Of Interest

Music Publishing 101 – by Sapna Lal

The most important asset for a producer, songwriter or artist is their publishing. Music publishing rights are the rights to a song. If you created the words or music to a song, you own the publishing and copyright to that song. Your words and music are considered intellectual property protected by copyright law. In order for your music to be heard commercially, a license to use your song must be obtained. The business of music publishing revolves around acquiring, protecting, administering and exploiting the rights in songs through the issuance of mechanical licenses, synchronization licenses, performing rights licenses (including SoundExchange licenses), print licenses or foreign licenses with performing rights organizations around the world.

One of the major ways by which an artist, producer or songwriter is paid is through “mechanical royalties,” which are royalties (monies) paid for the reproduction of songs on CDs, digital downloads, greeting cards, jukeboxes, and any other devices selling a song. A mechanical license is issued to the songwriter by a record company at a statutory rate. The current statutory rate is nine and one-tenth cent ($.091) per song. This means that a single song can generate up to $.91 cents for every 10 songs sold. Artists also earn royalties through synchronization royalties (licenses granting use of a song that is associated with a visual image such as a commercial, television show or feature film), print licenses (sheet music sales) and public performance royalties.

Public Performing rights are rights to perform music in public. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to authorize the "public performance" of that work. Radio and television broadcasters, nightclubs and restaurant owners must enter into licenses with a performance rights organization in the United States such as BMI, ASCAP or SESAC. These performance rights organizations (PROs) collect income on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers whenever a song is publicly broadcasted.

Additionally, with the new wave of digital media, artists also earn royalties from sound recordings transmitted via digital means on satellite TV, internet cable, internet radio and similar platforms that stream sound recordings such as Sirius XM Radio, Muzak and webcasters. These digital performance royalties are collected and distributed by SoundExchange, a non-profit performance rights organization created by Congress as the sole entity in the U.S. to collect and distribute digital performance royalties on behalf of featured recording artists and master rights owners such as record labels or independent artists.

Although complex, the publishing business is one of the most lucrative aspects of the music industry. The difference between making dollars or pennies can be allocated to the following answer …“Who owns the copyright?”

For more information contact Sapna Lal at info@thelalfirm.com



"Words are timeless. You should utter them or write them with a knowledge of their timelessness."
- Kahlil Gibran