What is music publishing?

  • Under a record deal the artist will make money from the sale of physical recordings
  • Income is also generated from the song separately.
  • Publishing in the context of the music industry means the arrangement by which a song is exploited.

The Business of Music Publishing

The business of music publishing is dependent upon there being a strong copyright framework in place. The control of copyright enables a publisher to recover the investment made in songwriters and composers and to ensure that they are rewarded for their creative work. The relationship between a music publisher and a songwriter/composer is supported by a publishing contract setting out the rights and obligations of each to the other. Under these contracts songwriters and composers assign the copyright in their music to the music publisher in return for a commitment to promote, exploit and protect that music. The publisher agrees to pay the songwriter/composer a percentage of any income earned from such exploitation as royalties.

The Role of a Music Publisher

Music publishers are concerned with administering copyrights, licensing songs to record companies and others, and collecting royalties on behalf of the songwriter. They also have a creative role in terms of artist and business development.

Revenue streams – Music Publishing

The following are the income streams generated from a ‘song’:

Performance Income – from radio, TV, venues, shops and other public places

Mechanical Royalties - To manufacture records the company requires a licence known as a mechanical license from the owner of the song. This is at a fixed statutory rate in the UK of 8.5% of dealer price (Published Dealer Price - PDP).

  1. Synchronisation Fees - a license must be generated to use the music in a film, on TV or in games. These fees are freely negotiable so the publisher will do the best deal for the writer and themselves.

  2. Print Music - the most traditional form of income before records were available and still a source of revenue for writers.

Contact: The Music Publishers Association -


For more read - Music The Business: The Essential Guide To The Law And The Deals - Ann Harrison & The MMF: Music Management Bible (excellent chapter on publishing contracts)