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Types of Royalties in Music Publishing

Write an essay on music publishing?

Music publishing is termed as a contractual relationship between the music publisher and the songwriter, under such contract music composer assigns all copyrights of the music to the publisher for commercial exploitation of the music (Kidson, 1907). Randal Wixen described “Music Publishing is the owing and exploiting of songs in the form of musical copyrights”. Development, valuation and protection of the music are the things which are concerned in the business of music publishing. As per contract publisher ensures that with the exploitation of the songs, composer receives the credit and the royals. In other words, songwriter gives the copywrith of the song to the publisher to exploit the song and thus, income generated to be shared by both the parties (Asscher, 1992).

In olden times when musical recordings were not introduced, publishers and songwriter generated the income through sale of sheet music. Nowdays songs can be exploited via media which includes recordings, television, film, radio and video. It’s the US copyright law which governs music publishing but due to some private contractual agreements some of the music publishing laws is negotiated (Fletcher and Lobato, 2013).

The music publishers act as strong intermediaters between the music composers and the record companies. Half of the royalties along with the copyright of the song is enjoyed by the publisher from the music composer (Frith, 1988). A large cash advance by the publisher is made to the promising writer but sometimes this advance can also be minimal and records the songwriter composition with the performance.  It’s also the duty of publisher to collect royalities and to give songwriter share. It’s the publisher who arrange for songs to be placed in television shows, advertisement and films and also assist the writer in obtaining recording contract if the songwriter is also a performer (Garofalo, 1999). The other thing which publisher is to do is collecting royalities and giving the share to songwriter. There are many sources from where the income of publishing comes, but the income generated from retail sale of the recordings is different (Hauser, 1958).

The royalities are furthure differentiated into different tpes:

Mechanical Royalities are obtained from the sale of recorded music with the right to record, copy and distribute copies of composition and these mechanical royalities are paid separately to the publishers by the recording companies. Each pubisher is required to grant a compulsory license to any one who wish to record a composition that has been in he past released commercially or has already been recorded and in return to this a minimum price is paud to the publisher which is at most of the time judged by the CONGRESS in the US. Normally a private license is taken to record a label on a negociated amount rahtr that to go through the rules and regulations which are basically very rigid and tough under a compulsory license act. In other words every tme your song is manufactured to be sold in the market in the form of a cassette or a cd etc, downloaded on a computer from a site, or on a digital music retail site, or aired through AIR or any other services like spotify , you owe a mechanical royality.Thus huge /vast money can be collected and earned by way of the mechanical royalties (Popular Music: Education Issue, 1995). If someone buys one of your song and makes 1000 cd of it, you shall definitely be getting royality and that too handsome one, no matter those cd’s are further ever purchased by any of the buyesr or not.and in similar way if MP3’s are made same way you shall be getting your share of job done, rest it may or may not get sold in the market.

Mechanical Royalties

Performance Royalties: Apart from this tere are some performance royalties, to explain it, these are paid if in case a song is played on AIR (Radio), TV, or is used as back ground music, or in bars, clubs, dance parties etc. These performance royalties are so effective that through this sometimes the money earned may go in millions and trillions of dollars collections, But this is tough for the publisher to sign a performance licenses with all the above described parties, thus to curb up this problem PRO (Performing rights organisations) comes into existence which collects fees on behalf of these publishers or song writers, Some examples or such PRO which exists in the USA are the society of European state authors and composers (SESAC), Broad cast music inc. (BMI), The American society of society and composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). A single publisher/Songwriter has got restricted to get himself registered under a single PRO only as if this is not done and a publisher/Songwriter is registered under several number of PRO there shall be a huge confusion as to which PRO is responsible to collect royalty on his behalf(Eagle, 2004).

Recording artists who feels like being cheated by the publishers on account of their royality can very easily drag such publishers into the court, in future as well so many high profile artists has sued publishers on the above cheating basis, the best example has been the case of all time Dance super star Michael Jacksonwho had launched a suit under law against the Universal Music Group in the year 1980’sclaiming for the unpaid royality that the company in concern has not paid to him, Sometimes even musicians also sue each other for infringement of copy rights (Eagle, 2004). There has been some important and famous cases in this regard ie Three boys music corporation Vs Bolton ,212 F .3d 477 (9th Cir. 2000).

