How to choose the best music publisher?

If you make and release music, you’ve probably come across the term “publishing.” And you’re bound to have some inquiries. What is the definition of a music publisher? What are your choices? When do you think you’ll need a publishing deal? To get answers, we turned to Songtrust’s experts.

So what’s the best music publisher?

Songtrust is the world’s largest global royalty collection service, and it works with hundreds of thousands of songwriters, creators, and producers at all levels to collect the royalties you’re owed. Get their advice on finding the right fit — and negotiating the best publishing deal for you — in the sections below.

best music publisher

Music publishing is an often overlooked and misunderstood aspect of the music industry, but it is an important source of long-term revenue for songwriters. It can be difficult to know what to look for in a music publisher if you don’t have a basic understanding of what music publishing is and why it’s important to songwriters.

The gist: Music publishing is the business of protecting and promoting song copyrights, as well as collecting the royalties generated by these copyrights. We’ve compiled a list of four things to keep in mind when looking for a music publisher, whether you’re doing preliminary research or are ready to add one to your team and get your publishing set up.

What is the role of a music publisher?

A music publisher or publishing administrator is in charge of globally registering your songs and collecting royalties due to you from their network’s many pay sources. A traditional music publisher will also provide creative services to their clients, such as pitching for sync licenses, pitching songs to established artists for recording, and arranging co-writes and other collaborations.

Publishing administrators are typically not involved in the creative process, instead concentrating on registration, licensing, and royalty collection. They are usually less expensive than traditional publishers.

What types of music publishing options do I have?

There are several types of publishing options available to songwriters, each with its own set of terms and conditions, entry barriers, and expectations.

Royalties collected by the publisher are split between the publisher and the writer in a traditional publishing agreement, though the publisher retains creative control over the song’s use. These types of deals, which can include large advances, are extremely competitive and, for the most part, unavailable to songwriters in their early stages. These contracts typically cover a songwriter’s entire catalog and, for active writers, may include a yearly delivery commitment.

The publisher and songwriter split publishing royalties (generally 50/50) across a songwriter’s catalog in a co-publishing deal. Again, the publisher provides creative services. In most cases, the publisher also provides an advance and other forms of assistance.

The publishing administrator collects publishing royalties but does not have creative control over the catalog or provide those services under an administration agreement (though many publishing administrators do commission any sync licenses you secure for the catalog they administer). Early-career songwriters often benefit from an administration deal first, as it allows them to keep their rights while building their profile — and thus leverage — before committing to a more advantageous traditional publishing deal. An administration-only deal allows songwriters at all stages of their careers to have more flexibility in terms of their creative partnerships.

Songtrust is a globally accessible, platform-based publishing administrator. Songtrust clients have access to our network of over 60 collection partners, which covers 245 countries (roughly 98 percent of the global music market), while still maintaining creative control and earning 100% of sync license revenue. Songtrust is designed to be artist-friendly, with a one-year term and low fee. It’s the perfect fit for anyone looking to keep their rights while ensuring they receive their publishing royalties.

Each deal has advantages and disadvantages, which is why you should thoroughly research your options, carefully review the terms and agreements, and choose what is best for you at this point in your career. And, before you sign anything, have it reviewed by a trusted legal representative.

Is there a minimum delivery commitment and how long does the agreement last?

The length of a publishing agreement varies depending on the type of agreement and other factors such as the advance offered, the type of creative support provided, and the rates. In some cases, such as traditional publishing, a songwriter may be required to deliver a certain number of songs over the course of the contract. If you co-write any of your songs, your share of those songs may have an impact on the minimum deliverable number.

Before you sign the paperwork, make sure you understand the term length and any delivery requirements. The term of an administration agreement is usually shorter than the term of a publishing or co-publishing agreement.

When do you require the services of a music publisher?

We believe that songwriters should be aware of the importance of hiring a music publisher or publishing administrator as soon as they begin writing and releasing music. Music publishing isn’t just for seasoned songwriters or multi-artist managers; it’s crucial for songwriters at all stages of their careers.

It’s worth pausing to consider where you are in your career and what you can expect from a publishing deal. At the end of the day, you’ll want a publisher who will support and advocate for you and your needs — whatever they are — and that means figuring out what you want before you sign.

To get a solid, foundational understanding of how music publishing works, sign up for one of Songtrust’s Music Publishing 101 virtual workshops and/or download our Modern Guide To Music Publishing. If you’re ready to start publishing, get in touch with our team to learn how Songtrust can help you collect global royalties.