Part two of this series was basically about the royalties obtainable by songwriters based on the rights owned by such people as a result of being creators of a piece of musical work. Once the created work has been put in any tangible form of expression, the songwriter/ copyright owner reserves the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the musical work, perform or show the musical work publicly, as well as develop derivative works based on the musical work.
This by extension means that the songwriter also has the right to grant these rights to someone else and earn royalties from reproductions and distribution of their work (Mechanical Royalties), from performances, or display of their music work publicly (Public Performance Royalties), and from derivative works based on the music (Synchronization License Fees). These 3 royalties form the bulk of music publishing earnings. There are other earnings from Licences for sampling, Print rights for sheet music, and so on.
These royalties are usually collected for songwriters by the publishing companies they are signed on to. This is because publishers can organize the data and paperwork better than songwriters can, plus they help take out the load that comes with the business side of things off the songwriters’ back. But this is not the only reason why a songwriter should get a publisher. Their roles transcend beyond just the collection of royalties and this is what we will be discussing in this article.
A music publisher is a legal entity that can grant permission to use a copyrighted piece of music with the authorization of a songwriter. This authorization is gotten from contracts signed with songwriters are signed to manage the songwriters' composition rights and maximize the songwriters' possible cash flows already highlighted above.
Here are the roles or duties of music publishers.
Publishing administration involves the registration of songs, collection of royalties, and auditing of accounts for songwriters.
Almost any songwriter can register their composition with a CMO or PRO and MRO. These bodies are capable of helping songwriters secure their mechanical and performance royalties. But these CMOs are only responsible for collecting these royalties, but they do necessarily not distribute each money collected to the specific songwriter that owns the song. This means that there is a strong chance that royalties can get lost in what is known as the publishing black box, which is a pile of unclaimed or wrongly attributed payments, and this can occur because of improper control from the songwriter’s representative.
So publishing companies help to make sure that royalties collected by these CMOs for their registered songs are properly claimed and accounted for. There are also publishing incomes that are gotten from territories that are beyond a writers’ domestic market. Publishers help to ensure that the songs are registered across the globe to ensure that songwriters get as much of their due earnings as possibly available, and dispute wrong claims to the songwriters’ income on their behalf. They help songwriters fight for their money.
Publishing administration is a worldwide venture, and as such, it is best done by companies that have a stronghold globally. Smaller publishers often delegate their catalog to these bigger companies to retrieve earnings beyond their local market. This is also known as sub-publishing.
Music publishing companies to songwriters can also be seen as equivalent to what record labels are to artists. Publishing companies, like labels, usually have designated A&Rs tasked with the duties of scouting for talented producers and songwriters to get into a publishing agreement. These songwriters are then basically groomed, as a label will do for their artist, and developed to help them be better at their craft and ultimately better their chances of earning publishing income from their good work.
Now some artists are solely artists and do not engage in the writing of the songs they put out there or writing of any sort. Some artists are songwriters themselves, either writing their songs or writing songs for other artists. And then some songwriters never put out or perform any music of their own, they just write great songs and focus solely on publishing.
Publishers are very instrumental to any artist who is a songwriter in whatever capacity they choose to be one. They help link these songwriters with musicians who best fit the songs they have written. There are cases where you’ve probably heard that a song was initially offered to a particular artist who might have refused it, and it became a hit with another artist who performed it.
Publishers help to ensure that these songwriting talents on their roster have a long-term revenue that is maximized to the fullest extent. They are concerned about the success of the compositions they are authorized to administrate, and thus, they scout for potential hit-making songwriters that they can groom and develop to bring these dreams to fruition, just like record labels do for artists.
This is done ultimately by linking a potential hit-making songwriter with a potential hit-making artist. Therefore publishers usually leverage their connections within the music industry to create collaborative opportunities for their songwriters. Having a publisher do the outreach on behalf of a producer or songwriter for a prospectively great production is an opportunity that most songwriters will not think about twice.
Publishers usually handle negotiations on behalf of their songwriters. Say for instance a songwriter has been involved in the production of a song along with other songwriters and producers, as it is usually seen in the music industry, publishers can help to negotiate a better percentage of composition rights ownership for their songwriters. As mentioned earlier, they are fighting for your earnings, both present, and future.
Publishers are also needed for negotiations when other musicians seek a license to use a part of a composer’s composition on their song. Since songwriters usually grant publishers the authority to grant their rights on their behalf, publishers can go ahead and determine how much of a song’s composition has been exploited in a new song and how much percentage the songwriter is due.
Some songwriters usually allow others to sample their work for free, while others do for a fee. But when these rights are infringed by musicians without the permission of the copyright holder or their authorized administrator (publisher), the publisher can go ahead to ensure that the correct things are done and it usually can be very costly for the person who has used the copyright illegally.
From all we have discussed thus far, it is clear that the compositions of a song have to be used by other musicians or entities for it to earn money. And as such, there is a lot of pushing and pitching that needs to be done for a composition to be relevant over time. Publishers help promote the compositions that are in their catalogs. They ensure that they are still being used in one way or another, either with artists creating different covers or interpretations of the same composition or encouraging for the composition to be used as a sample in new songs being created, or simply pitching these songs to movies, TV shows, etc to enable sync licensing opportunities. In the end, without proper promotion, these songs cannot earn money and this is one of the functions a publisher seeks to do on behalf of their signed composers.
So these are some of the functions and duties of publishing companies, like Tunedly. They carry out these duties wholesomely to create a revenue opportunity for songwriters, producers, and composers, thereby leaving these people with the sole task of creating alone.
Thank you for reading this article here on Tunedly, your favorite online music recording studio, music publishing company, and masked music discovery platform.