In starting years of 2000, The invention of music sharing through Internet has completed changed the face of recording industry ithrough out the world.With this any person can not download any song and save them at their desktops, things has become so easy now, thus this also gave birth to series of lawsuits in the music industry as well.  Music piracy became a very important issue to deal with although prompt care was taken by the creators of file sharing software. In a noted case of the recording industry association of American (RIAA) some 261 cases were registered and filed against individuals who have downloaded these songs from the internet (SCHNOEBELEN, 1997). The situation had now become very awkward and disturbing, and the new technology has made the situation very alarming and significant that the matter now has to be tackled very carefully and continuously (Lazlo, 1979).

Its publishing the primary source of income where the singers writing their own composition makes a lot of money but the funds gets transferred to the person who possesses the copyrights. We should now know this thing that it is not always that the person who sings a song is the owner of it, it my be prepared by one and then later sold in liew of funds to another person, and the buying person gets it registered and make its copyrights on his name and thue becomes the real owner of the same, now the real story of earning money starts as no one other than the copyrights holder of the song has got the permission to run that song until or unless it is permitted by the copyrights holder to do so, The money that you earn by that song is publishing, now the more famous your song will be the more money you shall earn from it, as ther shall be more and more people who wish to sing it or see its video (Sigman, 1988). Basically there ar many types of areas with which you earn money ie performance, Mechanical, print of that song and its synchronization. Performance and mechanical ways are the ways that earn you better/more money as compared to rest of the ways. Printing mode is the mode that allows an owner to earn money each and every time his concerned song has been printed or its lyrics are published, though it is not a manner to earn high money, but still even lesser money comes in, but money is money (Spencer, 1992). Synchronization license are a different type of as it is concerned with visual effects. Commercial, videos and sound tracks are some of the most important and bset examples of this concerned. Normally the money that come in by this way is huge and it can un doubtly be called as the best source of money generation licenses. The length of the commercial shall definitely change the money generation from it, also the popularity of that particular commercial, song or video shall effect the money incoming prospect, definitely there is no limit to the figures that can be definitely earned from this.

Performance Royalties

Most of the publishing companies all over the world likes that you carry forward all the problems that you face upon that concerned company and pay them half of the earings that you shall receive each and every time that concerned commercial, song etc is played, as an artist you may try to refrain from this but in case you do not apply for their assistance you may fall into serious complications as now you may have to track the running of that song in your country or probably through out the world, which in itself is a very hard task to follow up with (COOPER, 1938). Thus it is always recommended that we should always sign with a company which has got very huge relationships and branch image in the market. There may also be a possibility that the company may be very big brand holder but it must also be very just, as they may through their influence ever steel that thing from you, and you being a mere thing in front of them losses you actual hard work and creation, thus the publishing company should always be of clear character and sound background.  Now some times you still feel the danger of getting exploited, then the only learned step to take at this time is to go for creation /start of a new company of your own. It is always good to hire a company who is trustworthy and who handles your songs with full faith and commitment, so that you do not end up in a mess (Stroh and Verhaalen, 1970).

There are so many publishing contract which are associated with the music publishing agreement and this i of prompt importance that one should have through knowledge of these as well, Some of these are as follow -----

1 ) Single Song Agreement.  As the name suggest this deal is an agreement between the writer of the song and its publisher in which the former person gransts rights to the latter one to set for publication of 1 or at the most 2 songs and in such type of agreement the a one time recoupable payment is made.

2) Exclusive Song Writer Contract  Such agreement in which the entire songs written and published with in a stipulated period of ime come into existence, thus any type of composition which is made by a writer in an affixed tenure of time belongs directly to the music publisher.

3 ) Co Publishing Agreement.  The most common publishing agreement is the Co publishing agreement , which is also called as Co-Pub, under this both the writer and the publisher are the co owners of the song or each song thus made. This is made upon a pre decided share of the royality which is the outcome from that song, or commercial or video (Kidson, 1907). The share usually in this aspect is 50:50, but this may vary depending upon the experience or market value of any one of the parties, suppose if in case the writr is a new one and on the other habnd if the publisher is of quite renowned personality, the share may even go to 25:75 or vice versa, or it may even come down to 15:85 as well (Underwood, 1996).

Synchronization Licenses

4) Administration Agreement This type of agreement takes place between a writer/publisher and other music publisher, in this type of contract the writer himself publishes the concerned song and merely licenses the song to the music publisher for a certain tenure/term (Hoffman, 1948). Although this should always be kept in mind that the ownership of the cyrights are not transferable to the admistrator, but the publisher gets around 10-20% of the income generated from this (Royality).

