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Music Publishing 101

 

Songwriting & Recordings 

Songwriting and recordings are legally separate and earn revenue in differing (yet often parallel) ways. Whenever a song is played or sold there are separate and distinct royalties due to the songwriters, performers and the owner of the recording 

(record label or independent self releasing artist). 

 

Music publishing is the portion of the music industry concerned with the songwriting specifically. Publishers control song rights on behalf of songwriters/composers, collecting and paying them song royalties accordingly. In value terms publishing is worth around ⅓ of the overall music industry, with the master rights (recorded music) and live music making up the remaining ⅔. 

 

The recorded and publishing parts of the industry are very distinct, though naturally are interconnected and have several touchpoints- such as mechanical rights (royalties due to publishers from record labels) and synchronization (where both publisher and record label agree licensing terms and have a share in fees).

You’re owed royalties every time a song you’ve written is performed or played publicly. That means:

 

  • Live performances - festivals, gigs

  • Public performances - bars, clubs, shops, restaurants, gyms, waiting rooms, etc.

  • Broadcast - TV, film, radio, Netflix, Amazon Prime

  • Streaming - Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc.

 

Any way you can possibly think that a song could be used (as part of a recording or otherwise) needs to be paid for.  Many of these royalties are collected by Collective Management Organisations (CMOs). 

 

In the UK these are PRS and MCPS for performance and mechanical royalties respectively. A publisher’s most fundamental role is to make sure CMOs are collecting the right amount, from the right sources, in the right territories. There are nearly 300 CMOs worldwide and they all work slightly differently. None are very quick, and some are pretty slow.

There is over £1.8 Billion in publishing royalties unclaimed globally due to failures in the collection chain.

 

It can take upwards of 12 months for PRS to collect UK royalties on your behalf. For international revenue, you can add another 6-12 months on top of that. Publishers typically mitigate some of these timeframes by utilising sub-publishers- who manage their catalogue in a foreign territory to improve efficiency there.

 

At the very least, publishers should register all your songs with CMOs, sort out any revenue blockages and investigate discrepancies or registration data conflicts. 

Publishers should also work their socks off to help promote, develop and progress your career- pushing your songs to help them generate more revenue in the first place:

 

  • Rights representation - approving usage & licensing, copyright protection

  • Professional development - studio time, creative feedback, organising collaborations

  • Synchronisation - pitch existing catalogue, present music supervisor briefs for composition

  • Catalogue expansion - respond to record label briefs, writing sessions, writing camps

  • Raising your profile - cuts & synch placements, industry intros, promotion to wider network

 

Pitching and placing songs with other artists or into TV adverts or films can be very lucrative for both the publisher and songwriters involved. The percentage a publisher takes should fairly reflect their input in increasing the overall pie that’s shared with the songwriter. There are different frameworks for achieving this, but a ‘fair’ deal is one where all parties win under all circumstances.

What makes us different?

 

As fellow creatives, we’ve experienced some of the drawbacks when working with publishers: late and lazy collecting, bad communication and non-existent professional development. 

It’s why we’re here to empower you, represent the hell out of your songs and properly help you achieve your career goals. You won’t just be dropped into a huge roster, where only a few big names get the attention. Your songs won’t be handed over to an unknown algorithm, without a human being in sight.

 

You don’t even have to sign your entire catalogue to us if you don’t want to. With us, you get our time, creative expertise and super-enviable worldwide network. We pick up the phone when you need us!

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Only sign the songs you choose.

Other publishers often want exclusive rights over your entire previous catalogue and everything you write in the future over a set period of time. And they’ll often want to own these rights in perpetuity (forever, basically) or a term of 10+ years is common too. We think this is unfair and doesn’t respect you, the writer, and what you might want to do in the future. 

 

Palm Bay Music provides a contemporary approach to music publishing that is responsive to the needs of writers in an ever evolving music industry. We want to work with writers for as long as they would like to work with us- building a true partnership. You choose which part of your catalogue you would like us to represent, be it a single, EP or album. 

Prefer us to look after everything you write?

We also offer the opportunity for writers to progress to an exclusive relationship with us. There's never any pressure- but if it's working for you and it's working for us, there's the option to develop the relationship further and deepen our investment in you and your songs.

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