive royalties for their compositions, and also work to generate opportunities for those compositions to be performed and reproduced.
Fast forward through early recording days, the birth of radio, vinyl, cassette tapes, CDs, digital piracy, download-to-own services, and, finally, streaming. A lot has changed since the songbook days, and nowadays, music publishers earn money in a very different way — but their role, at its core, stayed the same throughout the years. Publishers are responsible for representing composers, songwriters, and lyricists — the authors of the musical works — making sure that they get compensated for the commercial use of their intellectual property.
Types of Music Publishing Royalties You Need to Know about
Songwriters make money from their compositions in a few different ways:
- Performance royalties
- Mechanical royalties
- Sync licensing fees
Any time a song you composed is played in public – via a live performance or on the radio or through speakers at a restaurant – that “performance” generates a corresponding performance royalty. These royalties are collected by the performing rights organization (PRO) in which that performance took place.
What is a performing rights organization (PRO)?
A performing rights organization, also known as a PRO, is an agency whose job is to monitor radio airplay and live performances. They then pay royalties to the songwriters and publishers who claim ownership of the songs.
PROs charge a blanket licensing fee for radio stations, venues, and even restaurants for the rights to host performances of the songs in the PROs’ catalog. This fee is scaled to the size of the station or venue; the larger it is the more they pay the PRO. The PROs use that money to pay songwriters and publishers.
When your composition is recreated in a “mechanical” format, that generates a corresponding mechanical royalty. The term originated when physical media was the only way people bought music, so each reproduction of a composition on vinyl, tape, or CD generated a mechanical royalty.
Since the advent of digital media, mechanical royalties have expanded to digital sales and streams. Whenever your composition is downloaded from a service like iTunes or played via an interactive streaming service like Apple Music or Spotify, you are owed a mechanical royalty.
What is a mechanical agency?
Like a performing rights organization, a mechanical agency is an organization that collects mechanical royalties. They collect these from labels for the pressing of physical media and from digital services like iTunes/Apple Music and Spotify for downloads and interactive streams. They also collect directly from artists who pay them the mechanical rate for cover songs. Most smaller countries combine them with the PRO.
What is sync licensing?
Sync licensing is the placement of music in other media, like a TV show, movie, or advertisement. The “sync” part comes from the synchronization of music to the moving images. When a song you wrote is licensed for placement in other media, you are owed sync royalties. There are two types of royalties earned for this placement:
- The upfront placement fee: This is paid by the production company for the placement of your song and is only paid once.
- The sync royalties: Whenever media that contains your song is played, it generates a performance royalty. The TV network tracks those plays and files a cue sheet to report the play to your PRO, who then pays you the royalties.
How much money can I make from music publishing?
The amount of money you can earn from publishing depends on a few things. There’s no definitive, guaranteed number for everyone. Like sales and streaming revenue, the publishing royalties you earn are contingent on how much work you’re doing to promote your music and get it heard.
How do I collect all of my publishing royalties?
The caveat for independent artists who write and perform their own songs is that, while you control both of your copyrights, it’s extremely difficult to collect all of the royalties earned from your composition copyright by yourself. This is because collecting every publishing royalty you’re owed requires you to register your songs with hundreds of organizations around the world and have a catalog large enough to qualify as a publisher.
You can certainly collect some of your publishing royalties on your own from domestic sources, but there’s a good chance you’re leaving royalties unclaimed from sources you don’t have the authority to collect from.
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.
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 catalogs to build the relationships they need to claim all the royalties they’re owed. This can end up leaving potential revenue unclaimed.
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.
Yes! As a Music Publishing Administrator, 1710Media administers your compositions by licensing, registering, and collecting royalties on behalf of your compositions, ensuring you are not leaving any money on the table.
If you sign up with us, we’ll handle all of the aspects of collection for your publishing, including:
- We manage all aspects of Registration, Licensing, and Royalty collection processes.
- Worldwide collection: We register your music directly with royalty collection organisations in Nigeria and over 100 other countries.
- Claim royalty back payments: You can claim royalties from as far back as 2 years ago in many cases.
- Register live performances: Earn royalties from your past and present live performances.
- Get royalties when your music is used in; Hotels, Clubs, Online, TV and Radio stations, Halls, Transport Facilities, and many others.
- Keep 90% of all royalties: We charge a 10% administration fee for all royalty types.
- You pay a one-time fee (per songwriter): We charge a one-time fee per songwriter. Not annual, not per-release, It’s just one time.