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Songwriting Guides > Publishers > Types of deals
Songwriting Guides
Types of deals

There are four basic types of deal: the administration deal, the sub-publishing deal, the exclusive song deal - known as the single song assignment - and the exclusive publishing deal.

The administration deal

This suits you if you're a songwriter with a collection of songs that could potentially earn a lot of money, and you don't have a lot of time or energy to self-publish by registering with the collecting societies and tracking your royalties yourself.

Under an administration agreement, the publisher receives the right, or licence, to administer a composition or group of compositions (not the same as copyright). They can license the use of songs in recordings, tapes, CDs, television series, motion pictures, DVDs, commercials and video productions, and collect royalties from all music users. This is for a specified period of time, usually between three and five years. In return for its services, the publisher usually receives an "administration fee" usually ranging from 10% to 15% of the gross income earned during the term of the agreement.

With this deal you don't get up-front advances. You will have more control over your songs and won't be under pressure from the publishers to write more songs.

In an administration deal you won't assign your copyright to the publisher, and unless there is a very good reason for it, an administration deal shouldn't include an assignment of rights.

As part of the licence deal you can ask to be consulted on any controversial use of your songs, for instance on a violent computer game or an inappropriate advert.

It can vary but around 90% of our writers are on the basis of advance and royalty split.
Catherine Bell, Chrysalis Music Ltd

The sub-publishing deal

This kind of deal is a halfway house between the exclusive deal and the administrative deal. In this case the songwriter doesn't want to assign all copyright but does want the publisher to look for new ways of earning income from their songs.

There is some transfer of ownership of copyright in this deal, but decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. There may be no advance, or the songwriter can negotiate an advance depending on how much of the rights are being assigned to the publisher. However, any advance would be small since the reduced assignment of rights in this kind of contract will not earn as much money for the publisher as in an exclusive deal.

Sub-publishing deals are also favoured by smaller publishers who want to operate abroad but don't want to set up a company overseas. Here, the publishers keep the rights they have but grant the overseas company the right to use some or all of those rights in the foreign country.
Single song assignment

Here, the rights of a song are assigned to the publisher and the publisher is able to find as many uses for the song as possible. There may be an advance, but it's likely to be small. With this deal, all the usual accounting and licencing tasks are carried out as well as actively exploiting the song's earning potential. You may assign the copyright for life or you can negotiate a rights period. Your amount of control over the song may be small so that the publisher isn't hindered in making earnings from the song, but you would get a reasonable level of control - such as the right to approve any changes to the lyrics or approval for use in a commercial.

Exclusive publishing deal

Under the exclusive agreement, the songwriter agrees to assign the rights to all compositions written during a specified period of time (or term). For example, two years from 1 January, or one year with four options. There is a guaranteed percentage share of the income earned on songs and usually a proviso for weekly or monthly payments.

All weekly or monthly payments made to the writer are treated as advances, recoupable from the future royalties of the writer. For example, if a writer is being paid £400 per week in advances, £20,800 will have been advanced in the first contract year.

These monies will be deducted from any royalties that become due from record sales, downloads, sheet music, commercials, home video, television and motion picture synchronisation fees, as well as from any other source of income that the publisher controls.

One of the values of such an exclusive relationship with a publisher is that the writer is guaranteed a steady income, much like a salary, to meet normal, day-to-day financial needs and living expenses while pursuing a career. In addition, since royalties from record sales and performances take from six months to years to reach the writer, the weekly or monthly advance payments (sometimes referred to as a "writer's draw") can lend a great deal of financial and emotional security while the writer is waiting for royalties to be collected and processed.

Send us your views or read other peoples'
Send us your comments on: Approaching a publisher

Jennie, Chichester. West Sussex
Hi there, I have been writing poetry and song lyrics for a while now, I have had 9 poems published but really want to get my lyrics used, but i haven't a clue on where to send them, was just wondering if you could tell me where i can get info on where to send them, people have also told me that as i have been published i may find it easier, others have told me that if i dont have an agent they're likely to not even look at my work. As you can see I'm pretty confused. PLEASE HELP!!!

cecilia ramirez from Peru
Thank you so much for such an outstanding information. Everything is perfecto when I search at bbc!

Dawn Bayes
I have written lyrics for many years,but have been hindered where learning how to write music. Is it possible to get published without music? It never used to be, but things change all the time. It was nearly 20 years ago when I last enquired on how to get published.

Peter Duffield from Sheffield
I think I'm in the same boat as everybody else. I've got the songs but don't know where to send them or how to get them out there. I've thought about an agent but the idea makes me a little nervous. What avenues exist?

barry, norfolk
Just heard Paul McCartney"s new single, really wanted to like it. But not at all memorable, no discernible hook anywhere. Why can"t these established stars cover songs by unknown writers?-like the ones here for example!. The established stars should just play live and only keep re-releasing previous greatest hits compilations, don"t think they would starve somehow!.

Jessica Doughty Llandrindod Wells Wales
I have just sent off three songs to a publishers that were looking for songs for one of their new singers. Two of the songs I sent were just piano and my vocals and the other was a bit more produced. Do you think that will ok having the two difrent styles? and do you think they will contact me first or do I have to contact them?

Ian Brighton
I put a couple of lyric only and one submission into the Songwriter of the Year competition, which I was a runner up. I also had critiques done for said songs, which, were very favourable and that was from people in the industry. How do I make the first step into getting the songs sold, bearing in mind that most of my material is lyric only? Cheers

Ian Taylor, Banbury
I have been writing songs for my own pleasure for over 14 years. Everyone who listens to my music believes I should investigate avenues to sell my songs. With that in mind, where do I start? Who should I send my CD's to? etc etc.

Nigel Hunt, Norwich
To date I have had over 20 assorted Publishers say my songs are "very good"/"obviously the ability to write good comercial songs" etc.Managed to get one song contract with sparta-florida (unable to get cover).Also offered 3 song contract with another, but wrongly advised by a songwriter association that I belonged to, that the contract was not favourable, (but any exposure is good, as long as you don"t have to pay anything for a deal of course!!). I have also had limited airplay on local bbc + independent radio.I could go on further, I am afraid I do not know anybody in the industry or have relatives in it, so I am beginning to come to the obvious conclusion!.

Steve Fontenot Lake Charles, Louisiana
I have written a great song that has a cool hook, it's friendly, fun, can be danced to, and it's positive. It could be pop or country. I've read the different song deals you mentioned. What company or companies do you suggest that I contact first?

Nick Pamphlett, Clitheroe Lancs
I'm in the same position as Colin Wyatt (below). I have 14 songs which I have recorded using an 8 track. Just getting them copyrighted prior to sending them to publishers. But is Colin right, will unsolicited material be discarded? What would you recommend as a way of approaching potential publishers Thanks Nick

Colin Wyatt from Bristol
I found this information very useful. I have been looking at various examples of publishing deals but still havn't found the answer to the main question that has been playing on my mind for some time now. As I am unsigned (at present) can you tell me the best way that i can send my material to a publisher without it being thrown away due to it being un-solicited? Do I need a Manager or Agent? Thanks in advance for you help. Colin

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