Getting A Grasp On Music Licensing and Publishing
Jen Sako on November 23, 2017
Understanding music licensing can take time, but will get you far in your music career and help you always be in control of your career. I
Almost every musician will say a driving passion ignites a successful artist’s career. Passion keeps a songwriter on the right path, especially during heavy courses of rejection and criticism. But getting paid sustains the successful music career and keeps the passion stoked. Music licensing and publishing fundamentals may sound dull, but when the time comes to talk about maximizing revenue, you’ll discover how passionate you can be about business.
Your publisher is authorized to license reproductions of your songs. This can be an outside person or yourself. The advantages of having an outside organization, or “house,” as a publisher is their network of music supervisors, music licensing libraries and others who could show an interest in your music is probably much larger than what you have time to amass.
Publishers get a cut of specified royalties, as well as an equal share of your song. As the songwriter, you will always have the writer’s share. This means that you agree to split, 50/50, the profits from any of your songs they represent. In exchange for this part ownership of the song or songs you wrote, publishers exploit all the opportunities your music has to be used and heard. They are expected to promote your songs to anyone who may have an interest in your music for their advertisements, televisions shows and movies and to make deals on your behalf. They work with other musicians who could use your songs for their own famous band to record and perform. Publishers administer all the mechanical, synchronization and master licensing and keep royalty fees coming in.
Before seeking a deal with a publisher, research their style of work. Does the publisher go after business and communicate with their songwriters; or are they more reactive and hands-off? Is the publisher major, major affiliated or an independent? Before signing any deal, call your lawyer.
Another option is setting up your own publishing company. You get both the writer’s and the publisher’s share of any song that gets licensed, which you would split with co-writers and any other copyright holders.
Understanding music licensing and rights is more complicated, but it’s important to keep them straight. Keep a good glossary for music licensing
bookmarked. Let’s go over the basics.
Say someone wants to record your song and sell it on a CD or make it available for download. Obtaining a mechanical license for that song ensures that all the songwriters who contributed to this song will get paid.
But if someone wants to perform the song live on a stage in front of an audience or an entity wants your song to broadcast it over terrestrial radio, satellite radio, the internet or some other service, then they will also need a public performance license.
If someone wants to reproduce one of your songs for use in a soundtrack for a film, video or television show, they will need a synchronization license, or a sync license.
In addition, a master license is required to use your specific recording of your song for a media project. This is to pay the recording owners of the song.
Ideally, every time your song is performed and broadcasted, you get a royalty payment from radio stations, venues and television networks. This comes from proper music licensing. But keeping up with broadcasting and performing of all the material out there protected under copyright is a huge job that the artists don’t have to do. Every time your song is performed, live or broadcast, the U.S. based Performing Rights Organizations (PRO) of ASCAP
collect royalties for you. Another one to check out is the Harry Fox Agency
. PROs also grant the performing licenses. Join a PRO and see how they can work for your bottom line.
Protecting your music and getting paid keeps you focused on what’s important–making music you and others love.