How do I get a publishing deal? Do I need a publishing company for my music? As an artist, finding a music publisher is a hugely important thing to understand how to do.
Understanding music publishing companies is one of the keys to being successful in the music industry. Being able to find publishers to work with is tough, but we have some tips to help you find (and work with) the top UK music publishers.
There are plenty of music publishing companies looking for songs if you feel ready to sign a songwriting publishing deal. Below are some of the best ideas for how you can get you music heard and find the deal that’s right for your.
Music publishing explained
In this article we will cover:
- How do you get a songwriting publishing deal?
- How do music publishers make money?
- What percentage do music publishers take?
- How much money does a songwriter make per song?
- The best music publishing companies
- Independent music companies
- How to get a meeting with a publisher
Music publishing deals
Music Publishers: A music publisher (or publishing company) is responsible for ensuring that songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. Getting yourself published as a singer or artist is important for your future success in the music industry.
Deciding who you want to publish your music is a difficult decision. Quite often if you are at the level of having management, they will usually advise and source a publisher for you.
Essentially you only need a music publisher when you have written your own songs, so if you are still in the early stages in your music career a music publisher may not be necessary.
Although a songwriter can certainly handle their own publishing, a good publishing company can be extremely helpful.
How to get a music publishing deal
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to getting a music publishing deal – it requires hard work and dedication. Fortunately, since you’re reading this article, you’re already actively looking for how to further your music career!
One of the first things you’ll need to consider when thinking about getting a publishing deal is whether you actually have good enough music.
#1 Create a demo
Creating a demo would be your first move. This simply means, getting some of your material put into a hard copy that you can then distribute.
It’s essential that these demos are of high–quality because they’re likely to be the material you send to publishers. The demo acts as the band or singer’s CV, so make sure it is well recorded and that it represents you well.
A publisher can help your songs get used commercially or help you get signed.
A good publisher that believes in your music should be proactive and well connected to get your music to the right people. The good thing is that a publisher will only get paid on what money (royalties) they collect.
#2 Be prepared
This is so important. You need to critically listen to your music and ask yourself if it can really be placed.
The quickest and easiest way to do this is to include your music in a playlist with other successful music in your genre to see how it flows, both in sound quality and writing.
If it sticks out like a sore thumb, focus on getting your music to a place where it stands the best chance of getting placements. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
#3 Put music on a website
If you’ve been producing or writing for a while, you’ll understand that people need to go somewhere physically or virtually to listen to your work.
Today, everything is online. This means that your music should be easily accessible, in some form, on a website. There are so many websites like Soundcloud or Bandcamp where you can upload your music for free.
If you want to go one step further, you can place your music on your own website which you can easily create through Wix, Squarespace, or other platforms. This is the most professional route, but Soundcloud has also become an acceptable medium to share your music.
#4 Create a playlist of your best work
Whether it’s on your website, Soundcloud, or Spotify, your ‘playlist’ should represent your best work.
If you made a heavy metal song 5 years ago, and you’re focusing on writing pop music now, you should probably leave that one out.
If you’re struggling to find a genre that you’re best at writing in, ask people at your gigs “what style of music of mine do you like the most?”
Do they like your EDM tracks, or do they prefer your hip-hop songs? This should give you an idea of what you’re good at. Once you’ve found this genre, gather your top ten songs that you’ve created in this genre and put them on your playlist that you can use as your ‘showpiece’.
What’s great about Soundcloud and Spotify is that you can create a private playlist. If you have other content on the site and want to have a playlist just for music publishers — this is definitely the way to go.
Send your demo directly to publishers
This is when Google becomes a useful tool; searching publishers may not be as easy as you would originally think. A wise thing to do is to search published artists of the same genre as you and find out who they’re published by.
Once you’ve found a group of publishers you’re interested in, it’s best to contact them to find out what format they want your demo to be in and who to send it to, etc.
Warning: Like artist management, signing to a publisher is a two–way process, you may want to work with them but they might not necessarily want to work with you.
For a publisher to want to work with you they are most likely going to want to see income streams already coming in or a strong indication that they are likely to. So either they will want to see music sales so they can collect money straight away or see the potential in your music, without this they are unlikely to sign you.
How do you get a song published?
To get a song published, music publishers need to feel like you’re worth publishing. They need to feel like they can bring something to your career but only if you can bring something to their business. The simplest way to do this as an artist is by building traction online and creating great music.
Learn about the right publisher for you
Do your research on music publishers. Many of them will work with artists of all different types, but some may only work with certain genres. If one only works with EDM artists, you’ll be wasting your time trying to get them to sign you if you write country music.
Another important point to remember is, once you do have the interest, don’t sign the same song with more than one publisher. Even if it’s a non-exclusive agreement, music supervisors won’t like that. There have been instances of people being blacklisted for this.
You can avoid this by writing a lot and having a bunch of songs to sign with different publishers to test the waters.
