Music distribution

Are you a songwriter with a publishing deal? The music publishing companies will manage your songs and make sure that all of royalties to which you are entitled are collected. They usually actively move to make your songs "work harder." In exchange, the music publisher will get a cut of income generated by your songs. 

Music Publisher Roll

Don't be confused with the roll of a music publisher and a record label. While both share many of the same goal for their artists, publishers provide a broader array of services.

A music publisher's aim is to make deals with songwriters, promote the music songwriters compose and musicians and anyone else who may need a song for whatever reason (advertising, a movie, a promotional campaign, etc.), issue licenses for the use of the songs they represent and collect licensing fees. This work is usually referred to as the administration of a song.

Styles Of Publishing

Some publishing companies are extremely hands-on and get involved in everything from the creative process to heavy promotion. Many publishing companies have a person/department devoted to providing feedback to songwriters on their work, they make suggestions for new ideas and matching songwriters up for collaborative efforts they think may produce interesting results. 

The companies that get deeply involved with the creative process are also the ones who tend to be significantly proactive when it comes to placing their songwriters' work and soliciting new opportunities for their rosters.

Other publishers are far less engaged with their clients. They tend to weigh up a composition, make a decision about its potential and "purchase" a chunk of its royalties. These companies offer little, if any, creative support to their songwriters and are more reactive than proactive when it comes to seeking licensing opportunities.

Types of Publishers

In addition to there being different styles of music publishing, there are also different types of publishing companies. These mirror the different types of record labels that exist, and in fact, many publishing companies are associated with or own record labels. Such as;

Major - These are the big boys, associated with the Big Three labels
Major Affiliated - These are independent publishing companies that have deals with the majors to handle their licensing administration. Think of these like major distributed independent record labels.
Independent - These publishing companies handle their own administration in-house without the aid of one of the majors. They are also self-funded. Writer-Publishers - It is not uncommon for a songwriter to handle his or her own publishing. If the workload demands, they may hire someone to handle to handle their song administration for them. This person is an employee of the songwriter who gets a salary/hourly rate/flat fee for their work. 

How publishers Make Money 

For music publishers, earning money is all about licensing fees and royalties. There are several different royalty streams of which a publisher will get a cut, but some of these royalties are not exclusive to them. Depending on the circumstances, they may share a royalty with the master owner.

In terms of song "ownership," a publisher usually gets anywhere from 30 to 50 percent stake in a track. In other words, the original copyright owner (the songwriter) assigns the publisher a portion of the copyright for a song to the publisher.

As a songwriter, a good publishing company can significantly increase your earning. However, publishing deals can be complicated and signing the wrong deal can leave you burned for many years to come. Always seek legal advice before making a publishing deal.

Publishing tips

When a songwriter assigns a song to a music publisher, the publisher can help in a number of ways. One of the primary roles of the publisher is to secure commercially released recordings, CDs, and tapes of the songs it controls. The publisher must have be effective have contacts  and have in-depth knowledge about the music industry (those who actually promote the songs) who not only know what artists are recording and the type of material needed for a particular session, but who also have a good working relationship with record company A&R executives, producers, recording artists, and managers. After a song has been initially recorded and released, the publisher will try to secure commitments from other recording artists or producers to include the composition on future albums or singles.
Another necessary and important service provided by the publisher is that of proper administration of musical compositions: registering copyrights, filing necessary information to mechanical and performing rights organisations, auditing record companies and other licensees, bookkeeping, negotiating licenses, and collecting monies due. Considering the complexity of the music industry, the hundreds of thousands of music users throughout the world, the lack of detail on many royalty statements from licensees, and the amounts of money involved ($250,000 to $1 million is not unusual for a worldwide hit song), this service is vital.

Another important area of concentration is the promotion of songs for television series, made-for-TV movies, and theatrical motion pictures. Standard and contemporary songs are a mainstay of these media, and whether the song is used as a theme, background music, or actually sung or performed on camera, the writer's and publisher's earnings can be substantial. An important activity for the publisher is the promotion of songs for use as part of advertising campaigns.

Many publishers have taken on the new responsibility of securing recording contracts for their songwriters. In many cases, the publisher may be responsible for producing the actual finished recording. In others, the publisher finances an elaborate demo featuring a number of its writer performer's songs so that a record company can hear the commercial potential of the writer as a recording artist and sign the writer to a record deal.

An important responsibility of the publisher is protecting its copyrights and enforcing the exclusive rights that it has been granted by the songwriter and the copyright laws. Considering the number of actual and potential users of songs throughout the world (record companies, film producers, television companies, web sites, video distributors, book publishers, sheet music firms, magazines, video and audio sing-along booths, jukebox operators, restaurants, retail stores, theatrical productions), the good publisher will spend a great deal of time and money to ensure that its songs are not used without permission and compensation.


Most digital music stores don’t have the capacity to deal with individual artists directly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t participate. If you’re an artist who is self-releasing your music, you can use aggregator services. CD Baby distributes music to iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, Rdio, eMusic, Rhapsody, Myspace Music, Simfy, Nokia,, Xbox Music, MediaNet, MOG, Tradebit, GreatIndieMusic, 24-7, 7digital, Myxer, iHeartRadio, Deezer, Omnifone, Sony Music Unlimited, Shazam, and Muve Music. That’s distribution to 26 outlets/stores. I bet you don’t know half of them (and most of your fans won’t either) but there is nothing like too much distribution, right? In addition, CD Baby has its own store where they claim you keep 91% of the sales you make. Most stores give you 70-60% Another perk is that you can sell physical CD’s as well. CD Baby will place your CD for sale on Amazon and on their store. People that order it will have your CD shipped to them. With their sync licensing, they set up your YouTube page to receive payments from adverts placed on your YouTube channel and also make your music available for TV, film, video games, etc to use on their content. Now, I don’t have to tell you that if you get the latter, that will be mega money but then again, that makes the chance of that happening, very slim.