Music publishers are companies that first and foremost ensure that songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. They also perform many other roles. A songwriter would sign over the rights to collect these monies via a 'publishing contract'.
A popular song can earn money in a remarkable number of ways in addition to the biggest money makers, public performance, mechanicals, sync and sheet music. The publisher's responsibility is to assure that all these uses are properly licensed and paid for. But the publisher also undertakes other essential functions, including negotiating and issuing licenses for use of the songs; registering copyrights in songs with governmental bodies, performance rights organizations, and mechanical collection societies and other administrative chores.
Here is a list of additional services publishers provide for their writers and composers:
- Negotiate blanket deals with services such as interactive streaming
- Produce demos
- Secure record deals for writers who are also performers
- Check royalty statements for accuracy
- Audit licenses in case of underpayment
- Secure placements in advertising campaigns
- Monitor payments and make sure royalties are paid on time
Music publishing is complex but having a good understanding of the basics will better prepare you for this journey that you are about to take or are already taking. The best way to get a jump start on understanding and getting better at music publishing is to set up your own publishing company and be your own independent music publisher.