How do you find the publisher of a song?
If you’re doing your research around existing artists, a great thing to do is to find their publishers.
A good way to go about this is by locating the copyright notice. This can be either on a recording or on a copy of the sheet music.
You can then search for the song title, writer, or publisher on CCLI, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC or SongFile.
Each of these will have the information that you’ll need to find out the publisher of a song.
Who do music publishers work with?
A lot of music publishing companies work in association with record labels, these are some examples of publishing companies that are associated with the major record labels:
- Warner Chappell
- Sony/ATV Music Publishing
- Universal Music Publishing Group
How do music publishers make money?
For music publishers, earning money is all about licensing fees and royalties. There are several different royalty streams of which a publisher will get a cut, but some of these royalties are not exclusive to them. Depending on the circumstances, they may share a royalty with the master owner.
What percentage do music publishers take, and how much does a songwriter make per song?
In terms of song “ownership,” a publisher usually gets a 50 percent stake in a track. In other words, the original copyright owner (the songwriter) assigns the publisher a portion of the copyright for a song to the publisher. They can technically keep any amount, but it has to be worth it for both parties.
If you’re a singer and you’re looking for more info on music publishing, check out this article.
How do publishers collect royalties?
In every music publishing company, there is someone who needs to make sure all of the music royalties are accounted for and paid out properly.
Someone is hired to do this job. The role of a ‘publishing administrator’ is to ensure that compositions are earning royalties owed to them, being collected, and accounted for. They will then ensure that the songwriter is paid accordingly. This process is known in the music industry as ‘publishing administration.’
Music publishing companies
Excluding the aforementioned big three, there are hundreds of smaller independent music publishers out there. It may be worth considering them if you do decide to apply directly to a publishing company.
Here’s a list of music publishing companies that you might want to keep your eye on (Independent music publishing companies with bases in London):
- Beggar’s Music
- BMG Chrysalis Music
- Buck’s Music Group
- Imagem Music
- Notting Hill Music
- RAK Music
Many other bigger music publishing companies are listed here.
Best Music Companies
There is no definitive best music publishing company, you need to find the one that’s right for you. Some have more reach than others, but you want to make sure that you’re prepared for everything else that comes with the responsibilities of a publishing deal.
A great company that we haven’t mentioned yet is Kobalt Music. Kobalt owned 17.3% of the top 100 radio songs in the US in of 2015, ranking it third after Universal.
Wired reported in 2015 that Kobalt was “the top independent music publisher in the UK and the second overall (to Sony/ATV) in the US,” with around 600,000 songs and 8,000 artists in its catalogue. This included: Massive Attack, Trent Reznor, Gwen Stefani, Phoenix, Prince, Sonic Youth, Ellie Goulding, Paul McCartney, Bob Marley, John Denver, Tiesto, Bob Dylan, and Kelly Clarkson.
With headquarters in New York, Kobalt also has offices in cities such as London, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta, Berlin, Stockholm, Miami, Hong Kong, and Sydney.
If you want to know the pros and cons of music publishing, this article is for you:
Do I need a music publisher?
- Do I need a publisher for my music? The short answer, no. It’s important to note, though, that it’s great to have the backing of a big music publisher. They’ll most likely have connections to different parts of the industry that will help with your success as an artist or songwriter.
You can choose to not publish through a big company. With the advent of the internet, you can technically do anything that a big company can do when it comes to publishing. You just need the right team around you.
You can even achieve ‘syncs’ (where your music gets featured in an advert) through independent platforms like Sentric. This platform also lets you deal with all your royalties from radio play and gigs (if you’re an artist).
More on self-publishing music here:
Platforms like Tunecore also have built-in publishing features that any independent artist can use. In the event that you choose Tunecore for publishing administration services, it will take care of the registration, accounting, and collection work on your behalf
Taking Tunecore as an example, you, the copyright owner, retain 85% of all public performance royalties collected by TuneCore. Their creative team can also secure a sync license based on their direct pitching efforts. Their commission from this is 20%, but this is a win-win because you wouldn’t have that 80% if they didn’t push it.
Other services offer better rates. It all depends on what your goals are and what you want to gain from utilising music publishing.
Finding music publishers – network
It’s intimidating, it takes a lot of confidence, but it’s a priceless way of spending your time. As a singer or artist, it’s so important that people know who you are, you need to talk to everyone about who you are, what you sing and so on. Some of the best ways to network are by:
- Going to events where there could be publishers.
- If you know someone important in the industry is going to be somewhere, make sure you’re there too.
- Making music with other artists, they might get published and be able to give you a contact.
It’s important to remember that the publisher will be doing a lot of jobs on your behalf though and that will come at a cost. They will receive a percentage of your royalties, so be sure you are ready for a music publisher before you sign into a contract with one.
Have you ever worked with a music publishing deal? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments below!