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What is "Music Publishing"?

By Professor Pooch
© David J. Spangenberg

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When most people think of the word "Publishing", they think of "Books", and that a Publisher sells books. Well, at one time there were no records or tapes, let alone, CDs, MP3's, Videocassettes and DVDs. Originally, people received all their music in the form of Sheet Music, that is, printed documents that contained words and notes of songs that allowed people to stand around a piano and sing with their friends and relatives.

Sheet Music still sells, (as well as Books of Sheet Music, known as "folios") but this is a very small part of what has become one of the most profitable parts of the Music Business. Songwriters and Music Publishers also can make sizable amounts of money worldwide from...

1. Sale of Records, Tapes, CDs, DVDs, Videocassettes, etc. - anything containing Songs played on a mechanical device, and therefore called "Mechanicals".

2. Live and recorded Radio & TV (including Cable) Performances, also known as "Airplay". This also includes many Internet Sites and mobile entertainment providers, "Jukeboxes", live and recorded performances at restaurants, clubs, bars, hotels, casinos, health spas, etc.

3. "Synchronization Rights" (when Songs are synchronized with Film and TV Movies, etc.) This has become an important way to make money - and to become well-known.

4. Commercials (Advertisers are using Songs more than Jingles, at the present)

5. "Elevator Music" (when you hear Songs played in an elevator, supermarket, when "on hold" with a telephone, etc.)

6. Computer Chips, Computer Programs, Cell Phones (Ring tones), and Video Games.

7. Etc., (including any new forms of technology and formats that seem to be appearing monthly!)

Simply put, the Publisher is the business end, and the Songwriter is the creative end. [It's usually a 50%-50% split.] And whenever a Song is used or performed, no matter who uses or performs it, the Songwriter and Publisher both could (should) benefit! It is also the Music Business's best-kept secret - how it is possible to sometimes make quite a lot of money from it.

Therefore, there's a lot of competition for publishing rights - and the money that goes with it. Today, many Songwriters and Producers, as well as many others in the Music Business have their own Publishing Companies - something unheard of 30 years ago - because they want the publishing rights and the money that goes with them. In many cases, two or more publishing companies will make deals with each other.

Of course, you have to first understand what Music Publishing is and how that section of the Music Industry operates, so that you can become successful - without getting "ripped-off".

A little history of Music Publishing is necessary at this point. Before 1960, most people in the Industry, as a matter of course, went to Music Publishers for their Songs. The Publishers had Songwriters on staff as salaried employees, as well as other Songwriters constantly contributing Songs.

But since then, many Singers/Bands/Groups began writing their own Songs. That isn't to say that Artists, Managers and Record Producers don't go to Publishers looking for material, or that Publishing Companies can't still place Songs for Songwriters. They can and still do, but not as often as they used to.

Also, understanding Publishing is very important to the Managers in that they receive commissions from the Artist's Publishing, or they have a Publishing Company of their own; and Producers of Artists, in that Publishing is a rich source of income for them.

It is important to note, also, that packaging the Artist and Song together and selling them as one entity, has become a very important consideration to most Publishers - it makes the job much easier for them. They then don't have to search for an Artist willing to record the Song(s). They, in effect, have a “self-contained package”.


The above information was "borrowed" from my Songwriter's Course and I highly recommend you check it out: Songwriting & Publishing

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"Our aim is to help guide you, protect you, and to answer any and all of your questions regarding the Creative, Business and Legal sides of the Music Business, in plain, easy-to-understand "People-Talk". No matter what style of Music, no matter what you do, no matter what stage of your career - we're here for you! Let us help you save wasted time and money..."

David J. Spangenberg
["Professor Pooch"]

Music Business Career Guidance,
Entertainment Contract Specialist

E-mail David at: Pooch@professorpooch.com

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