So, you’re the producer who made the beat for the hottest song on the radio right now. Congrats! Aside from the clout, what else are you automatically entitled to? Well, depending on how the ‘writer splits' conversation went down in the studio, potentially a lot of revenue. If you don’t read any further, we need you to know this: don’t sleep on music publishing.
Music publishing is one of the most often overlooked issues we see both here at Organic Music Marketing and within the industry at large. Many artists assume they are getting paid everything they are owed by default. In many cases this is just not true! It’s often not anyone’s fault, but more so due to a lack of clear information and the issue of leaving hard-to-access royalties on the table.
When you create a beat, you automatically own the copyright to the musical composition of the beat, according to U.S. Copyright law. The composition can vary in form… maybe you are old school and transposed the notes onto a sheet of paper. Or, maybe you are more up with the times and you made the beat in a program like Logic or ProTools. Either way, the layout of the musical notes is legally considered a separate entity from the finished product that might feature a rapper or two and will eventually play on the radio. Is this making sense yet?
The job of the record label is to exploit the final version of the song. The job of the music publisher is to collect outstanding royalties on the underlying song composition. In many cases the person who created the beat is not a performer on the song, which is why it is important to differentiate between the two. The publisher’s goal is to collect all royalties generated on behalf of the composition, and then to pay these royalties to the appropriate parties, in this case, the producer.
Publishing royalties fall into two categories: performance and mechanical. (If you are a techie and are wondering about what happens to the royalties on the master side… forget about that for now! We are only concerned with the publishing side.) The crux of what you need to know is, associating with a PRO is not enough. You must work with a publisher in order to collect everything owed to you. Even if your rightfully-earned money is sitting in a pile in a foreign sub-publisher’s office overseas, you are not legally able to call them up and politely ask for the check if you are not either working with a publisher or publishing yourself. (This is easier said than done as there are sneaky fees involved with becoming your own publisher. But if you have the patience, capital, organizational skills and the time, go for it!)
This brings us to choosing a publisher. What sort of deal are you looking for? In our experience, simpler is better. We’re partial to admin publishing deals because they allow writers to retain full control over their compositions. These deal structures favor and protect the artist. Before the streaming boom, an artist would sign a 'co-publishing' deal where they would ‘sell’ the publisher a percentage of their writing credit in exchange for an advance. These sort of deals gave the publisher a huge amount of leverage in terms of what sync opportunities were available to the artist, not to mention allowing the publisher the ability to collect on royalties well after the original exploitation of the song. These structures still exist and work well for some artists, we just prefer admin deals as they are low stress and low hassle from an artist's perspective. Please hit us up if you have questions!
Have you been searching for someone to help you with marketing your song? You’ve come to the right place! Organic Music Marketing offers a wide range of marketing and promotion services for your next song release including packages for Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and more! Click for more information.
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