So, you know about publishers and what they do and why you might need them, but just what kind of deal will you be making with them and how much can you expect to earn? Although the contract you sign will be called a ‘standard’ contact, these contracts are anything but standard. Here are the different publishing deals you might be presented with.
The wording of your contract is very important. Remember, just as with record labels, the publisher wants to make sure they are getting a deal that’s good for them, not you. You need to make sure the deal is good for you. A catch all deal is what you want, as this means the writer gets 50% of all revenue generated by the song. It’s more likely your contract will be the opposite of this and will specify which types of revenue you get your share of. This means any money generated outside of the specified areas is the publisher’s. All of it. Ideally you want a catch all deal, and if that’s not what you are presented with, seriously consider pressing hard to have this written in.
You might not like this, but the majority of the time the publisher is entitled to an advance. The writer is not. There’s a good reason for this. The publisher is going to expect an advance on the sales its songs make. But we’re not just talking about your song here. We’re talking about the publisher’s catalogue of songs. All in one deal. Say you’ve got one song in that catalogue, it isn’t really fair, or workable, for the writers to get a share of that advance. Now, your song might be brilliant, but the fact is no one knows yet how much it’s going to make. The songs have to earn back the advance the publisher is paid before royalties are earned, and it’s yet to be seen whether your song is going to be an earner or not. There are some instances where an advance is paid per song, in which case you are entitled to your share.
When you’re making deals with the big guys you’ll often find they are your record company and your publisher, or at least they are all owned by the same company and they are sister companies. In this case be careful you aren’t out of pocket due to them licensing your song, basically to themselves, for a lower fee. This makes great sense for them, as they aren’t going to charge themselves more than they can get away with, and what the publishing side of their company loses the record label side more than makes up for, but it means your share of the revenue is much smaller. In this instance the company is making money that isn’t being passed onto you. So if you’re running with the big league, check the rate at which your song is being sold.
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