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Music Publishing 101

Songwriters tool
Songwriters tool
Emmanuel Hernandez

Songwriters and musician's strive to put their hearts in the music that they compose. Lyrics and melodies are born from life experiences and the world that the songwriter sees. While focused on creating these stories for listeners, artist tend to shy away from the business side of music world. One of the areas that is often overlooked by songwriters is the world of music publishing .Music publishing is filled with unfamiliar terms and at times can even have its own language. With a little bit of awareness a songwriter can acquire a better understanding on how a music publishing company works and what a music publisher does for a songwriter.

What is a music publisher?
A music publisher works with songwriters to market and promote their songs to the public in order to generate income. A publisher will pitch songs to recording artists, record companies, movie and television producers and others who use music. A publisher will than license a song to be used, collect the royalties and fees for the usage of those compositions. Typical publishing agreements are; Publishing, Co Publishing and Administration agreements. These agreements can vary from songwriter to songwriter. When a songwriter enters into a publishing deal the songwriter splits the copyright ownership with the publisher in order for the publisher to find as many streams of income for the composition. As mentioned earlier music publishers issue licenses in order to create revenue for a composition.

The type of licenses are as follow

Mechanical (reproduction) license. This license is used for the distribution of music in either physical or digital form. The royalties generated are typically collected and paid by the Harry Fox Agency. Once a song is released to the public, the song can be covered by another artist. Typically publishers will go through the Harry fox agency in order to obtain a license to reproduce a composition.

Public performance license. The licensing of music for broadcast radio (terrestrial and satellite), live venues and other public places. These royalties are collected and paid by performance rights organization. The PRO's in the United States are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Organizations like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC help song writers by monitoring the use of a composition and collecting the royalty it generates. They are also great sources of information. These PROS host workshops for writers, publish informative press releases and even offer discounts for their members. A songwriter can only belong to one PRO at a time.

Synchronization license. Music that is used in film, television, commercials, music videos, etc. require a synchronization license. Publishers will enter into a direct licensing agreement with the end users, since there is no standard rate for synchronization.

Reaching a publisher by an artist requires a bit of research. The best resources are always fellow musicians and composers. They can give you an honest opinion of the publishers they have worked with and can guide you helping you find the best solution for your needs. A good publisher will be knowledgeable of your genre and will work hard to ensure that your music will receive the proper attention and representation. Even though a songwriter can perform all of the functions of a publishing company, it takes away from where their passions lie, composing music!

Manny Hernandez
Trovador Music Publishing

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