In the music industry, making your songs heard by the right people isn't always that easy. Oftentimes, music companies will only listen to songs that are sent to them by a manager or recommended by an artist who's already working with the publishing company. If the material is approved by the creative department and they believe these songs are good, they will usually offer a publishing deal to the artist in order to get this music placed on albums, TV, films and more, and will network an artist throughout the creative community to make sure a composer receives payment when the material is being used commercially. So, what are the top 5 tips for artists when looking into music publishing and signing a publishing contract?
Create the best material possible
This might sound obvious but a lot of artists are often in a hurry and impatient to get signed by a publishing company and very often overlook the quality of their craft. A publisher is there to invest time, money and creativity and is responsible for artist's music registration, licensing, royalty collection and creative matters, therefore it is very important to have a strong material to work with. You don't have to spend enormous amounts of money for the production, but make sure that you focus on the creation process and send your best material to music publishers.
Understand the 3 basic types of publishers
Typically, a music publisher will demand a copyright ownership from the songwriter along with some percentage of the royalties. Some publishers will make a cash advance to a promising artist but this isn't always the case. There are three basic types of music publishers:
Administrator publisher is usually an individual or a small company who provide service for a small commission and is handling the process of artist's material registration, licensing and collection process.
Independent publisher offers the same services as an administrator and also provides creative services and competitive advances to songwriters. They are usually working with talented songwriters, producers and mid-level artists.
Major publishers like Universal, Sony and Warner, as an example, pay large amounts of money in advance to artists in order to maintain their market share. They are mostly working with stars like Jay-Z, Lady Gaga etc.
Do you research before you approach a music publisher and understand who you are going to work with and what deal are you going after.
Learn the secret language of music publishing
Each industry has its own technical terms and common phrases, and music publishing is not an exception, so you should get yourself familiar with this language to successfully sign a publishing contract. Here are a few definitions in publishing agreement language that should give you a good understanding of the basic terms:
Advance/Recouping - a financial arrangement where the publisher advances money to the songwriter before the publisher has collected any income. It's important for the songwriter to understand that, if the publisher has paid them in advance, they will not receive any royalties until the publisher makes back their money and turns a profit (recouping).
Split - the share of income that both parties will be entitled to.
Co-publishing Deal - a certain type of publishing deal where the publisher and the songwriter both own 50% of the copyright.
Administration Deal - without a share of the copyright, the publisher agrees to service the writer by collecting all sources of income and handling all aspects of administration on a commission basis (usually 5-25%).
Term defines the length of an agreement and it varies from deal to deal.
Territory refers to countries where the agreement is binding, it can be worldwide or with an exclusive deal for a particular territory.
MDC - Minimal Delivery Commitment is the amount of material (songs) that a songwriter is required to deliver during the term of the agreement.
Don't take it personally
As a songwriter, you have to understand that not every publisher will want to give you a publishing contract. If you get a "no", that doesn't mean there aren't other publishers that will believe in your music. Just keep going and don't get too emotionally attached to your craft, and make sure you treat it as a business when you are looking for a publishing deal and communicating with professionals in music industry.
Get your music heard / there are no shortcuts
Most music publishers and scouts are active on social media and are looking out for artists with a good social media presence and already existing audience. If they can see that your music is doing well, is getting the right attention and you have a strong online presence, you are more likely to get a publishing deal. Be unique, focus on your strengths and believe in your music. A strong determination is the key to success, so work hard and believe that you have the potential to inspire people with your craft.
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