Music Publishing Made Easy
Music Publishing Made Easy
To earn a decent, if not luxurious, living as a musician, you need to understand how you can exploit your compositions. The music industry today is flooded with talent, both old and new. The barrier to entry is at an all-time low as anyone with an internet connection and recording device can very well upload their sound online and claim to be a musician. Only the really talented, smart and to an extent, lucky, get to make a living from their sound. Which is why music publishing is an incredibly important subject to master.
What is music publishing?
Simply put, music publishing is the art of owning and exploiting your music copyrights to make money. To many, the term ‘exploit’ conjures up terrible images of the strong preying on the weak. But in the music industry, exploiting your music is a very good thing. Especially, if you are doing it yourself to make a living. In this case, exploiting your music copyright is to put your songs (lyrics as well as music) to good use. Meaning, finding ways to use your music to generate money. These ways often include:
• Performance royalties
• Mechanical royalties
• Licenses for sampling
• Licenses for synchronization
• print rights for sheet music
So to understand ‘music publishing’ is to understand how to earn money from your music.
How does publishing work?
Because publishing income is the cornerstone of every musician’s income, it is essential that every musician understands how it works. Today, most musicians take on the publishing role themselves. Although, in many cases, big ticket musicians employ a qualified and talented music publisher to handle that end of business for them.
The thing about publishing is that it can be a little complicated. Especially since every country has different parameters that govern this aspect of music. To make music publishing easy to understand, let’s look at it from a FAQ perspective.
Music Publishing FAQ
What is publishing?
If you write a song or piece of music, then you automatically own the rights to that music. These rights are called publishing rights as well as copyrights. Meaning you can use the song however you see fit and anyone else wishing to use the song, would have to get your permission to do so by either paying you or giving you royalties from that use.
Every publishing dollar has two halves. One half, called the ‘writer’s share’ belongs to the composer and stays with them for life. The other half, called ‘publisher’s share’ belongs to the publisher who is mostly a publishing house of in some cases, the writer.
How do I make money from music publishing?
Your song will generate money in many different ways. When it is played on the radio, when it appears on an album, when it is used in a movie or a TV show, when it is sold as sheet music, when it is used as a ring tone. Royalties are paid to the composer when your song is played in a movie or on the radio.
Do I have to start my own publishing house?
Not really, although it would be a smart move. As the composer of the song, you already own the rights to that music from inception. But if you want to streamline how you can exploit that music to make money, you need a publishing arm to do that for you. In many cases, you can do this yourself but there are very many moving parts involved that could slip through the cracks. That is why most musicians hire a publishing house (or start one). This is the arm that will handle the business end of the music and take care of all the revenue making avenues available to the songwriter.
Royalties are where the money is for many songwriters and musicians. There are hundreds of publishing royalties that musicians can exploit online. From iTunes international mechanical royalties to YouTube publishing royalties and so on. The truth of the matter is that the publishing industry is vast and rather complicated sometimes. But as long as you have the basics under control, you should be able to keep a keen eye on the money your music generates as well as how much of that money comes to you as the composer.
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