To deal or not to deal - that is the question in the music industry. Musicians wonder whether they need a record label behind them all the time, and it is no different for songwriters, who wonder whether they need a music publisher on their side. Music publishing deals can be good AND bad, but there are definitely benefits to having the right publisher on your team. If you're trying to decide between DIY publishing and a music publishing contract, consider these five reasons working with a music publisher may be a boon for your career.
Mechanical royalties. Licenses. Accounting. Say wha?? The rules surrounding the work that publishers do are some of the most complex in the music industry. You certainly CAN learn the ropes yourself, but it can take a very long time to completely understand publishing - and in the interim, you could be signing yourself up for some very shaky deals.
Publisher, on the other hand, know, well, publishing. They get it and know how to protect your rights from the start. Not only do they offer that layer of protection that comes from knowledge, but they also free up the time you would have spent trying to teach yourself publishing so you can do what you're REALLY good at - writing songs.
Say you've written the next Billboard Number One pop song. Good for you, but if that song is ever going to gain the glory it deserves, it needs to end up in the hands of the artist who can perform it the way it needs to be performed. That doesn't happen by saying, "hey, Lady Gaga, do I have a song for you." It's just doesn't work like that. As an independent songwriter, especially one new to the industry, you probably don't have the connections to place that song where it needs to go.
A good publishing company does. They can get your music into the hands of the people who can put it into the hands of the performers you'd like to see playing your compositions. If you're a songwriter AND a musician, this still holds true. The connections a good publishing company has can help place your music in a lot of lucrative places.
3. Your Time Is Better Spent Elsewhere
You're a songwriter. Your business is writing songs. It is easy to get sidetracked from that purpose when you have to get all wrapped up in the business of managing those songs. Take the whole notion of learning publishing from scratch out the equation - issuing licenses and collecting royalties can be time consuming work. The bigger your publishing success gets, the less time you'll have to write new songs - which kind of defeats the purpose of building a name for yourself as a songwriter.
4. Music Publishers Can Help You Grow Creatively
Some music publishers are very hands-off with their clients. They do the admin work associated with the songs in their catalogs, but they don't get involved in the creative process of the songwriting.
Other music publishers take a much different approach. They have entire departments devoted to helping their songwriters develop creatively. They may offer feedback on compositions, suggest new directions and pair up their songwriters with other writers who they think might make good writing partners. Continued learning and development in your field is always a good thing, but if you're a new songwriter, this kind of guidance and support can be invaluable.
5. Publishers Can Make Sure You Get Paid
Royalties due to artists are missed all the time. One way to collect monies due is to conduct audits of license holders, such as record label audits. That may sound straightforward enough, but audits are expensive - prohibitively so, in many cases. Some audits can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and the recovery is generally much less than that. Can you afford that kind of expense?
Publishing companies, either by themselves or as part of a relationship with Harry Fox (in the US), foot the bill for these audits, meaning you get more of your money without the expense of trying to collect it.
Further, publishing companies understand the value of publishing. They know how to price your work and can demand a price for it you may struggle to achieve on your own.