5 ) Collection Agreement.  This type of agreement is almost similar to that of the Admin deal whre the copyrights are retained by the writer except this that the exploitation functions such as business manager or accountant are not performed by the publisher.

6) Sub Publishing Agreement. Basically the deals which are done in Forgein countries or at forgein territories where there is no transfer of copyrights ownership is performed to the sub publisher, but this is also limited to 1 or more that 1 countries which falls under forgein origin.ofter this kind of agreement is mostly restricted to the Australia, European, Switzerland or Latin American countries.

7 ) Purchase Agreement. Under this type of agreement a music publisher acquires some rights or evn whole rights of another music publisher, which may also be considered as some what like merger of companies.Concept of Due diligence is run in this type of cases so that no disputes may arise in future (Author agreement and copyright, 2003).

Collection societies are organisations handling the function of right management, these rights owners’ perfoms the following duties

  • All non exclusive licenses are sold by them.

  • Royalties are collected by them.

  • All the royalties thus collected are distributed as agreed at the beginnening by them.

  • They also ger indulged into entering into contracts with other collecting societies.

  • Look that their rights and enforced.


Now as we have gone through all the concepts pros and cons and royality distribution, and there after the impact of introduction of internet and changes that came as dramatic by nature and disputes which arose at that times, and other all concepts which concerns this music publishing concept, we conclude that this concept is very vast and fast grown, this involves so many complications and arrangements to tackle these complications, and its future hazards. The information which has been discussed above have provided us with the clear picture that how this music industry is atructured and what all changes has come during this journey since its inception. The above has streamlined both ways of the argument. The concept of music piracy has been come in existence much due to this music industry; it has also given brth to downloading of any of the music or commercial and is particularly called as peer to peer networks. Thus this is completed true if we say that the money which a writer earn on behalf of his song being published or bought into live performances are such huge and unexpected that this may surprise even almost all the human generation (Jackson and Santé, 1985). The best part is to make a company of your own so as to safe guard the risk which may emerge on account of getting trapped into the hands of some bigger and popular music publishing companies (Kidson, 1907)


Asscher, M. (1992). What publishers need in national copyright laws. Publishing Research Quarterly, 8(2), pp.21-26.

Author agreement and copyright. (2003). Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, 48(4), pp.A23-A23.

COOPER, M. (1938). LISZT AS A SONG WRITER. Music and Letters, XIX(2), pp.171-181.

Eagle, B. (2004). Predicting Black Musical Innovation and Integration: The 1850 Mance Index for Appalachia. Black Music Research Journal, 24(1), p.73.

Fletcher, L. and Lobato, R. (2013). Living and Labouring as a Music Writer. CSR, 19(1), p.155.

Frith, S. (1988). Copyright and the music business. Popular Music, 7(01), p.57.

Garofalo, R. (1999). From Music Publishing to MP3: Music and Industry in the Twentieth Century.American Music, 17(3), p.318.

Hauser, A. (1958). American Music Publishing in 1958. Notes, 15(3), p.377.

Hoffman, M. (1948). Go Ahead and Sign That Contract!. Music Educators Journal, 34(6), p.9.

Jackson, R. and Sanjek, R. (1985). From Print to Plastic: Publishing and Promoting America's Popular Music (1900-1980). American Music, 3(4), p.494.

Kidson, F. (1907). Old-Time Music Publishing. The Musical Times, 48(771), p.303.

Lazlo, D. (1979). New Music Distribution Service. Computer Music Journal, 3(2), p.5.

Lund, J. (n.d.). Fixing Music Copyright. SSRN Journal.

Music. (1981). Early Music, 9(2), pp.267-267.

Popular Music: Education Issue. (1995). Popular Music, 14(01), p.127.

SCHNOEBELEN, A. (1997). The Relities of the music publishing word. Early Music, XXV(2), pp.349-349.

Sigman, M. (1988). A Serious Look at Serious Music Publishing. Music Educators Journal, 74(7), p.38.

Spencer, G. (1992). Music Publishing and Music Representation in the Technological Age: A Symposium. Computer Music Journal, 16(3), p.96.

Stroh, D. and Verhaalen, S. (1970). Publishing: Who Gains?. Music Educators Journal, 56(8), p.18.

Underwood, K. (1996). Archival Guidelines for the Music Publishing Industry. Notes, 52(4), p.1112.

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