Crash Course on Music Publishing – Part 4

Carlos Alvarez's picture
In part I of this article I left out one exclusive right under Copyright law. . . on purpose of course.  It is Digital Audio Transmission. Basically referring to the new online & Satellite transmission of recordings, specifically, STREAMING (streaming audio, subscription-based entities).  Examples: Pandora Radio, Sirius/XM, Spotify, etc. . . The unfortunate reality of these outlets is that pay very, very, very little in mechanical and/or performance royalties (approximately 1/100th of penny per spin--> I may be off just a bit!!).  Hopefully new upcoming legislation will regulate this better.  We will have to wait and see.


Basically means when there’s more than one publisher attached to the song sharing in the royalty distribution.  It happens for many reasons, the simplest being that there’s a co-writer to the song and he deals with another music publisher different from yours.  But also can be a political reason as well.  An individual with power to have the song recorded  by an artist (can be the artist or someone doing business with the artist or entity in the mix) wants a percentage of royalties generated if he gets the artist to record it.  HAPPENS MANY TIMES!!!! Items to keep in mind when dealing with this situation:
  • Is each co-publisher handling his or her share (%)?
  • Is the co-publishing situation for the life of copyright or just for a
  • particular recording that the song is appearing on?
  • What is the percentage SPLIT between the co-publishers?


Your song being “used” in a foreign country.  It happens.  I know several writers/composers in the Central TX area who have had success with their songs being recorded & performed in other countries.  Latin American countries, Europe, etc, etc.... We or our U.S. music publisher may not have the ability to administer / license our songs in those outside territories, so we (our U.S. music publisher) find somebody in that area (a music publisher) who can be our Sub-publisher in that area(s) and do what we do here, only there. All the major publishing companies (Sony, Universal, Warner,) have international offices.  A couple of strong indie music publishers do as well. Peer Music is a very established indie music publisher. If you an very active song for in a foreign territory, it works do your advantage in negotiation power with the sub-publisher in terms of percentage splits, and also requesting an advance.


Many times even if your working with a music publisher, they will also inform you that you must also try “songplugging” your own material.  But...isn’t that their job?  Well, yes & no.  It really depends on how that particular music publisher operates.  ASK!  I’ve known too many writers who thought their songs were being promoted to artists, and later found out that they weren’t.  When they contacted the music publisher with whom they signed those songs to...the music publisher reminded them that according to their contract, they (music publisher) only handle administrative duties, and did not promote. So, promotion of your songs.  to whom?....well, to artists.  Songwriters want a recording artist to record their song(s).  How can I get it to an artists hands to hear it?  We all want a George Strait or Aerosmith or Bruno Mars type of artist to record our material, but don’t forget about the artists that are right behind these guys.  They also do quite well and may be more accessible (I mean their manager or another team member) to reach than the “big boys”. Co-writes (writer collaborations)!!! Two country songwriters that I’ve had the pleasure of working with shared with me the fact that they have often co-written with another writer they admired or had the opportunity to write with, not only because of the “art”, but also because that co-writer was close to certain artists with whom he/she could plug those songs to.
I once was showing some songs to the singer of a group signed to Universal and saw that he wasn’t really interested in the material. So I began chatting with the drummer of the band and he mentioned to me that another member of the band was the one that usually picked the majority of the songs that got recorded on their albums.  I quickly introduced myself to that person and we hit it off!! I ended up landing a cut on the album.

Finding & Picking a Music Publisher to WorkWith

Research some of the songs that your admiring right now or within the last few years.  Find out who the writer(s) is, whose the music publisher(s) for those songs.  You want to find a music publisher who works in the genre your writing for.   Hopefully that type of pairing will bring you the placements your looking. Contact these music publishers and ask what is their process in receiving songs from writers. Also don’t be afraid to go old-school and go to a concert of an artist and try to get the song into the hands of the manager or music director of band.  Always make buddy’s with the band members and sound crew, they can give you the information you need to get your song to the right person.  it’s worked for me many times. If you go this route, Please make sure THAT YOU REGISTER YOUR SONGS in the COPYRIGHT OFFICE prior to this!!!!!! Many of this artist team members work in the industry and know of good people to work with.  They can put in a good word for you with a manager, artist musical director, music publisher, etc, etc. . .

Final thoughts

There’s so many more details that encompass this particular area of the music business.  This 4-part article was meant to get you, the songwriter or singer/songwriter a better understanding of the what music publishing entails.  I hope its helped and please reach out to me here on the blog by leaving a question, or follow me on twitter. Also check my links page.