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Songwriting Guides > Publishers > What a publisher does
Songwriting Guides
What a publisher does

Whether you're simply a songwriter or a writer/performer, the publisher plays a key role in your career. The role is more central if you are songwriter who doesn't perform. However, once a songwriter's career declines as a performing and recording artist their publisher becomes more important.

A publishing company's primary role is collect income from songs. This income comes from recordings of the songs (mechanical rights), use of the songs in commercials, television programmes and films (synchronisation) and the performing or playing of a song to the public whether that is on the radio, in a shopping centre, a pub or a hairdresser's (performance rights).

Publishers set up links with collecting societies which administer licences for the above uses of songs, and the money, or royalties, are fed through to the songwriter from the collecting society via the publisher. On the way various fees are extracted from these royalties to pay for the publishers' advance and for commission.

It's a very, very important relationship.
Catherine Bell, Chrysalis Music Ltd

The publisher also works on finding a market for songs, whether that is other artists recording the songs or getting them used in adverts, films or on television.

A publisher will also work to develop a writer. It is becoming increasingly the case that this role, once the preserve of the record companies, is being taken over by publishers. Publishers will put money into developing an act if they think they can recoup that later on.

They will introduce artists to producers and co-writers who can improve their writing, as well put them into a studio to record a demo. Some major publishers and independents will even release limited edition CDs in order to get their artists heard, and hopefully pick up a record deal if they haven't got one already.

Which comes first, the publishing deal or the record deal? For an unsigned songwriter, it is very difficult to place songs with recording artists without the backing of a good publisher. Publishers are able to take a longer view on a songwriter's career and spend more time helping to develop them by introducing them to more experienced writers and being able to spend time working on the craft.

Catherine BellCatherine Bell, Director Rights, Chrysalis Music Ltd
"A publisher is someone you should be able to trust and rely on," says Catherine.
Listen to Catherine Bell Audio help
For a performer who also writes his or her own songs, getting a record deal first can be an advantage, as this pushes up the amount of money the artist can command from the publishing deal. However, if no record deal is forthcoming and a publisher is willing to put up an advance and help you get a record deal, then even though that publishing deal will be less lucrative, it could well be worth it in the long run.

A publisher may also offer a degree of development for an unsigned band.

Major publishers, and several of the smaller ones, have their own studios and will give artists time in them to prepare a better quality demo than they could probably afford on their own.

Larger publishers may also offer a limited number of artists full development deals where they will assist in building their profile to a wider audience than record companies.

They may help find you a promotion or plugging agency, or fund things like buying equipment and touring.

By creating more of a buzz, they'll up your bargaining power so that your final record deal may give you more control of your career, or more favourable terms when it comes to dividing up the money.

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

John Skelley witham
Quoting "Leon Briggs from Southampton Why not start your own publishing company? That way you don't waste half of your royalties paying publishing fees". Its easy to do the sums too, half of zero hmm, let me see.

Hovan Hovsepian Mehr / London ? UK
Publishing & publishing companies are central to the music industry. A large proportion of a songwriter's income will come from publishing, and publishers themselves can make a lot of money if they put the right songs in the right places.

Rob Turner Cwmcarn South Wales
I would have to agree with Leon Briggs from Southampton.In fact why not go the whole way and do it all.With the advancement of home PCs the singer/songwriter or group can record, mult-track and master down to a CD all on their own with a PC.Also there is software out there at a very resonable cost to design and maunfacture the CD sleeve. Inital outlay of cost? Well, around £600.00 should give you everything including software for mixing, burning to CD and designing. Also there is a very large side-line market you can tap into, The Internet.

Jim Rattail, London
There are many reasons to bring a publisher on board. A good publisher can help bring opportunities to an artist that the manager or record label may not be able to. It is extremely competitive launching a new artists so a new artist needs to every bit of help possible so that they have the best chance of being successful. Notwithstanding lucrative film and TV placements that a publisher may secure the paperwork associated with publishing is very complicated and well worth its having a professional take care of it for the right fee.

Paul, Bristol
There are many reasons to bring a publisher on board. A good publisher can help bring opportunities to an artist that the manager or record label may not be able to

Leon Briggs from Southampton
Why not start your own publishing company? That way you don't waste half of your royalties paying publishing fees.

Songwriting Guides Writing a Song Performing Working with Other Writers In the Studio Publishers What a Publisher Does The Types of Publishing Deal Approaching a Publisher Record Companies Management Staying on Track
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