Song Publishing - Music publishers

Publishing is a lucrative area for bands that write their own material and those that write a song but their song is recorded by another artist.  How do you tell who owns the copyright of the song?  When you look a DVD jacket that lists the songs you will usually find beneath the title of the song who wrote it.  Sometimes they are the members of the band and sometimes there are other names of people who collaborated in composing the song or a song written by someone else in which the band obtained licensing rights to record.  These are the copyright owners in which publishers recognize as the owner of the song.  Publishing is the money you receive for writing the song. A quick distinction must be made between the copyright of a song and the copyright of a sound recording. When you record the song for a record company or the person who paid for the recording, that company or person owns the copyright of the sound recording, but you retain the copyright of the song. Publishing money comes from the copyright of the song, not the sound recording.
The owner of the copyright to a song is entitled to certain exclusive rights. This means that the copyright owner has all rights to a song unless people pay the owner to use it. When people pay the copyright owner, the owner is said to grant a license. The money from these licenses is what is called publishing. There are essentially four areas of publishing income: performance, mechanical, print and synchronization. There are a few others, but they rarely come into play.
The right to prohibit public performance of your song is the first right and area of publishing income. No one can play your song in public unless they pay you. Publishing companies depend on performing right societies like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC to track and collect monies from those companies wanting to play your music in public.   For example, every time your music is played on the radio, you are entitled to a performance fee which BMI, ASCAP or SESAC will collect for you. These organizations are involved in one small area of publishing (performance licenses) and are not considered true music publishers.
The second right of the copyright owner is the right to reproduce the song. This is known as a mechanical right which gets its name from when they used to mechanically make records on wax tablets. This technique is gone but the name remains. A mechanical right means that each time someone makes a physical copy of the song you own the copyright for, you receive compensation. The rate is set by the United States Copyright Office so check there for current standard rate. So hypothetically let’s say you get paid 7.1¢ per song and you write 10 songs on an album, you will receive 71¢ for every album made. If you sell a million albums, it does not take an accountant to figure out you are looking at some serious publishing money.
The third and fourth main areas for publishing money are print and synchronization licenses. These are small compared to performance and mechanical, but they are additional sources of revenue. A band receives publishing money from a print license any time the song is written down and published. For example, a song being printed into a musical score for instruments likes the piano.  Money from print licenses usually are only a few cents per copy that is printed. A synchronization license, affectionately know as a "synch" license in the industry, is granted any time your song accompanies a visual image. Videos are a good example of synch licenses. In addition, commercials, movie soundtracks, and background music on TV are also examples of publishing money from synch licenses. The amount of money for a synch license varies widely. Your record company will demand a free license for a music video while a feature song for a movie soundtrack from an established artist can demand monies that reach in the six figure range. Each license will generate a different fee depending on the use for a song.
Since figuring out how much money everyone owes you from your publishing can be difficult, many bands will hire a publisher. A publisher's job is to collect all this money for you. They will also have a better idea of the going rate for the various licenses you will want to grant. For example, how much would you charge for a commercial that wants to use your song? Publishers "administer" your copyrights which is just an industry term for collect money.
So for employing the services of a publishing company to collect money for you, what are the fees?  Most publishers will collect your money and give you half while they keep the other half as a fee. Other arrangements can be made, but this is usually the standard publishing deal. Not only do the steep fees for a publishing company surprise many bands but when they find out that they actually sign over ("assign") their copyrights to the publishing company. A publishing agreement usually states that the band assigns their copyright to the publisher and in exchange, the band will receive one half of the publishing revenues generated. In part you still own the copyright for your song, but assigning the rights of copyright for your song to a publisher gives them the authority to collect and enforce the copyright on your behalf. You pay the publisher to take care of enforcing your copyright for you. It is their job to watch the market to make sure that no copyright infringement is occurring, if so they have the authority on your behalf to sue to enforce the copyright.  This in turn gives you freedom to do what you do and that’s create music while the publisher makes sure the copyright laws are abided by for the music that you create.
Many record contracts force you to give your publishing to their publishing company. Many established artist has resisted this but the reputation of publishers is very important. Only sign a publishing agreement with a company that knows what they are doing. A good publisher will make you money. But if you cannot stomach the heavy fees associated with a publishing company, the alternative is to administer your own publishing and set up your own publishing company for your songs.

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