Mechanical royalties, licenses, and accounting are some of the things publishers do to help songwriters navigate the complexities of the music industry. You certainly can learn the ropes yourself, but it can take a very long time to completely understand publishing. Until you learn the ropes, however, you could be signing yourself up for some very shady deals.
Publishers, on the other hand, know publishing. They know how to protect your rights from the start. Not only do they offer that layer of protection that comes from industry knowledge, they also free up the time you would have spent trying to teach yourself publishing so you can do what you're good at—writing songs.
02Your Time Is Better Spent Elsewhere
You're a songwriter. Yet, it is easy to get sidetracked from that purpose when you have to get 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 greater your publishing success, the less time you'll have to write new songs if you become absorbed in the business side of your career.
Say you've written what you believe will be the next Billboard Number One. For that song to gain the glory it deserves, it needs to end up in the hands of an artist who can perform it the way it needs to be performed. You can't just call up Lady Gaga and say, "Hey, do I have a song for you!" It just doesn't work like that. But an established publishing company can get your music into the hands of the people who can put it into the hands of top performers, which helps you make money.
04Music Publishers Can Help You Grow Creatively
Some music publishers are very hands-off with their clients. They do the administrative 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, and if you're a new songwriter, this kind of guidance and support can be invaluable.
05Publishers Ensure You Get Paid
Royalties due to artists often go unpaid. 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. Publishing companies, either by themselves or as part of a relationship with the Harry Fox Agency (in the US), foot the bill for these audits, meaning you get more of your money without collection expenses.
Further, publishing companies understand the value of publishing. They know how to price your work and can demand a price for your music that you may struggle to achieve on your own.
Why You Should Sign a Music Publishing Deal
To sign or not to sign a deal—that is the question in the music industry. Musicians often wonder whether they need a record label behind them, and it is no different for songwriters, who wonder whether they need a music publisher on their side. Music publishing deals have pros and cons, but there are definitely more benefits to having the right publisher on your team. If you're trying to decide between D-I-Y publishing and a music publishing contract, consider these five reasons why working with a music publisher may be a boon for your career.