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What is Music Publishing?
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November 30, 2020

What is Music Publishing?

Whether you’re an artist or an aspiring music professional, there's a lot of information you need to learn about music publishing. There's nothing wrong with accepting a record deal and having the process done by the label, but many of the most successful artists and music professionals in the world should understand the world of music publishing.

Songwriters can make long-term money thanks to music industry publishing, and the concept of music publishing has already existed for hundreds of years. There are some record contracts involving music publishing rights, but there are also independent artists who can sign with record labels while keeping their music industry publishing in-house. Music publishers essentially play a role in the intellectual ownership of music.

Making Money from Music Publishing

There are many different ways to make money through music industry publishing. Here are some of the ways that artists can earn from their music publishing.

Mechanical Royalties

First and foremost, publishing can prove to be extremely lucrative and artists can end up getting paid in a variety of different ways. One of the most obvious forms of music publishing revenue is to get paid through mechanical royalties. This involves songs that are sold via album sales, and streaming services even pay a small mechanical royalty every time an artist's music is played.

Performance Royalties

Whenever songs are performed in public, it means that you can actually get paid off of your song. In fact, someone else can perform your or your artist’s composition in public and you can still get paid, if the music composition is part of your music publishing. If a TV show contacts you to put your song in their TV show, you will also receive that song's performance royalties over time. Artists also receive performance royalties from webradio.

Licensing for Samples

Some artists may have created a hit song, and other artists may ask to use the composition in their own music. An artist can then get paid from the new song since it incorporates one of their compositions. This is yet another way to earn money through music industry publishing, as well.

Publishing Deals

Before you start thinking about music publishing, you will need to understand that there are usually many different music publishing deals that are offered to artists. In many cases, a successful song means that the money will be distributed to both the writer and publisher of a specific song.

If you're a successful songwriter, you might negotiate a music publishing deal where you get the “writer's share” of the song - but some artists and songwriters might choose to go the "full publishing" deal route. In full-publishing deals, a publisher will provide "full-circle" services to songwriters and artists in exchange for the music publishing.

These days, the most common deals are music publishing deals that are known as "co-publishing deals." In these deals, there is usually a period of time, after which the songwriter gets their music publishing rights back.

In other deals, publishers only receive a percentage of money while the deal is in place. In these music publishing deals, the songwriter keeps the majority of the money that is generated from that song or album.

Different Music Publishing Companies

There are so many different music publishing companies to consider, and they may take a very different approach when it comes to music industry publishing.

Downtown Music Publishing

For example, Downtown Music Publishing is a music publisher representing some of the most well-known songwriters in the world. Downtown has almost 100 years of experience, and it boasts clients such as John Lennon, Wu-Tang Clan, One Direction, and more. However, they are not one of the music publishers that accept unsolicited submissions. As a result, an independent artist might opt for other music publishing companies.

Sony ATV Music Publishing

One of the best things about Sony ATV Music Publishing is that they truly have offices worldwide. Your music might not have much of an audience in one country, but it might prove to be a music publishing success in a different region of the world. This is the kind of music publishing company with the connections and reach to find your music's audience.

Some of the most well-known Sony ATV Music Publishing clients include the catalogs of artists like Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Drake, Lady Gaga, and more. They are easily one of the largest and most influential music publishing companies in the world.

Universal Music Publishing Group

There's a good chance that you've heard about Universal Records, and they are also one of the most powerful music publishers in the world. Universal Music Publishing Group has clients like Ariana Grande, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and Post Malone. However, this is a music publishing group that is usually not actively looking for newer artists.

Wixen Music Publishing

One of the best things about Wixen Music Publishing is that they offer more creative freedom than other music publishers. Some famous artists that have been involved with Wixen Music Publishing, include The Doors, The Beach Boys, and Missy Elliot.


We won’t go through all music publishing companies of the industry, but you get the main idea: it is a wide sector. As a music publisher, you need to be able to deal with data, musical works and have eyes on your catalog. It is a stream of revenue for artists, so you need to keep track of everything. 

Reprtoir is here to help music professionals deal with their catalog, musical works and royalties. Everything is centered in one online workspace, to allow teams from music businesses to work on the same updated dataset. Give us a call and we’ll take the time to walk you through it!


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