What’s The Big Deal?
Following up on our article “Publishing Deals vs. Record Deals,” we wanted to revisit a topic that is currently popular between songwriters and independent artists: Publishing deals.
Our modern capabilities in communications and media diffusion have marked an increase in the number of professional creatives working in their crafts locally, and also remotely. Each day we see new songwriters, artists, singers, and performers, rising in between the crowds and establishing a space for themselves in the cluttered social media platforms. So, if musicians and songwriters are finding ways to shine and climb the ladders of success, what is so attractive about a Publishing Deal – what can it bring to the table?
Let’s start understanding Publishing in the big picture before we enter the hype of the two main deals. Publishing, in a super short definition, is the administration of royalties and copyrights.
Whenever music (like a song) is commercially sold, performed, or licensed, the owner(s) of the copyright/songwriter(s) and the Publisher are owed a payment, called “royalties.” Each composition of music is separated into 50% songwriter share and 50% Publisher share.
A Publisher is the one responsible for making sure that composers and songwriters get paid when their compositions are commercially used. The Publisher enters the songwriter’s career as the player that either collects and administrates owed royalties and/or as a commercial exploiter of the compositions.
Who wouldn’t want to have an ally that can help like that? The hype lies in the fact that publishing houses can (not always) advance a career, pay an advance, be the best partner to make sure your compositions end in the best commercial hands.
But, just as a publishing deal has the potential to boost your career by knocking on bigger doors, or have the ease of contacting more prominent players to pitch songs and compositions, it is “not all sunshine and rainbows.” The perks of working with a Publishing house come with a price: how much of the copyright of your original works are you willing to give up? What percentage of the Royalties your original material is making are you ready to sacrifice for the partnership to operate?
Administration and Co-Publishing
Before we proceed, it is crucial to understand that for each song you create, the royalty (earning) split is divided in two: 50% is known as the writer’s share, and the other 50% is known as the “publisher’s share.”
(Many songwriters that want to keep the 50% of the “publisher’s share,” create and register their own Publishing house)
Without further due, here are the two famous publishing deals:
Like its name says, this deal focuses on the Publisher administrating your copyrights. The Publisher does not own any part of the copyright; the company administers it for a fee. Some of the services offered will include the proper registration of your songs with PRO’s around the world and royalty collection for you.
This deal will give the Publisher about 15-25% of the “publisher’s 50% share,” which will equal to a 7.5%-12.5% of the total royalties that will be kept by the company – (leaving you the songwriter with 92.5%-87.5% share of the overall pie).
The “common” deal. Like the prefix on its name suggests “co – means jointly.” The Publisher takes partial ownership of the copyright in this deal (they become co-owners of the copyright), increasing its incentive to monetize off from your compositions!
Since the Publisher owns a part of the copyright, its share is more substantial than in the Admin deal: it will usually be 50% of the “publisher’s share,” leaving the songwriter with a 75% share of the total royalties pie.
This scenario can be quite beneficial – if the Publisher has full interest in the deal inked with you. The Publisher can take the lead and assign a creative team to pitch your music to big-time players in the industry. The agreement also administers like the Admin. deal, and the Publisher might as well consider giving you an upfront Royalty Advance (a loan).
Drawbacks of these Publishing Deals
For the Administration Deal, there are no real drawbacks: the Publisher should fulfill basically straightforward duties, and you pay them a fee for it.
However, on the Co-Publishing side of things… besides giving away part of the copyright ownership, the songwriter will not always end up in the Publisher’s interests. Not all songs are considered or invested in, and you might be stuck in such an agreement until the Publisher decides to spend time and money in your compositions. Aso, if you’re given an Advance, you will have to recoup before earning more revenue.
There is no one answer we can give. Each agreement fulfills particular needs by songwriters and the songwriters’ careers. Choosing the best deal depends on a case by case scenario, depending on the outcomes you want, how much are you willing to risk, and the economic projections of your compositions. If you can handle the work needed to pitch and exploit your compositions, an Administration Deal can be the best option to ensure you are collecting all your world-wide royalties. And, a Co-Publishing deal looks fantastic at first glance, and it can yield excellent results if you have had previous success and have connections in the industry, but can also backfire if you are not ready to go big and supply a high demand.
What we can say is that publishing is essential for all songwriters and composers that want and aim to live from their musical works. Depending on the time of your career, we suggest you take a look at your needs, consider finding help, and a glimpse into a partnership with a Publisher.