Understanding Music Publishing For Songwriters

A concise and simple explanation of the mystery known as Music Publishing and what it actually is and how you are naturally protected as the songwriter.
As I have spoken with a multitude of serious musicians that write their own music it seems that one of the biggest issues in the music industry is one that nearly every aspiring songwriter needs some clarification on. Music publishing is a term that can be hard to understand, but a term every songwriter needs to be understand to the fullest.
Music publishing has a very intimidating energy as most songwriters are warned of this mystery term in their early careers when they express a desire to write songs. The mystery statement or term is always “Keep Your Publishing!” without anyone really explaining what it actually is.
Simply put, music publishing is nothing more than the rights you have as a songwriter. Basically you are being told to keep the rights to your songs and to make sure you license it out to others for royalties, not just giving it away. Make sense? Let’s dig deeper, the rights are yours from the beginning for being the creator or creators of the song. If you wrote it you own the publishing, if you co-wrote it you own half of the publishing and so own. When someone wants to use your song, you enter into a contract and there is always a clause for the music publishing rights somewhere. Most companies will not try to steal or take your rights, but always be careful, as some will read in the fine print regarding music publishing or publishing rights and can also worded as publishing or the term “grants rights.”
All good contracts unless otherwise agreed to, will state that the artist keeps the publishing or rights to their music in that section of the contract devoted to the music publishing part of the contract. The standard licensing deal for artists that have finished mastering their album, is you will license via contract to the record company for a price and a limited time. When your contract is completed, the rights revert back to the artist who then can re-license them again over and over for more money throughout your lifetime.
There are artists that do wish to sell their rights, but it’s suggested if you take this route, it be for something that you can live with the rest of your career if you choose that option.  This usually happens with bigger labels and up and coming artists who will sell their songs to other artists to sing in order to make it. Although this can help jumpstart your career, you should make sure that it doesn’t take away from your career. Many established artists turn down deals like this, but know your options for sure when reading your contracts.
My final advice, with any contract for your music make sure you have an entertainment attorney go over everything before you sign it.  It is worth the fees they charge to make sure the contract is fair and worded correctly so you understand what you are signing.
Happy Publishing!

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