When should you get a publishing deal?

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Many producers struggle to understand the basics of music publishing, and how a publisher can help your career. Generally, you will assign a track to a publishing company in exchange for a percentage of royalties. In return, the publishing company will exploit the track. In this article, we’re going to discuss the basics of publishing, and provide a list of pros & cons as to whether it’s worth getting a publishing deal or not.

Firstly, a publishing deal allows you to have a budget for demos. As many producers in the industry will be aware, the overall cost of creating a track is often not cheap. Therefore, it’s great having a publishing deal as they will put money towards a project that you are working on. This may include, but is not limited to, the likes of vocal fees, studio costs etc. Also, a high-profile publishing company may have a team of song pluggers that specifically find opportunities to exploit your music. This could mean radio, films & tv etc. Due to their vast network of contacts within the industry, the success rate is often much higher than if you were to “cold email” radio producers yourself. Also, publishers have strong relationships with people all around the industry – allowing you to network with people that you otherwise may not get the opportunity to meet.

But of course, there are some negatives to having a music publisher for your music career. Although being able to write your own music, and have the publisher take care of everything else may seem like a great idea, it does have its disadvantages. As the publisher will (most likely) have an extensive catalogue of artists to work with, you won’t always be the number one priority when it comes to pitching. As they will have hundreds (or even thousands) of tracks per week, the chances of a lot of time being spent on your release is pretty minimal. With that in mind, it can be hard to justify the royalty percentage that you’d have to give them.

Also, the money that a publisher puts towards a track is essentially a loan. If an artist uses your track that you wrote/produced, and the song starts generating income, the entirety of that income will go towards the publisher until they’re fully paid back. Even once they have broken even, they will continue to take significant royalty points. Or even worse, the publisher may not allow you to take royalties for things that you should receive royalties for –  as the publishing company owns the master.

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and some cons of having a music publisher, it’s worth talking through the options that you, as a producer, have within your music career. If you want a music publisher, it’s often a case of simply pitching your music towards a few organizations, and seeing who falls in love with your sound. Alternatively, you can learn some music publishing activities in order to accomplish the same goals – but without giving up any royalty equity.

The best piece of advice that we can give is to put yourself on a regular writing schedule. By setting aside several hours a day to perfect your craft, you’ll essentially be making more content – leading to more opportunities within the industry. Once you have a catalogue of music to showcase, it’s worth pitching it to the appropriate people. Therefore, developing relationships with the likes of recording studios & radio producers is absolutely essential to success. Spend a few hours every week looking for ways in which you can exploit your tracks, and take advantage of every single opportunity. You need to ensure that the right amount of time is spent on the promotion, and the only person who can decide that is yourself. Make your music a priority, and the results will follow.

Finally, networking is one of the most important activities that you can do within the music industry in order to optimize your chances of success. Find influential people on Facebook, Linkedin etc and create a genuine relationship with them. Spamming your music in the first few days won’t give a positive result. The best ways to do this are looking at mutual friends, attending music events (such as Amsterdam Dance Event), and providing them with a form of value (such as offering to work for free in exchange for song exposure).

The decision of whether you will need a music publisher or not is totally up to you. However, now that you are aware of what a publishing company could potentially offer, you’re in a much better position to make an informed decision.