Music publishing- How does it work?

Music publishing 735x400 - Music publishing- How does it work?

In simple words, music publishing is basically all about the collection as well as payment of royalties to composers or songwriters whenever their songs or compositions are used. That may seem simple; however, in reality, it barely touches the surface.

For new or even renowned artists, music publishing can help create a huge revenue stream. Though it could be daunting and challenging at first, it is significant for artists to know and understand. Hence, in this blog, we will discuss how musicians can earn more from their compositions by claiming the publishing royalties.

Music Publishing Explained:

Before diving into music publishing, let’s first understand how exactly does music copyright work. Each track is subject to two kinds of copyrights- one for sound recording and the second for composition.

Sound Recording or Master Rights

When an artist says that he/she ‘owns their masters,’ it means they hold the copyright to the original music recording they’ve composed, also referred to as master rights.

The person who owns master rights for the original recording of any song will get royalties whenever the recording is reproduced or broadcasted- that also includes downloads and streaming.

Generally, the record label or the artist owns the copyright to Sound Recording.

Composition or Publishing Rights

The Musical Work or Composition means the underlying musical composition, structure, and elements of the song. That might or might not include lyrics.

Generally, the original composer or writer of the track owns the composition copyright.

What is the role of a Music Publisher?

A music publisher helps composers or songwriters gather and pay all royalties from their music compositions.

The publishers can gather a couple of distinct royalties from various sources globally.

Theoretically, an independent musician can try claiming a portion of publishing royalties they own sans any aid from a publisher.

However, music publishing is a complex process. There are several companies worldwide responsible for distinct royalty sources. And, it is practically not possible for an artist with a small back catalogue to form a relationship they require to claim royalties they own. That could result in leaving a potential earning unclaimed.

That is where the role of a publisher comes to play.

The music publisher has strong relations with the PROs (Performing Right Organisations) and the collection societies worldwide, plus vast experience in tracking every possible source of royalty. It is their goal to ensure that you are compensated for everything you own.

What’s a PRO (Performing Rights Organization)?

A PRO is a company that monitors live performances and radio airplay. Then, they pay off royalties to the music publishers and songwriters who claim the ownership of the songs. The PRO charges blanket licensing fees for venues, restaurants, and radio stations for rights to host the performances of songs in PRO’s catalog. That fee depends on the venue or station’s size- the bigger the size, the more they’ll have to pay to the PRO. Next, the PRO uses that amount to pay off the publishers and songwriters.

If you are playing a couple of shows locally or touring, it is always a nice idea to get your setlist registered with the PRO. That is the performance revenue awaiting you. All you need to do now is provide some brisk data.

The PRO splits the performance royalties in a 50:50 ratio between the music publisher and the songwriter.

So what is the difference between a PRO and a music publisher?

PROs are usually owned and regulated by songwriters, music composers, and publishers and license as well as collect the royalties for several songs together, reducing costs for all those involved and safeguarding the music’s value by grouping the copyrights together for negotiating and licensing to venues and digital broadcasters.

PROs don’t gather mechanical royalties. But, your music producer would also be part of a mechanical copyrights collection society and likely many more across the globe.


Music publishing is rapidly changing with the new ways individuals listen to audio or music. However, its core objective remains the same- ensuring that the songwriters or composers get paid for their music for others to enjoy.




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