Publishing in a Nutshell

Confused about the difference between publisher’s rights and songwriter’s share? Still think that someone exploiting your songs is a bad thing? Here’s a quick and dirty post that explains in laymen’s terms what publishing is, and what’s in it for a songwriter.

When you write a song, the ownership of that song belongs to you 100% - lock, stock and barrel. You own the right to make money from the song any way you can, and the right to keep it all. In other words, you own the publishing rights.

When you sign a contract with a publisher for that song, you transfer ownership to them 100% - lock, stock, and barrel. In essence, you give away your song for free. Every dime that is made from that song now belongs to them. Every decision made regarding what to do with your song now belongs to them. Now they own the publishing rights.

Why in the heck would any songwriter do this?

They do it because they believe the publisher has a better chance of making money from their song than they do….that the publisher has the connections and cache to get it cut by an artist, placed in a movie, used in a commercial, and so forth. This is called exploiting the song. It’s a good thing.

Here's what’s in it for the songwriter:

In consideration of the songwriter assigning 100% of the ownership of the song over to them and allowing them to exploit it, the publisher agrees to pay the songwriter a percentage of any money the song earns....usually 50%. This 50% of total revenue = 100% of the songwriter's share. If there are multiple writers then they all split the songwriter's share.

The Nut of the Matter sum up....when a songwriter publishes a song they are giving it away because they feel that 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

A caviat: Signing with a publisher is not the best option for every songwriter. Changes in communications, technology, and the music industry are making it possible for independant songwriters to do their own networking and song pitching. Songwriters that perform their own material will also want to think long and hard about signing away the publishing rights to their music.

*Photo by steffenz.


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