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The 3 Most Common Music Publishing Deals for Songwriters

Here’s a story you’ve probably heard before: band makes it big, everybody gets rich, the songwriter gets richer.

Why does the songwriter make more money? Music publishing!

If you’re a songwriter, you could make huge amounts of money from your songs… IF you have a deal with a publishing company.

By performing a number tasks that are often too difficult (or time consuming) for songwriters to do on their own, music publishers can help open up lucrative opportunities for your songs.

But what do the different kinds of publishing deals that are out there look like? And what are the pros and cons of each?

Ken Consor from Songtrust wrote an article called “The Three Most Common Publishing Deals — Learn Your Options!” which provides a nice summary of this topic. In that piece, he says:

The moment you decide that a song you have been working on for weeks is finally finished, you own a copyright and 100% of your publishing. This 100% is divided into two very important sections – The Publisher’s Share (50%) and The Songwriter’s Share (50%). It is imperative to understand that most publishing agreements only take a percentage of ownership of your Publisher’s share (50%). Unless you sign a work for hire agreement (See Below), you will never lose any ownership of your Songwriter’s share. 

He then goes into a description of the three kinds of publishing deals you’re likely to encounter in the today’s music industry.They are:

Administration Agreements

In an administration agreement, you the songwriter keep 100% ownership of your copyright and gives away only 5-20% of your publisher’s share for a term of usually 1- 3 years. Administration agreements typically do not include any creative services and focus solely on properly registering your songs with collection societies around the world as well as collecting royalties on your behalf.

CD Baby Pro provides this exact service, and is a great way to start collecting your publishing royalties worldwide without getting locked into a long-term publishing agreement. For more info, click HERE.

The next most common kind of publishing agreement, according to Consor, is…

Co- Publishing Agreements

A co-publishing agreement is the most common publishing deal for major songwriters today. As songwriter, you typically give away 50% ownership of your publisher’s share (hence “co-publishing”) to the publisher you sign with. In doing so, you retain 100% of your songwriter’s share and 50% of your publisher’s share so 75% of your overall publishing royalties. In this deal, because the publisher takes partial ownership over the works, they have much more of an incentive to exploit the songs and generate royalties from them. The ways in which your songs can be exploited are predominantly through synchronizations in Television and Film as well as being recorded and released by major artists – these are things the creative teams at any reputable music publisher will actively do for you on a daily basis. Many music publishing companies will offer you generous advances to entice you to sign with them. Remember however, that these advances will need to be recouped in full once your songs start to generate income.

And the last kind of common music publishing agreement is…

Work For Hire

In a work for hire agreement, for a flat fee, you will give up all ownership and administration rights for your works for the life of copyright. These agreements are most common in film and advertising when the film studio or production company wishes to own and control all aspects of the production.

For more information about music publishing, and how you can earn more money as a songwriter, download our FREE guide:

Publishing 
Guide: Make More Money From Your Music