When you hear about artists selling their masters, they are often talking about their publishing. In this article, we will cover what publishing rights are, how to make money from publishing, if you need a publishing company, and how to be your own publisher. Want to better understand music copyright? Read this article. If you want to learn more about performance royalties, read our article on what Performance Rights Organizations are. Interested in more tips on the music industry? Check out all of our free resources for recording artists and those who work with them.
What is music publishing?
If you write and record your own music, you own the publishing and copyright to that song the second it is created. Your music is your intellectual property and is protected even if you don’t formally register it with the Copyright Office. We break down music copyright more in this article.
Every time money is generated for publishing—this is usually collected by your Performance Rights Organization, 50% is given to the songwriter and 50% is given to the publisher. Record labels and publishers will often try to purchase your publishing rights to a song so that they can earn more money through their PRO. When you hear about artists selling their masters, this is often what is happening. It can also mean signing other portions of the royalties, such as streaming royalties, away to a company.
When you sign up for a PRO, you may be asked if you want to create a publisher account. It’s always smart to create one. Not only to collect royalties, which we discuss next, but to make sure a record label can’t trick you into giving away publishing royalties you didn’t know you had.
How do I make money from music publishing?
When a song is used in a performance (i.e. played on the radio, used in a TV show or movie, performed live) and is paid out to a PRO, publishing will be paid. If the song is part of an album or purchased as sheet music, publishing will be paid from the mechanical royalty. You need a Performance Rights Organization to collect your publishing from performance royalties and can use an organization like Songtrust to collect mechanical and other publishing royalties.
Navigate the music industry with confidence.
Music publishing can be tricky, but we’re here to answer all your questions on it. Want to make sure you’re collecting all the royalties you’re owed? Our artist management services can help you register with a PRO and other agencies to ensure your publishing and other royalties are being collected. Looking for more tips like these? View all of our free artist resources.