What Does a Music Publishing Company Do? Types and How They Work

If you are a songwriter with a publishing deal, music publishing companies will manage your songs and make sure all of the royalties to which you are entitled are being collected. In exchange, the music publisher gets a cut of income generated by your songs.

Their tasks include promoting their catalog’s songs to recording artists; licensing compositions for use by films, television, advertisements, and other media; monitoring song usage; and collecting and distributing royalties to clients.

Music Publishing Explained | Music Publishing 101

Types of music publishing companies

There are different types of publishing companies, many of which are record labels themselves or are associated with record labels. They typically fall into four different categories:

What does a music publishing company do?

A music publishing company is responsible for making sure that composers and songwriters are paid the royalties that theyre entitled to when their work is used commercially. In exchange for managing the songs and making sure royalties are paid out, the music publishing company takes a portion of the income from the songs. The music publishing company is responsible for:

Making deals with songwriters

Some publishing companies are very actively involved in the work of the songwriters they represent, providing guidance and support throughout the creative process and heavily promoting the music when its complete. Other music publishing companies are less engaged and only evaluate a songwriters finished composition, making decisions about how profitable they believe it could be and then purchase some of its royalties. Less involved music publishing companies provide very limited creative support. They also tend to offer more limited promotion, generally responding to offers rather than generating them.

How do music publishing companies work?

Music publishing companies earn income through royalties and licensing fees. The music publishing company often gets a 50% stake for the copyright for the song. That said, the split between the songwriter and publisher can depend on the type of publishing deal. There are three primary types of music publishing deals:

Full-publishing deals

This type of publishing deal is when a songwriter gives 100% of the rights to a song to the publisher. It covers all content that the songwriter creates within the duration of the contract and in many cases, the songwriter is expected to produce a minimum number of songs. The songwriter is expected to assign a lifetime copyright and the publisher will own that share forever.

The benefit of this type of publishing deal is that the publisher will proactively promote the songwriters published material and pitch them within the industry. The publisher also gives the songwriter an advance thats recouped over time.

While this type of publishing deal used to be very common at one time, it is less so today. That said, it does still happen, particularly if the songwriter is unknown but the publisher thinks they have potential. In this situation, the publishing company likely will have to invest a significant amount of resources helping the songwriter develop their career, which means that the company is accepting a greater amount of risk. Therefore its common for them to ask the songwriter for full publishing rights in exchange for that risk.

2. Co-publishing

This is the most common type of publishing arrangement that music publishing companies offer. With this publishing deal, the publishing company and the songwriters micro company co-publish, dividing the shares 50/50. This type of publishing deal is particularly common for songwriters who have some experience but who still want the promotional support that a publisher offers.

These types of deals also have some duration of rights. In other words, the songwriter eventually will recover the full rights to their music, although the duration of rights can range from two to even 20 years or longer.

3. Administration deals

With this type of publishing deal, the publisher is only responsible for collecting and auditing the royalties for the songwriters. With this situation, the songwriter maintains complete control over the copyright. They pay the publisher an administration fee, which is typically 10-25% of the revenue the song produces. A publishing deal like this one can last for up to five years.

How to permit your music for use in film and media

Getting your music featured in media and film can not only help songwriters and musicians gain new fans, but it can also allow them to generate income. In order to ensure you are compensated for the use of your work, you need to ensure that the music is licensed. Music licensing is the primary way that musicians receiving royalties for their work. There are three primary strategies you can use to license your music for film and media:


What is the role of a publishing company in music?

Music publishing is the business of promotion and monetization of musical compositions: music publishers ensure that songwriters receive royalties for their compositions, and also work to generate opportunities for those compositions to be performed and reproduced.

How do publishers make money music?

How They Make Money. Music publishers earn money through licensing fees and royalties. In terms of song ownership, a publisher usually gets a 50% stake in a track. In other words, the original copyright owner (the songwriter) assigns a portion of the copyright for a song to the publisher.

What percentage does a music publishing company take?

In a typical publishing deal, the Music Publisher is usually paid 50% (the “Publisher’s share”) of all mechanical and residual income, which is income from mechanical and synchronization royalties. For your performance income, since those monies are collected by PROs, the Music Publisher usually gets only 25%.

Is a music publisher necessary?

So, essentially you only need a music publisher when you have written your own songs, you have got them copyrighted and are distributing them out to be used commercially. If you are still in the early stages in your music career a music publisher may not be necessary.

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